4x4x48 Challenge

The challenge: run 4 miles, every 4 hours for 48 hours.

I stumbled upon the 4x4x48 challenge a couple of years ago and it has resonated with me ever since. Popularised by American fitness guru, ex navy seal and ultra runner David Goggins, it’s now an annual event featured heavily across all social media platforms. I was intrigued. On paper, the idea of running 48 miles in 48 hours sounds challenging – after all, it’s practically two marathons in two days but broken down into 4 mile runs – which for most seasoned runners is an achievable distance – makes it sound less daunting. My concern was the repetitive nature of running every 4 hours whilst sleep deprived, as well as dedicating a whole weekend to the challenge.

Alas, I decided to give it a go.

As with all my adventures, I’d first run the idea past Ruth. In her normal, supportive way I got the all clear – OK, she may have rolled her eyes and muttered something along the lines of “…what this time?” before offering her support – but her support I got.

We agreed a date and the challenge was on.

The weekend of the 26th, 27th and 28th March – starting at 4pm on the Friday and running every 4 hours until 12pm on Sunday.

To be as less disruptive to family life as possible, I’d turned the dining room into my running sanctuary for the weekend – much to Ruth’s amusement. Tent, kit, nutrition – I’d set it all up in my own personal aid station. I’d be coming and going throughout the night so the last thing I wanted to do was wake the household. In all honesty, I think I get more excited with the planning and preparation of said challenges than the actual events themselves.

I’d devised a 4 mile loop – granted, not the most scenic or inspiring route I’ve ever run but with a fair bit of elevation to make it challenging and less monotonous than running a flat out-and-back. I’d consciously made the decision to run the same route for each leg to add consistency and to keep within the repetitive nature of the challenge. After all, I think that’s what this challenge is all about.

Here’s how it went…

Run #1 – 16:00 – 4 miles. I’d spent most of the morning running errands and getting my kit sorted. In all honesty I was clock watching – waiting to get the first run under my belt. My watch was fully charged, my kit lined up and I’d made sure I’d eaten well throughout the day – and then I was off. 4 glorious miles in the afternoon sun. In all honesty, it was a bit of an anticlimax, it was a fairly common route, all tarmac and due to the relatively short distance, felt like it was over before it had begun. Oh well, 4 miles done at an average pace of 8.10/ml and the first leg in the bag! I’d set myself no pace targets for the challenge – other than to just run to feel and on fresh legs the pace felt comfortable.

Run #2 – 20:00 – 8 miles. I’d showered, filled myself up with pizza – classic ‘carb loading’ – then settled down to watch a family film; ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ with the family. Early evening is one of my favourite times to run – the night is drawing in, the temperature drops slightly and there’s less people out and about to dodge. I paid a bit more attention on this run and made a mental note of the mile markers – something which I thought would be of benefit when tiredness and sleep deprivation kicks-in further into the challenge. Leg 2 complete with an average pace of 8.26/mi.

Run #3 – 00:00 – 12 miles. The midnight run. When I first decided to take on this challenge the two night runs were the ones that I was looking forward to running the most. 4 miles is a regular distance to run midweek as part of your weekly mileage but running at night – and outside of your comfort zone – is what makes the challenge interesting. It didn’t disappoint – the route was like a ghost town and eerily quiet. Head torch on, I ran in the middle of the road and averaged 8.25/mi.

Run #4 – 04:00 – 16 miles. Ruth had gone to bed when I left for the midnight run so upon my return so I stretched and hydrated before settling down into my tent. The alarm was set for 03.45. I think I lay there, awake, for 3 hours – the adrenaline still coursing though my body – before finally nodding off, only to be abruptly woken up by the alarm. I must have got less than an hours sleep as I didn’t feel reenergised at all – the first mile felt like hard work. I found myself shuffling rather than running but as soon as my legs woke up I settled into my rhythm. It was only then that I started to take in and appreciate my surroundings. There was a clear sky, the roads were lit up by moonlight and the dawn chorus was in full swing – it was mesmerising. I enjoyed the last few miles and finished that leg with an average of 8.44/mi.

Run #5 – 08:00 – 20 miles. I set my alarm for 07.45 and managed to get some sleep – despite be woken up at 06.30 by the kids shuffling about outside my tent. They’d obviously woken up and felt the urge to come and investigate the strange tent in the dining room! As it happens I felt refreshed and woke up energised. My legs were also still feeling fresh – despite having done 16 miles in them and I felt good. I’d decided not to have breakfast until after the 8am run – a somewhat strange decision in hindsight. I’d not eaten anything since 5pm the previous day and although I’d hydrated well, I didn’t feel the need to refuel overnight. My legs felt great on this leg, boosting by the natural daylight and I averaged 8.11/mi pace – almost identical to the first leg. I was hungry though and felt like I was running on empty – I was craving a good hearty breakfast.

