Teams of 8-12 | 24 Stages | 160 miles | 24 Hours
London Cardiff 24 is a 33 hours team relay challenge. You and your team run 24 stages (3-13 miles), through towns, over fields, and along footpaths from Twickenham to Cardiff. You have 33 hours but can you work together to beat the clock.
Can you make it to Cardiff in under 24 hours?
Don’t Stop | Don’t Get Lost | Don’t Run Alone: Run Relay
You tried to break me, watched me fall
But now I'm stronger than ever before
You left me with nothing, broke the man
Now I'm back, a Warrior's born
Preparing for the Race
I have captained a team 3 times on LC24 and never felt a buzz quite like it. After a few major admin issues in the run-up to the 2015 race, it became apparent that delegation was required to organise and get the team ready and organised for the race weekend, 24 hours of running takes a lot of support.
As early as 6 months prior to the race we had booked the minibus and ensured it met the requirements of the team, overhead and under-seat storage with the ability to take a bike rack on the back door. We had decided to have two dedicated drivers and a cyclist in support of the 12 people running team, so finding two drivers with Cat D1 licence was the next step. Delegating the quartermaster role was also useful, this person was responsible for all food and equipment used by the team, including stoves, pans, kettles, water and of course tea and coffee.
As the months counted down and the initial team changed, due to injury and new commitments, I took the time to assign users to race stages, using the individual's strengths to guide the selection. Not every runner is happy to run 12 miles on the Ridgeway in the dark or running through a city centre. Months became weeks and the finalised stage routes were released and quickly passed to team to memorise and learn and if possible run the route. In the final days, I posted suggested kits lists, meeting times, travel arrangements and reminded the team to travel light as 15 runners in a minibus with bags soon fills up.
|Admin at the race start (2015)|
The day arrived, the team met at the Devizes Rugby Club and loaded the minibus before heading to the A303 and M3 towards Twickenham. On arrival, the nerves start to kick in and the banter becomes more surreal. I booked the team in and we waited to be called forward for the race brief. At this point we changed, ate and tried to relax, once started there would be little time stretch out or have some peace. Once called forward for the race brief the team are issued wristbands, the legendary hoodies, water, first aid kit and snacks and then time to prepare for the first stage. Minutes before the start the team line up under start arch and then Ross releases the team, the clock starts counting down, a lap around the field at Kneller Hall before the first stage runner leaves the confines of the starting area and heads off towards the Thames Path.
While the runner (and often cyclists) are out on the stage, the team head back to the minibus. In the early stages of the race, the noise in the bus is often deafening. Meanwhile, in the front of the minibus with the two drivers, I would plan out the route to the next checkpoint, watched the live tracker, remind the team who was up next, work out coffee, food and loo stops as well as check runners in at the checkpoints to ensure the organisers knew we had passed through. Driving to the first few checkpoints around West London can be fraught, as the traffic on a Friday afternoon/evening is not forgiving and the runner could possibly turn up before the minibus and team.
|Striking camp near Maidenhead (2015)|
The next big milestone is reaching Streatley and Goring where the route crosses the Thames and heads up onto the Ridgeway. Following this ancient path should be easy, but there are always those that manage to stray onto the many byways and footpaths that cross the main path. During the night at the checkpoints, the team members not running wait in the minibus drifting in and out of sleep, headphones in their ears and eyes covered to protect from the lights of other minibuses arriving at the site.
Running during the night along the Ridgeway requires a little nerve and experience, the path is dark and there is little light pollution to illuminate the way. The track is rutted in places and can be baked hard or sandy and lacking grip in other places. Sections are long and straight, you can see the runners ahead by their torch lights, or the head torch of the chasing runner behind you.
|Toastie and coffee at Goring while waiting for the runner (2017)|
Some nearly 30 miles from Goring the race arrives in Swindon, the halfway point, where the next team section is a lap of the Coate Water Park. Regardless of how many times you run it, in the early morning light with 12 very tired runners at their lowest ebb, it is easy to miss the turns around the lake. We arrived back at the minibus as the sun started to rise, the next stage runner already leaving the park to follow roads and footpaths across the south of Swindon.
As the team minibus arrives at Malmesbury leisure centre to wait for the runner breakfast is cooked and the coffee is brewed. I showered and brushed my teeth, nearly human again. By now lack of sleep is taking its toll, legs are cramping and every stop is a chance stretch, but the excitement starts to mount in the team as race slowly works it's way across to Thornbury and then the River Severn crossing. In 2016, the horizontal rain soaked the runners within seconds of setting off across the bridge, arriving completely drenched on Welsh soil.
|Preparing to cross the Severn (2016)|
Having crossed the bridge the weather instantly changed and within 20 minutes we had sunshine breaking the clouds. By now Matt, the mathematician of the team, was working out each stage time and possible arrival times in Cardiff. Time suddenly appears to speed up and each minute lost or gained is greeted with cheers or sighs, the team willing and urging each runner on, as well as runners from other teams. We did see teams, stressed and fatigued, screaming and shouting at each other at the side of the road over lost minutes and missing runners.
The final solo stage leads the runner through the centre of Cardiff on a Saturday afternoon and once the runner has set off the minibus needs to work its way through the traffic to the parking and final group stage, often the runner arrives minutes before the minibus arrives. The team bundles out, this time including the drivers, and meets the solo runner to run as a group along the final stretch to finish arch.
Crossing the finish, under or over the legendary 24 hours, is an emotional time. The first year I was shell-shocked into silence, 6 months of planning and worry accumulated into one of the greatest team events I've ever taken part in. Other team members were in tears through exhaustion and the euphoria of completing the 160 miles. Not one cross word muttered between during the whole race by the team members, only support and encouragement throughout the journey.
|Finish celebrations (2016)|
I captained The Warriors 3 times and wanted to carry on, but for personal reasons retired from the team and joined the directing staff for the 2018 race. For a team captain looking to race this brilliant event I would suggest the following:
- Keep it fun.
- Hand pick the team, personal invites work best. Explain the race and ensure the runner knows what they are letting themselves in for.
- Involve the team in the planning where possible, even the best organisers forget things.
- Think about the stages and choose runners from different disciplines (road runners may not like long sections of cross-country.
- Get to know your team before the race.
- Create a private Facebook page and keep the team informed of planning and developments.
- Use the runner's strengths when choosing runners for stages.
- Keep it fun.