Team Men's Fitness post-race blog 20/04/09

team mens fitness
(Image credit: Unknown)

If someone had told me I would win in my first ever ultra-marathon, I would have laughed at them.
The months of training prepared us for the Namibia 24-hour Ultra Marathon in as much as it gave us confidence that we could manage long distances in the UK, but the desert environment threw more than kilometres at us. It was unbelievably tough. The walls of heat, dry wind and rocky landscape were unforgiving and punished our bodies much more than we expected. The terrain affected us all differently, which meant that although we started out together, by the 80km mark we were running separately.
Seeing a lot of people on IV drips at checkpoints proved that a sound food and water strategy was essential. I kept to my plan and kept it simple: food on the hour, every hour, and three litres of liquid every 20km. It must have worked – I won the event! One week on, I’m still coming to terms with that. Obviously I'm extremely happy, but I’m also a little shocked (and hobbling).
The race was about more than just running though – it was a life experience.  Men's Fitness provided us with the challenge, race organiser Across The Divide provided the backdrop, and all we had to do was complete the race. Bring on the next one.
Just 90 minutes after the gun went off, I was pulled out of the race with all the early symptoms of heatstroke. It started with goose bumps after 50 minutes. Then my pulse rocketed and I was insatiably thirsty. Finally I stopped sweating even though the temperature was pushing 42°C.

I knew they were right to take me out – you don’t mess around with heat injuries – but I couldn’t believe I’d done all that training for this. Fortunately, once the sun had set the doctors decided that I could resume the race if I felt up to it. So I met up with Nick at the end of the first marathon and ran the next two with him through the night.
Getting back into the race, crossing the line with my brother, and finding out our team mate had won are three things I’ll never forget.
When I started the Namibia Ultra, I was still thinking of it as just a running race. By the end I was under no illusions – this was the most brutal physical challenge I have ever experienced and one that will live with me forever.
The midday heat provided the toughest test – it made you feel like you were being microwaved. But even at 4am, I was falling asleep while walking and felt close to crashing and burning. Dawn was the best time, as the sun rising over the Namibian plains gave me the bump I needed to pick up my pace.

About 8km from the finish, after I’d been running for 22 hours, I started weeing what looked like blood. I consulted a doctor at the next checkpoint, only to be offered two Panadol and told it was normal. How’s that for confirmation of what a crazy race this is?
All credit to Darren for winning the race – what he did was astonishing – and to Steve for coming back from heatstroke and completing most of the course. As for me, I’m proud of my sixth place and I can’t wait until the next race.

Nick Hutchings worked for Men’s Fitness UK, which predated, and then shared a website with, Coach. Nick worked as digital editor from 2008 to 2011, head of content until 2014, and finally editor-in-chief until 2015.