Race Report Sri Chinmoy 24 Hour - by Wayne Botha

The barefoot idea started when I saw Australian Robert Knowles doing it in Sydney in June 2012. I decided that I would incorporate it into my training regime and toughen up my feet as I had been struggling with bruised feet after the Commonwealth Champs in 2011. This all went well, leading up to the World Champs in Poland in September 2012.

I developed a Baker's cyst inside my right knee during the event and managed to hobble to 171km, with much pain. I had already entered the Sri Chinmoy 12 hr in early October and was planning to have a crack at the 100km record. After having a word with Dr Mayhew at the Millennium Institute, he said that I could give it a go and just see what happens. For 4 weeks I just walked barefoot a bit, applied some ice and compression and just took it easy. I had a 9km run out the week before on the track and all seemed well. I managed to take the new World Record by 4 minutes and suffered with blisters for weeks after that.

Since then the record was taken in India by  Sridhar M. Reddy (United States) to 10hr 47. It was then taken again by Rob Knowles in April 2013 to 9 hr 47, and the 24 hr to 181km. These records were ratified the week before the event so I knew I had to put my best foot forward :) I had done  8 hr 40 100km with shoes before so had no doubt that if I forgot I was barefoot, I could do it!

After the World Champs in Holland in May 2013, I took a short break and started preparations in June. The base fitness was there so it just became a matter of following a consistent training programme and toughen up my feet. I started by doing 100km weeks which would include a 28km Saturday with a 26km Sunday. The Saturday run I would run about 8 km to the track. Spend an hour barefoot on the track barefoot ( +- 12 km), put the shoes back on and the run 8km back via a popular burger outlet. I have never been strict on nutrition and pretty much ate anything I feel like. My partner Anita doesn't eat meat so I had to try and get that in a few times a week. Meat and chips always seemed to work for me. I did this for about 3 months pushing my weekly distance to a max of 130km; 30km would be barefoot  by taking my shoes off about 5km from finishing my weekly after-work runs. I would try and stay at a 12 to 14 km/h pace, for 13km Monday to Friday with the two longer runs over the weekend. I would throw in a rest day when I felt like it.....usually after about 6 runs.

My first pre-marathon came early September ( North Shore Marathon) which I ran barefoot. I ran with Anita for her first marathon. I was then targeting a fast Legend Marathon mid September as I knew from 2011 that if I had a good marathon a few weeks out from race day I would have a good one. I ran a pb marathon( 3:03) two weeks before my 222km in Wales. The Legend went according to plan and I managed a 3:06 on a tough course in beastly conditions.

Race day was upon us and I started my like I normally do. Had a good sleep after ribs and chips the night before. Woke up at 7am and had my bowl of oats, coffee and banana. Bowel movements came and went very successfully! Sipping some R-line electrolyte every now and then. Weather conditions seemed perfect which was a huge relief! Got to the race venue at 8am and I started some mental preparation. It was a bit of a panic as I had to find a spot for my groceries, find a few witnesses, register, find a spot for my my camera and take my shoes off.

Joined my fellow competitors on the track just we were being introduced. The race was on!

I started with ease...catching up with all my old mates and meeting new ones. We were going to spend a lot of time together so it was good to get to know one another. I think with these races we all experience so much together and the bonds that form are everlasting. After a few laps, a pit stop was needed to get rid of the last few nerves. I then got back onto the track and decided to pick thing up a bit. My plan was to average 10km/h for the first 20 – 30km and then pick up the pace. I was targeting 9h 30 for the 100km and was just going to worry about a possible 200 in 24hr after that. After about 6km I was feeling great and picked up a 11 – 12km pace early on.

Dave said to me as I passed...”you are going too fast!” I thought he may be right. I was feeling good so convinced myself that how will I know what I am capable of  if I don’t push it. As long as I wasn't sweating, breathing heavily and couldn’t feel my heart jumping  I would just go for it!

We were starting to relax out there and the support from the side was consistent which always helps. “Simon?” “Eh?” “Are you in the zone?” “yip!” “OK” Every two minutes or so you would hear “Got you Wayne”, got you Mark, got you Kerrie, got you Kim, got you Jason, got you Rebecca, got you Simon, got you Pat, got you Dwight, got you Michael, got you to all the other awesome athletes! and so and so on. Great! They had my name :) Every time I would pass Pat she would move to an outer lane. I would say thanks Pat until she said I don’t need to say anything. I said I will thank her at the finish.