Run #6 – 12:00 – 24 miles. Fed, showered and a good roll around on the foam roller and I was still feeling great. Physically I was holding up ok, my legs were a bit achy but no worse than I’d anticipated and mentally I was still enjoying the challenge. I was resting in between legs but making sure I wasn’t sedentary – moving around occasionally to ensure some blood flow. The 12.00 run went without incident, averaging 8.13/mi pace and generally just enjoyed the run. I was half way to completing the challenge.

Run #7 – 16:00 – 28 miles. Ruth had taken the boys out for an afternoon walk so I’d done myself a hearty lunch – poached eggs on sourdough toast – before running myself a bath with some Epson Salts. I woke up over an hour later in the cold bath water feeling fresh and reenergised – and somewhat wrinkly. The 16.00 run again went well. I was still running to feel and was maintaining good pace – averaging 8.10/mi for this run.

Run #8 – 20:00 – 32 miles. My favourite leg of the challenge as I was joined by James – my eldest lad (9). After completing the 16.00 run, I’d eaten well, replenished my fluids and beaten myself up with the massage gun – which always hits the mark. In all honesty, I was looking forward to a slower paced run as well as having some company for the 20.00 leg. James didn’t need much encouragement – although I suppose the alternative was bed! Donned with our head torches, we headed out into the cold air and chatted for the whole run. Well, when I say we, James chatted the whole way round – that boy can talk for England! Ask him on any normal day what he did at school and he’ll shrug his shoulders ‘can’t remember’ – ask him whilst on a run and he’ll give you full chapter and verse – ‘who’s now boyfriend and girlfriend’, ‘who’s gone down on the zone board’ and ‘what the teachers get up to outside of school…’ – it’s all riveting stuff… Run complete, we averaged 09.48/mi pace and enjoyed some post run, late night snacks.

Run #9 – 00:00 – 36 miles. Midnight madness. I’d gone to lie down for an hour or so prior to the midnight run, although I don’t think I slept much. I remember waking before the alarm went off and struggling to motivate myself. It was the first time I doubted myself and was starting to struggle mentally. I hadn’t slept much during the challenge and it was definitely starting to catch up with me – I could have easily just rolled over and gone back to sleep. I dragged myself out of bed, threw some kit on and headed out the door. Within a couple of minutes I’d got into a rhythm and the running felt natural, averaging 08.48/mi pace. The challenge was definitely more mental than physical for me, the running felt easy – it was the sleep deprivation that was hard to overcome.

Run #10 – 04:00 – 40 miles. The graveyard shift and by far the hardest run of the challenge. With the clocks going forward (British Spring Time {BST}), I’d made the decision to finish at my planned finish time (midday) which meant I’d lose an hour overnight -3 hours recovery instead of the usual 4. I’d slept ‘ok’ and got a couple of hours sleep before waking up to the sound of my alarm. It took a lot to get up! I felt exhausted. I’d slept in my running kit for that very reason – I knew it would be a struggle so all I had to do was lace my shoes and get myself out of the door. No faffing around, just get out and get it done – that was the biggest challenge. The run would take care of itself – and it did, although I felt like I ran sections of that run asleep, averaging 9.12/mi pace. I stuck to the pavements, just in case.

Run #11 – 08:00 – 44 miles. The penultimate run. I slept for over three hours straight but woke still feeling exhausted. I grabbed some breakfast, hydrated and headed straight out. It was cold, grey and wet – complete contrast to yesterday where I was greeted with blue skies and the warm sun which instantly reenergised me. My legs, once warmed up felt fine – I still had miles in them but I just felt so tired as I made my way around the route. In all honesty it was a blur but I got it done. Averaged 8.29/mi pace.

Run #12 – 12.00 – 48 miles. I rested, foamed rolled and stretched prior to my final run. I felt good. I was physically exhausted – from lack of sleep – but the legs felt ok. I’d covered 44 miles in 44 hours with just 4 miles remaining. In my head I had completed the challenge after the 04.00 run, nothing – within reason – was going to stop me now. 4 miles to go – and something inside me wanted those 4 miles to stand out. A friend had joked on my very first Strava post that I wouldn’t be able to run the last leg as fast as the first one – which despite me joking about it being a new challenge within a challenge – I very much agreed with at the time. Yet, here I was – with relatively fresh legs – thinking I still had it in me to push harder on the last run. So I did, I pushed the final leg and managed to complete it with an average pace of 07.42/mi. – my fastest leg of the challenge.

I’d done it. 4 miles every 4 hours for 48 hours.

To summarise, it was an enjoyable experience. It’s definitely more of a mental challenge than a physical one – with sleep deprivation being the biggest hurdle to overcome. I found the running took care of itself. It was stepping outside the front door, especially on those night runs which was the greatest challenge – but overcome that and you’re one step closer to completing the challenge. Give it a go…

Massive kudos also goes to Jasper Kiernan who also completed the challenge independently – keeping an eye on your Strava posts really helped keep me motivated. Well done mate.

RunMilesPaceHeart Rate

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