I’m writing this a few days after completing the 42.2kms in 42 hours challenge.
A few weeks ago, my friend Tanja invited me to a Facebook group. The group was simply named “42.2kms in 42hrs“. Without really thinking about it, I accepted the invite and joined the group.
Started by Joanne and Shannon Lum from Sydney, the 42.2kms in 42hrs group came to life so that a few people could tackle a friendly challenge together. The goal was to run or walk 42.2kms between 6:00pm Friday night, and midday Sunday.
When I accepted the invite, the group had several hundred members. There were two weeks to prepare before the challenge weekend started on Friday the 1st of May. By coincidence, I had just finished a 42.2km training week that included a long road run of 21kms.
So this seemed doable for me. As a bonus, the weekend was a long weekend with a public holiday on Monday. So the prospect of knocking over a big challenge by Sunday morning and then chilling out for two days was quite attractive.
My plan for 42.2kms in 42hrs
I figured I should come up with some kind of strategy to get me to the 1st of May feeling fresh and ready. While it wasn’t exactly my plan, circumstances did cause me to do a light training week first up, with just two runs totalling 21kms and a bike ride thrown in as well. I did my usual strength training, but nothing else. I actually got to the end of that weekend feeling a bit rubbish, mentally, but at least I felt good physically.
From there I decided to break my 42.2kms down into three runs:
- Friday night, a minimum of 10kms.
- Saturday morning, a minimum of 21kms.
- Sunday morning, whatever was leftover.
To ease into the week of the challenge I did two easy runs of about 5kms on Tuesday and Wednesday, my regular strength training workouts, and mixed in a couple of yoga sessions designed to release the psoas. As a mostly desk-bound worker, I often have problems with a tight psoas. If not cared for during the week, it has a significant impact on the quality and enjoyment of my weekend runs.
With my Wednesday run done in the morning, that left plenty of time to rest until the Friday evening start time of 6:00pm. For a bit of fun, I threw together a race bib after seeing so many others do the same.
As I went about my day on Friday, I felt great but came to the idea that I wanted to do at least 12.2kms that night to get the balance under 30kms for the remaining two days.
After a somewhat stressful week at the office, I took off a little early and went home to prepare for my first run. The previous weekend had been quite hot, causing me to cut short my longest effort that weekend. No such problems now, with a cold change coming in overnight and temps dropping by quite a lot. As a Queenslander I’m not all that good at handling cold weather, especially not when running.
I suited up anyway, put on my headlamp, pinned my race bib to my shirt, and at 6:02pm started out on my first run. My plan was to head down the main road before it got too late, then zig-zag my way through suburbia on the way back home.
It was dark and cold, but I was feeling good. I managed 12.28km in 1:17:03, an average speed of 6:16min/km. For me, that is fast. My Garmin briefly flashed a message that I had run my fastest 10K of all time. I’m not used to running that speed over that distance. It surprised me, to be honest. I wasn’t worn out at the end of it and probably could have squeezed in another 1-2kms without much trouble. But I’d also planned to be finished by 7:30pm and didn’t want to push my luck.
Happily, I also saw at least one other 42er out there on my run. We passed each other and shouted a few words of encouragement. That was the moment I knew that I was taking part in something special. With around 10,000 people in the Facebook group by now, I wondered how many were local to me. And even then, what are the chances we’d run down the same street at the same time?
A hot shower, some Thai food and beer, and I hit the sack early to get some rest for day 2.
I woke up Saturday feeling pretty good. No soreness or injuries. Didn’t feel run down or dehydrated. I ate a bagel for breakfast and got some fluids down, then prepped for my second run.
The plan for this day was to run our usual Saturday morning bike ride. We’d been covering 15-20kms with the kids at a leisurely pace, so I figured I could keep up reasonably well on foot. Or at least, catch up at any breaks along the way.
I packed my hydration vest with two soft flasks of Tailwind, a snack just in case, and off we went.
For the first kilometre or so I was out in front, as the others needed to navigate their bikes safely across roads. Once we joined up again, I spent most of my time at the back of the pack, catching up at any road crossings. We eventually made it to the Storey Bridge and took a break in the park underneath.
I was having some soreness in one calf muscle by now. Stupidly I’d worn only one calf sleeve on what usually is my “bad” calf. It’s been okay lately, but I wore it as a precaution in case the back to back runs on pavement stirred it up. Wouldn’t you know it, the other calf muscle that I never have issues with decided to start hurting. I took the opportunity to change my calf sleeve over to the other leg before we set off again.
