WWF One Mile an Hour – 24 hours

It’s just turned midnight on Sunday the 26th July. I got up half an hour ago, put on my running clothes and I’m now heading out the door. To run one mile and come back. Over the next 24 hours, I’ll be repeating this another 23 times. On the hour, every hour.

I’m doing this for the challenge but also to raise funds for WWF. Having access to nature has made a world of difference to me in lockdown and it’s really important to me to keep up work to help it recover. WWF does that so I wanted to help. So at midnight on a Sunday, I laced up my trainers and went out for one of many runs that day.

Run 1. It’s the middle of the night when I set off. That first mile is quite easy, even though I’m still recovering from a 3 hours the previous afternoon. I’m a little apprehensive of the dark and of who I could meet on the roads late at night though. It is a Saturday night and I worry about coming across aggressive drunk men or anything worse. It’s unlikely in the quiet neighbourhood where I live but you never know so I stick to the main road. It’s well light so I run up and down the avenue a couple of times and I’m back. Easy.

Run 1. It’s the middle of the night when I set off. That first mile is quite easy, even though I’m still recovering from a 3 hours the previous afternoon. I’m a little apprehensive of the dark and of who I could meet on the roads late at night though. It is a Saturday night and I worry about coming across aggressive drunk men or anything worse. It’s unlikely in the quiet neighbourhood where I live but you never know so I stick to the main road. It’s well light so I run up and down the avenue a couple of times and I’m back. Easy.

I have about 45 minutes before I have to go back out so I use that time to post about my challenge on Facebook and update Instagram. Nothing like a bit of accountability via social media. I’m hoping to drum up some support for WWF in the process, if anyone is checking Facebook or Insta past midnight.

I have also set an alarm to chime at 5 to. It’ll be my queue to get up and get out. And will be associated with a heavy sigh or a grumble many times over the Sunday.

I go out again at 1am and 2am. At 3am I’m starting to question why I’m doing this and whether I can just stop the madness now. Since 1am, I’ve been trying to nap in the 30 minutes or so I have in between runs. I only manage about 10-15 minutes of actual sleep if I’m lucky. I’m hopeful this will help at the end of the day as I don’t know how long I can go on the 4 hours sleep I got before starting this challenge. 

The comment left on my fundraising page that kept me going

I’m never one to say this but the money raised for the cause is what kept me going at 3am. It could have been so easy to just close my eyes again and fall back asleep when the alarm went off. I could have so easily settled for doing the 12 hours version instead, later in the day after a good nap. But someone donated and had faith in me. Faith that I would finish that challenge. I didn’t want to let them down. So I got up.

Funnily enough, run 4 at 3am was the one where the cat wouldn’t leave my side. He welcomed me as I opened to door and when I started running followed me. I stopped, gave him a stroke, tried to run away (literally running away from my cat, how does it get to that?!). He followed. He seemed confused that I was running away from him. Or maybe thought that I wanted to play chase. So for that mile, I played chase with the cat on the street just by our house

Until 5am, I do the same out and back route on the main road, every time getting creeped out by the ongoing noise coming from the construction building at the end of the avenue. It sounds like water dripping through every crack of the unfinished apartment block, although it’s not raining anymore. The rain stopped a good few hours ago so I don’t quite understand why it’s so noisy. And throughout the night. Not creepy at all.

I’m so glad it’s daylight again from run 6 as it means I can start tweaking my routes. The woods behind our house will be a welcome distraction.

From run 7 at 6am, I also decide to stop trying to sleep in between runs, although I really need the shuteye. With 4 hours sleep the evening before, it feels like it’ll be a struggle to stay up until almost midnight but having to wake up and peel myself off the sofa every hour is making getting out the door a lot harder than it needs to be. Waking up, getting up, getting in and out of sweaty clothes, putting shoes on and off, it’s all requiring additional motivation and it’s not sustainable. I’ll attempt to keep busy instead.

