4 weeks ago, a friend asked me what challenges I had for this year. I told her about this one, and that it had been niggling at me in the back of my mind for a while, but the thought of 48 hours scared me. So of course, it had to be done.
As I sit here typing this now, it all seems a bit surreal.
I think I’m on an anti-climax, chasing the idea of what shall I do next! Even maybe feeling a bit unsatisfied, but I don’t know why, it was such an amazing challenge!
So what is the Goggins 4x4x48 challenge?
To run 4 miles, every 4 hours for 48 hours.
Sounds easy right?
I say this lightly, as on paper this is a simple challenge, far easier than I imagined. Now don’t get me wrong, I put this challenge off last year for the fear of 48 hours, thinking if it was 24 hours it would be way more manageable. But in my head running 4 miles is more than achievable, just 12 times over.
I could have gone out and run an ultra marathon of 48 miles in one go and potentially be done in 12-14 hours, a quarter of the time I did for this challenge.
So why didn’t I? With my background in endurance events, I knew that the distance was an achievable challenge, but what I haven’t done is deprive myself of sleep for 48 hours whilst completing a long distance.
I knew this was down to a mental challenge and I think that’s why it appealed so much to me, because lets face it, who wants to disrupt their sleep for 48 hours intentionally. And I think that’s why I kept my challenge pretty much to myself up until the day. I wanted to work through it all on my own without the pressure of people knowing. Obviously I told a few people, as I needed some help, especially as my biggest concern was running into the early hours of the morning and feeling safe.
I’d planned everything for this challenge, from my nutrition strategy - what to eat and when, to my sleep pattern to the smaller things like showering, routes and pacing for the run sections. I knew I had to prepare myself and my time between each run block, ensure I had the energy, recovery and battle to run into the night, when I should be sleeping.
I had to plan my route that didn’t mean running past pubs, that didn’t sound like my idea of fun especially into the early hours of the morning. So, my friend Donna kindly offered to come and make sure I was safe during the night runs.
And, like life, pretty much everything, didn’t go to plan. Oh apart from the running part, that went right, I managed to keep my zone 2 pace for the duration of the miles pretty much.
Getting out the door every 4 hours, is tough. You have approximately 3 hours in between each run to eat, sleep, shower, change your clothes, chill before you go again. But weirdly 3 hours seems a long time too.
The running was by far the easy bit, again I know that sounds like I’m putting the running part down, but in comparison to the stop start, the 3 hours downtime, the dragging yourself out of the house, sorry bed, consistently, I couldn’t wind down, I couldn’t take my eye off the game for risk of losing it completely.
I don’t mean it was easy at all, running 48miles solo, just me, my thoughts and hallucinations, it isn’t exactly easy, but that was the whole reason I wanted to run this challenge completely on my own. It's like your mind takes on a whole new world (and I don't need that when I'm already the queen of overthinking), and let's play a game of Jekyll and Hyde all night.
I don’t think I’ll forget for a long time, my head on with a tarantula. It seemed so normal at that point, and I have no idea if anyone saw me jump out of my skin (and waste all that extra energy) if they did I hope they had a good giggle. Also the party I heard at 4am, but I soon realised it was in fact my own headphones.
My nutrition strategy went out of the window on day 1. It reminded me a lesson I thought I’d learnt years ago, never eat sweetcorn before a run (say no more).
I quickly realised how hard it is to eat in the early hours of the morning, but also knew I needed to try. My stomach started to feel unsettled, so I aimed to try and eat little and often. I tried toasted teacakes, party rings, bagels, Frijj milkshake, bananas to pizza, chicken wraps, spaghetti and sausages on toast (man I forgot how good those things were #guiltypleasure)
It took me until about my seventh run to find my momentum and routine. I knew I couldn’t force food down post run, I had to let my stomach settle, so finally, there it was… run, shower, nap, eat, chill, repeat.
Sleep. Oh how I’ve missed you. I still think I’m catching up now, four days later.
Originally I’d planned to stay awake for the first 24 hours, but I quickly realised after the first run, that that was boring and unproductive. I’m not one for sitting still. So off I went to bed between the midnight and 4am and again the 4am and 8am. I managed to get about 30 mins sleep between each, mainly because I was too paranoid I’d over sleep so it was very on and off.
I then decided to stay awake in the day. I stupidly ended up napping between my midday and 4pm run because I was in the house by myself, too exhausted to do anything, so thought sleep would help. Oh how wrong I was. I woke up in a state of tears and had no reason why. I can only think the sleep and lack of food had finally caught up with me.
As I went through the second night I managed a 90 minutes sleep – and jeez did that make life worse! I slept deeply, I dreamt and struggled to move.
I remember getting back from my 4am run where Donna kindly caught a picture of me, collapsed on the floor and that’s when I vowed that was it, 20-30 mins max for sleep.
This was my game changer. I felt like a new woman!
I won’t lie, I got annoyed at screaming ‘Alexa STOP!’ every 20 minutes. But I realised this was the key to it all, it helped me want to eat again, it helped my stomach settle.
I can hand on heart say, I definitely under estimated the feeling of sleep deprivation.
But the legs and body just kept going like it was normal, it was the most bizarre feeling.
I was too hard on myself when I had to walk (for no reason at all) so what I had to walk, I’d been going 36 hours before I had to walk. It was completely irrational, I felt like I’d failed my challenge, even though I was about 3 minutes slower than I had been throughout the whole challenge and well into the 30 plus mile mark.
The last 4 miles were actually the hardest, I knew it was done, my head knew it was done. So off I legged it into the quarry where my parents were waiting with JB at my turn around point, (I ran too fast, took it down to that 9 min mile mark, I knew I couldn’t sustain that on the way back and even if I walked the last 2 miles I’d actually done it! I mean, me, I’d completed this crazy challenge.
I was now running for the burger and chips I’d been promising Donna all week as a huge thank you for giving up a weekend of sleep to help me.
48 miles. On the road (those who know me know how much I hate road running – and I can confirm I have no desire to do any more of it!)
Chatting with a friend over coffee earlier this week, she asked me why did I do this challenge? What did I learn?
Woah, what a question! I’d not really even considered the whys, but even now I’m thinking about the answers.
I think the easy answer is, I want to challenge my mindset more. But, the honest deep-down answer, I think it was to prove some stuff to myself and if my daily dipping taught me anything, it’s that I want more, I want bigger challenges because I’ve finally found a little piece of me again.
And as I do these little challenges, I learn a tiny bit more about myself. Who I really am. How I can help my clients better.
We are so good at limiting our self-beliefs and capabilities, convincing ourselves we are not good at something or can’t possibly do that without even trying, we’ve already set ourselves up for failure before we’ve even started.
I know how much I have talked myself out of stuff over the years and I don’t want to do that anymore. What’s the worst that can happen, we may fail. But what we walk away with, whether we try and fail or whether we try and achieve, what we learn from that good or bad is the most important.