Our route home took us to an ice cream shop. Despite the cool weather I was feeling the effects of being out in the sun. I really do prefer running under trees out on the trails. I happily downed a scoop of caramelised condensed milk ice cream in a cone. Yes, you read that correctly. It was probably the richest, most flavoursome ice cream I’ve ever had in my life. I started sweating by the end of it.
Off we went again, for the final stretch home. I considered extending my run for just a few more kilometres, but I stopped my Garmin outside our house at 21.48kms, and that was good enough for me.
A shower, some leftover Thai food for lunch, and pizza for dinner. Lots of water went in throughout the afternoon. Still, I was recognising some mild dehydration even as I went to bed.
I had planned to get out the door by 6am and finish off the final 8.44kms I needed. But when I woke up I had three problems to deal with:
- I was definitely dehydrated
- My legs and lower back were stiff and sore
- It was bloody freezing and windy outside
I drank some water and tried to get my body moving a bit. Eventually, I got out the door a little before 8am. I did a pre-run warmup routine, but it didn’t really move the needle. The first 10-15 minutes were slow and painful. I trotted along, feeling absolutely miserable – cold and in pain.
As my legs loosened up a bit, I fought the urge to pick up the pace. As much as I wanted to finish this challenge, I also didn’t want to hurt myself.
I shuffled on, zig-zagging around the neighbourhood, so I didn’t stray too far from home, not enjoying a single minute of the run. Finally, I turned down the last stretch, and by the time I got back home, I’d covered 8.7km. A little more than I needed, but I wanted to be sure there was no Garmin -> Strava rounding errors that would leave me short of the 42.2km goal.
That final run was both a blessing and a curse. On the positive side, my legs and back felt better for having gone out for an easy run. On the negative side, I spent the rest of the day feeling like I had a hangover. I put it down to dehydration and salt/electrolyte imbalance.
I did my best for the remainder of the day to just rest, eat, hydrate, and try to replenish my electrolytes. Apart from the mild hangover sensation, it was a pretty relaxed day, and I was proud to have finished the challenge.
I missed the afterparty on Facebook, but I did enjoy watching everyone posting their results in the group. Thousands of people from all over the world completed the 42.2kms in 42 hours challenge. Some did it in just one run, others did it as a team with family or friends, and others broke it down into several shorter efforts.
I saw some interesting takes on the challenge that really stepped it up. One person did 1km per hour for 42 hours straight. More than a few people completed the whole thing on a treadmill, or by making a lot of loops of a short course. Some mixed in significant elevation out in the mountains. One fella in Nashville (?) completed the challenge wearing a firefighter’s uniform and carrying a flag the entire way.
No matter how they did it, it’s safe to say that everyone who took on the challenge is a winner and deserves kudos. The isolation caused by the Coronavirus pandemic has impacted us all in different ways. A virtual event like this helps relieve the stress, and reconnect us with the running community around the world.
Special thanks to Joanne and Shannon Lum for starting this challenge, and to my friends in Brisbane Trail Runners and the community at large for the encouragement along the way.
A new challenge has been scheduled for June. I’m not sure what I want to do for that one yet. Still considering it.
A challenge like running 42.2kms in 42 hours is worth doing just for fun. But I also like to look back and see what I learned from taking on a new challenge.
- My Topo Zephyr road shoes held up beautifully during the challenge. No foot fatigue at all.
- Although my feet were okay, my legs, hips and lower back were not. Despite integrating strength training into my routine for the last year, something is still amiss. Yes, it was a lot of road running for a trail runner to bear. But I thought I would feel better on Sunday morning than I did. That said, I was in pretty good shape come Monday morning. Still, this is something I am looking at improving.
- I am woefully underprepared for running in the cold. Several months of training for my next ultra will be during winter. I’ve ordered a few more pieces of cold-weather exercise clothing, as most of what I already owned I’ve outgrown (or out-shrunk).
- Too much sun on the Saturday run left me with some sunburn. I have fair skin and burn quickly, which is one reason I love running along trails under cover of trees. My upcoming ultra has some exposed sections and will be running in late Spring, so I need to prepare better for the sun.
- Ice cream at aid stations would be great!