It’s a lovely sunny and crisp morning now. A couple of people out with their dogs but still so quiet. A run through the park near our house feels like a treat. Keeping myself busy in between runs doesn’t turn out to be too difficult. I browse the internet, I attempt to do an online groceries shopping. I took me a few hours to finish that one so clearly I’m not at 100% brain capacity but I’m not dying to get back to sleep so that’s that. And it does make it easier to get out the door. I don’t take off clothes or shoes anymore so literally when the alarm goes, I get up, find my headband, do a mini dynamic warm up for my hips and ankles, wait for the clock to show the start of the new hour and off I go. This is a lot less taxing than when I had to wake up. Waking up is the hardest bit. Another upside of not sleeping is that my body isn’t cooling down as much and the knee pain that was creeping up is calming down (some menthol balm also helped).

For run 9, I treat myself to a change of scenery and go to the woods backing our house for half a loop. I don’t know if it’s running on soft ground, the cooler temperatures under the trees or just having a different backdrop but there’s a spring in my steps I haven’t had since Saturday. The next 3 runs are entirely in the woods. I treat myself to a second breakfast. Bliss.

I’m then heading back on the road, doing back and forth runs on the main street a couple of times, as we’re expecting a dishwasher delivery anytime before 2pm and I am by myself at home from 11am. Yes, I know, not exactly my wisest move again to schedule this on the same day. It works out though as I spot the delivery van heading to our house just as I’m finishing run 14. I just about have time to get in, wash my hands and I’m ready to open the door, glowing with sweat. The other half comes in a couple of minutes after and we manage to install the machine before I need to head off for run 15. Win!

Coming back from this one, I treat myself to a shower. I’ve not often wanted a shower so badly. It’s been getting warmer and warmer throughout the day and the few runs on the streets in the midday heat were not exactly pleasant. I’m sticky, I’m warm, I’m tired, I’m smelly. Being clean and dry for the first time since midnight is so refreshing and uplifting. I enjoy it for a few minutes before heading out for run 16. Aaaaand I’m sweaty again. I can’t afford to get changed for every run so I’m having to stay in slightly damp clothes that never get the chance to fully dry before I head back out again. And again.

To make things a bit more interesting, at 5pm I decide to go plogging. Plogging is the combination of running & litter picking. As I’m running this challenge for WWF, this feels really apt. And the upside? I have an excuse for a really slow run. However I end up picking so much litter over that 1 mile in the woods that I come home absolutely disheartened from run number 18. I know I’m tired and taking things a bit more at heart than normal but still. An overflowing bag of litter. I log it all in the Plastic Patrol app (you can find out more here) and rest before the next run. I switch things up a bit and go on a completely new route, hoping it will be 1 mile long. I guess I know my neighbourhood too well as it’s easily done.

By 18:30 I’m really bored of these hourly runs so I do something different for run 20 and go on a walk with the other half. Still one mile but at a leisurely pace. I underestimated how much a simple walk would re-energise me for the remaining 4 runs. Unless it’s because it’s cooling down. I can’t tell. Regardless, I definitely have a second wind. So much that I forget to set an alarm for 20:00 and it’s only by luck that I get to start run 21 on time. Or my body is just used to getting up every hour by now. Who knows.

Runs 22 and 23 are uneventful. I’m back on the roads and it’s getting dark again. It’s strange to have gone full circle, from the middle of the night, to sunrise, midday heat and sunset again. The last run will be done at night, just how it started.

In the 45 minutes before that last run, I’m weirdly nervous. Excited that it’s the last run and I’ll be able to stop but at the same time tense about it stopping now. I’m not tired and I feel like I could keep this going for longer. I’m somehow in a routine now. Adrenaline and the many morning coffees are keeping me going I guess? Although my knees and heels disagree with this assessment every time I’m out. Each run became a slog during the afternoon, now the night has cooled me down and given me new energy. I’m eager to get the laps done and I’m registering my fastest miles.

As I set off for run 24, I don’t think I quite realise that I’ve just been up for 24 hours straight and ran the equivalent of a marathon over the day. At 23:10, I’m back. I post one last update on social media and sign off. This still feels a bit surreal. And of course, I’m not sleepy now…

The joy of finishing!

For 24 hours, I’ve run one mile at the start of each hour. 24 times, I run the worst bit of every run, the first mile.

It’s been fun, it’s been painful but once again, it’s a challenge that’s shown me I can go further than I think. I didn’t think I could stay up for 24 hours and run that many miles in the process. But I did. One run at a time.

Now I just need to make the runs a little longer and I’ll be ready for the next challenge on my calendar.

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