I just gave everybody a thumbs up after that. I heard the race walkers say that for every 2 laps I would do 3. I then tried to be consistent as they were measuring their pace against mine. I thought how cool is that :) until I had another pit stop. It was starting to warm up a bit and things were getting serious. My food intake was OK....after 1 hour I had an egg and mayo sandwich. At 2 hr, a banana. Some water, coke  and R-line occasionally. I don’t normally follow a programme but just try and nibble some food every hour and have a drink every 30 was avo/egg sandwiches, jelly babies, apples, mash and gravy, peaches and custard and apple crumble custard which went down very well at 11pm. I had my support bring me some hot salted chips during the day.

The 6 h r came and went and was won by Shannon-Leigh  Litt with 71km and Michael Dall with 64km, I think. The track got quieter but the support grew throughout the afternoon. I was cruising with my calves tightening and feet becoming a bit sensitive in the 20 degree afternoon sun.  I started craving something :) what was it. Nothing I had or the Sri Chinmoy tent could offer me.......I know, Fanta orange! And lemonade popsicle!  Team!!!! please organise was awesome when it arrived 30 min later.

I was close to the record and we started getting things organised. Video ready, stop watch ready.!.....1 more lap. I pushed on . Thinking to myself “ this is close to my pb with shoes on???? how is this possible??? we did it! 8 hr 49 min 42 s.

What now??? Re-focus. I said to Simahin “it's going well, 15 hr to do another 81km. I think this is possible. I took a little moment the celebrate with my supporters....had a few drinks and then said let's go and “Knock this Bastard off” I thought that I only need to do 82km and will be over the moon.

12hr came with 124 m on the board and I started to relax a bit. Spent some more time chatting with my mates on the track and supporters along the side...I can mention a few names but don't want to forget any but Richard , Viv, Michelle, Tracy, Michael, Mal, Sally ,Steve,Vicky ,Penny, Christina, Anita, Eszter, Tristine and Kate Townsley to name just a few were outstanding supporters.

Then the indigestion started. Every step I took there was a burp. I couldn't shake it off. Dwight seemed to have the same issues but on another level. Flatulance in f-major! Nothing would work for me......more Fanta, apple juice? Custard? I don’t know. Had 2 ibuprofen  for the calves. The incredible thing was that the the feet were holding up. They had less pain than the first half. I put this down to the track cooling down and a bit of numbness. We were getting to the business end at this stage.

“Dad, where are you?? Are you watching? Mom, Are you checking Facebook?” I was watching my mates struggling and showing incredible courage. I managed to get to 100 miles in 17 hr and was feeling great ( still burping). My good friend Simon Clendon was having his ups and downs and they were on opposite extremes. Miserable at times and then would start floating with a smile. He had a goal and was going to achieve it no matter what! In fact most of us could relate to that.

The walkers, the runners, everybody, and that’s what make these athletes admirable. Kerrie Bremmer (Australia) was a consistent running machine! It seems unbelievable with the human body is capable of at times. The next record was looming, 181 point something km. “3 laps to ! Camera ready! Stopwatches!! How are we going to measure this random distance??? Let's just complete the lap and run a bit more to make sure....” That’s what we did. I had 4 hr in the bag to play with......maybe 200km??????? OK, let's do it! Nobody was really sure where the mark was so I just ran an extra 30km just to make sure. I would measure myself with hourly goals. If they weren't around 10km around then I would try and push myself a bit.

The birds started singing and the finish was in sight. Not the finish line, we had crossed that one hundreds of times. The countdown had begun. My breakfast order had and a breakfast burger from the aforementioned burger joint. The coffee kept me going through the night and was like super juice. The burger couldn't go down but I was hungry... had to get at least half down the hatch. The sun was getting higher and the crowds were gathering. I could feel the excitement growing and know from past experiences how awesome the last two hours can be for the athletes and the spectators. The last few laps were incredible. I got to 200km in about 22 hr 50. 210km????? “No way. Come on, guys!!!!”

By this stage some guys that had taken a rest found themselves back on the track. Warren and Michael cruising again!!! “Come guys…” heads down. The crowd was cheering. I heard my name . “Jeez I wish my Mom, brother, sister and whole family were here. Dad? How are you mate? Are you watching from above??????????? So this is what it feels like to win. Awesome team.......!” The atmosphere was electric. The runners were awesome and the support was humbling! 211.5km ( still burping)

In these races you see people crying, vomiting, swearing and screaming in absolute agony. They seize up and their bodies tell them there is absolutely no way they can continue................their minds tell them otherwise. They pick themselves up, slowly start moving forward and decide to continue for another 6 hours. This is what inspires me.

Kerrie Bremmer     215km
Wayne Botha      211.5km
Dwight Grieve   184.8km
Callum Wicks    182km
Karen Chan        179.4 km
Patricia Stichbury       152.8 km