See the 2015 Run JB team featured at 06:44 in the above video!

Just over a year ago - when I measured my running distance by counting lampposts – if anyone had told me I would be running three 9km cross country circuits as part of a relay team in a non-stop 24 hour marathon, I would have dismissed it as madness: at that time, I was struggling to run for more than a couple of kilometres without feeling that I was going die!  And so, covering more than a half marathon in distance terms, as well running not only in daylight but in the pitch black, would have seemed completely farfetched and ridiculous.

But on July 25th, as part of an inspirational Run JB team, we achieved that goal: not only taking part in the Cotswold 24 Hour Relay Race, but winning our group entry, achieving the first placed female team in any category, and overall 39th place out of 119 teams, beating many mixed gender as well as all male teams.

Credit for this achievement must go to Shona, who was confident, not only  that we should do it, but also that we could do it,  and  who, with gentle persuasion put together a team of eight Run JB members, of different ages and abilities, who thought they would give it a go.

The Cotswold 24 Hour Relay Race involves individuals or teams, running as many 9km circuits as they can in 24 hours. The setting is the lovely Bathurst Estate near Cirencester and the route takes you through beautiful Cotswold countryside, woods and roads. There is free camping with showers and ice baths, on site sports massage, and a central area with a 24 hour “healthy” food outlet, table and chairs, and a small stage for entertainment. However the hub is the start/finish line, where relay team members exchange their baton. We were each given a “timing chip” to lace to our trainers which recorded our progress and could be monitored on a live feed.

Our first runner was Amy who set off in lovely sunshine at midday. We cheered Amy out and were tremendously excited to cheer her back in a fantastic time, to pass the baton to Manda. And so we followed Shona’s running plan – Amy, Manda, Barbara, Emma, Emma, June, Jess, Shona - cheering everyone out and back, and keeping tabs on the times and kilometres covered. Jules kept us motivated and nourished (“Hydrate! Hydrate!”). Various friends, spouses and partners dropped by to offer their support. Musicians entertained us on the stage. Barbara did her warm up to a musical accompaniment in front of the crowd, and drew appreciative applause for her great moves! Emma got some great photos and uploaded them to Facebook as the event unfolded.

The course turned out to be more challenging than we thought- lots of long grass in the fields, quite a few hills, gravelly wooded areas and a long slow climb just before the finish. But it was quite beautiful, and our fellow runners were friendly and supportive. We got to recognise some of the other teams, in particular the arch rivals in our category - “The Crazy Chicks”!  Shona followed their progress, and initially they seemed faster, but soon we were alongside in terms of time/distance.

Even as it got dark team JB was cheering its relay runners out and back. Running at night was magical- head torches danced around in the darkness, overhead was a gorgeous canopy of stars, and the quiet and stillness was only broken by the breathing of another runner as you passed him or he passed you. Runners chatted with you and shared their reasons for being there and how or their team was coping.

With the coming of dawn, and despite tiredness, and lack of sleep, on we went. Sunday morning brought the rain, a downpour; we got drenched but kept running. By now we were getting excited about the possible result. And and sure enough, by Sunday midday, the race was over, we had covered 207km, and we had won.  We received our medals, and at 1pm, were presented with our winners’ trophies.

And while the result was a joy, by far the best part of this whole experience was being part of a wonderful, inspiring, supportive team – Run JB - the only team cheering their runners out and back, even at night, even in torrential rain. This is what made it possible.

It was an exhilarating experience- I shall never forget it. The feel good was so intense that I did not notice aches or pains, tiredness, lack of sleep, or even missing toenails!

And if you are reading this thinking, “I couldn’t do that” or “that’s not for me”, please reconsider- if I can do it, you can do it.

Plus, we need to challenge those Crazy Chicks again next year..... Go Team JB!