Remembering old races, we have decided to go back to the “100 kilometres in 24 hours”, a race that opened us a whole new world of distances. Organised by the running journal “Corricolari”, the race gives a chance to enter the ultra-running world for everyone. With a finish time limit of 24 hours, participants can distribute energy according to their level, and run or walk it.
Still taking place nowadays, usually in mid-June, the course was changed a few years ago. The race started and finish in “La Peineta” Stadium, currently known as the “Wanda Metropolitan Stadium”, where Atletico de Madrid plays after moving its headquarters. This iconic place gave the race a feeling probably lost after changing the course. Nowadays you don´t enter into Madrid.
The race started always at midday on a Saturday, and you had to be back in the stadium before midday on Sunday. After crossing Madrid, we had to reach three villages (Tres Cantos twice). The organisation would transport whatever stuff we wanted at each check point: food, drinks, changing clothes, etc.
The stops, stage distances and kilometric points are in the attached table (see image).
We registered for the first time a long time ago, in 1999, when our longest distance achieved was a half marathon. Being mostly off-road our objective was finish it walking before the deadline. Even doing so was difficult, as usually only 1/3 of participants got to the finish line on time.
At midday and with the Sun at the top and heating intensely we had to do a lap in the stadium track before crossing Madrid. A few hardcore runners were already leaving the stadium while most participants were only crossing the start. A long hot day laid ahead.
It took almost two hours before heading outside of town and its paved streets. San Sebastian de los Reyes was the first checkpoint in the early evening. A brief visit before heading towards the next stop. The stage was only 11 kilometres, the shortest one, for the first visit to Tres Cantos. With enough people around there was always someone for tagging along. When arriving the worst weather had passed, but the race was only starting. It was the 35k.
From Colmenar Viejo the race entered a different setting. Night hours were better for the body, with fresher temperatures, but required extra attention looking for the signals and not getting lost. You don´t want to walk extra kilometres in a 100k race!
By the second visit to Tres Cantos, and already 2/3 into the race, fatigue levels were high. And there came the biggest mistake of 1999: to lay down and rest for a while. Feeling dizzy after standing up, and with the last stage being the longest with 35k, we took the easy way: called it a day at 65k and 4.30 am.
Disappointed, that adventure couldn´t finish here. In 2000 we decided to try our luck again. That year we felt more confident, after our marathon debut in April in Madrid.
Following a similar strategy than in 1999, we decided to stop the minimum at the check points. And we got to Tres Cantos again and the cursed kilometre 65. But this time around, although tired, we kept walking.
At dawn we got to the long and straight dirt roads encircling Madrid´s airport external fence. Not a friendly section, but already offering distant glimpses of the stadium. Exhausted at kilometre 90, and with more than 6 hours to do the last 10k I sat down for a while at the edge of the road.
Unable to get back on our feet, the race was over once again. Disappointed, and watching other walkers passing by towards the finish, we still waited two hours before an organization vehicle came around collecting the retirees.
For the second time in a row, the race was stronger than us.
And there it came 2001, and we were again at the start line of the “100k in 24 hours”. Two consecutive failures may had taught an important lesson: save the most energy early on, to use it at the latter stages, when most needed.
And it was the third time lucky. Two years after the first try we finally managed to reach the stadium and cross the finish line at 10.25 am, with more than 90 minutes left.
Plethoric feelings after being successful in such hard test.
But despite finishing, once again it was necessary to drag ourselves to the closest metro station: Las Musas. That 1 kilometre was always the hardest, carrying the luggage and ourselves with stiff legs. Descending those stairs was the latest test.
Once achieved, the 100k were crossed from the check list for the time being.
Although we got back for the last time three years later, in 2004. It was the last year before the race changed its course and abandoned Madrid.
More experienced, this time around we managed to improve our time by almost 2 hours. We completed the 100k in 20 hours 28 minutes, and again uniquely walking.
Those two withdrawals taught us a useful lesson, not only for sports, but also for life:
Failure is not an option. Keep trying until you can overpass your limits.
Those races were the unique ones we have ever quitted.