A couple of reviews from last weekend’s Thuinder Run……
Thunder Run Extravaganza
It was the day before the unknown, and we were heading towards our destination, replacing rainy Manchester for rainy Derbyshire. Thoughts of ‘why are we doing this?’ had been circulating since the planning meeting. A meeting which main results consisted of the true nature of Chris’ hole in the head being revealed and Jason being told he resembled an epileptic chihuahua. The odds were stacked against us.
Despite all this, the team of 5 (James, Jason, Chris, Lloyd and myself, as the token female) were excited to be taking on a new running challenge. The Thunder Run being a 24 hour race, consisting of 10k loops. The main aim of the game, is to run as many laps as possible in the designated time. Teams vary in size and combos. The course is basically a cross country course, equipped with the usual delights of a few hills and some woodlands.
Upon arrival at the gates to Catton Park, which is similar to what I imagine those of heaven being like, we not only found James but we also found a man to direct us in.Territory had been well and truly claimed in the form of mass acres of land being taped off in the anticipation of a the appearance of faraway running tribes. After some borderline panic we found an extremely good spot to set up camp, not too far from the start and finish area. The swift actions of putting the tents up, getting stuff out of car and temporally removing car, allowed some time for a pre-race glass of South African Shiraz.
Saturday morning, and the party really got started with the arrival of Chris and Lloyd. Off we strutted to the pre-race briefing, all full of the joys.It was at this point that Captain Jason, was summoned to the start area. The rest of us tottled off to find a good spot to take some photos of the start. Whilst waiting patiently for the starting gun, an old estates man of the Thunder Run, enlightened us about the course, in a nutshell – ‘most’ of the tree routes are painted in luminous paint for the night time shifts. The gun went, Jason ran past somewhere in the midst of the crowd, spider man sprayed us with his spider web and the chihuahua managed to teleport itself threw the railings and was standing on the course.
On Jason’s return he was quizzed about the nature of the beast. His instant reaction of ‘that was really difficult’ was later replaced by ‘it’s not as bad as I thought’. Those still to run decided to cling on in desperation to the latter. The sun decided to make an appearance as I began my first lap. Most would have seen this as a good omen. I made friends with a man who took his top off. But found the course enjoyable anyway. Due to the nature of our tactics, which differed to every other team (!) Chris, our secret nighttime weapon, ended up doing most of his runs in the dark. And he did it very well. Unlike me who managed to run off the course a few times and land awkwardly in a small ditch. Special shout out to James, who in true team spirit, shared his superior head torch.
Sunday is greeted with many a groan, in want of a better term, we’d all pretty much ‘had it’. But solidered on regardless. An executive decision was made that the last lap should be walked. So that’s what happened, with some photography opportunities and accidentally getting in the way of other runners thrown in. James and Chris’s smiley faces greeted myself and Jason as we completed the last 400m together, as a team, minus Lloyd who’d had to dash off to Argos to buy replacement toothbrush heads, obviously.
All in all, the Thunder Run 2015 was challenging but like nothing any of us had every done. We managed a respectable 22nd out of 113, in the mixed 5 category. I now dream of the 8K marker and the general consensus is that we’ll be back next year. As will you Dear Reader, after reading this inspiring report.
The Thunder Run: A lot can happen in 24 hours
The concept of the unparalleled Thunder Run is simple. Mark out one 10K lap of the Staffordshire countryside and challenge people to do as many of these laps as they can in 24 hours. You can do it on your own if you like, in a pair, small or larger team. You can do 1 lap, more than 20 laps or just sit and watch. You can walk a lap or run it as fast as you can, it’s up to you.
Over the years the Thunder Run has built up cult status amongst the running community. Jason had secured us our valued place as a mixed team of 3-5 runners; Jason, Lloyd, Emma, Chris and me. We really had no idea what to expect. The day arrived sooner than we expected and we set out about somelast minute prep, lap negotiation and a little training.
Jason, Emma and me arrived at the site to heavy rain and a scene resembling
Glastonbury 1997. Other clubs from across the UK had got there early and cordoned off large areas and we struggled to find a place until we came across a perfect spot quite near the start line and close to some toilets. We went to sleep with heavy rain around us and some trepidation.
We woke to blue skies and sunshine! Chris and Lloyd arrived later and we had a look around. The start line was fringed by runner’s merchandise outlets, food stalls and a traditional red British Bus converted into a bar. The relay changeover looked straightforward with a sheltered pen where the next runner waits to be handed over to. There was a briefing of sorts, then the whole site gathered to witness in huge anticipation the very start of this 24 hour race.
Jason kicked off with lap 1, knocked out 46 minutes, but came back with tales of horror. We would need spikes. The mud would get worse. The hills are long and hard. It twists and turns. Lloyd next, who is no fan of XC, but he ran soundly and we cheered him on as he got up that last steep hill. Jason again, then Lloyd, then on to Emma, with another strong run. The ground seemed to be drying out now, we were ahead of time and feeling good about ourselves.
!My first lap was pure running joy, like a rollercoaster. An anxious wait, then on to the course, a long climb up, then tumbled down and around the twisty forest trails. At some point I was spat out into the campsite itself and ran past tents holding well intentioned, but comfortable spectators. Then back into the forest, up something called the Conti run, a marked out steep Strava segment, then along a high ridge with clear views of Staffordshire. From 8K it is downhill, through the campsite, a steep, but short hill and back.
Emma again, then me, then Chris, who loved the course, then Jason, then Lloyd, then Jason and then …… Lloyd. He came back looking like death, prodigiously ate all the snacks he could, then retired to bed with just the occasional sounds of cramp induced yelps (and later on snores), to be heard from his pod. It was getting dark now and things were starting to get serious. On to me for my first night lap. I’d never run in the pitch black before, but basically it was like a rollercoaster in the dark. In other words a whole lot of fun. But my second night run was no fun at all, in fact it was a bit of a slog. I was starting to get tired. Whilst I slept it was Chris, then Jason, then Lloyd and then Emma. Everyone was struggling now and my morning lap was just a question of getting round with no chance of another. I arrived back expecting Emma, but her leg was injured from a slip on her night run, so Chris had been moved forward despite running nearly all night. We’d all done 5 laps with Jason doing 6.
We decided a final lap would be walked by Jason and Emma. The rest of us waited near the end of the lap and we all walked it in together, which I’d like to say we did arm in arm, but the others ran on at the end leaving me limping behind, no longer capable of running! A lot had happened in 24 hours, but we’d made it, run 270K, averaged 50ish minutes per 10K and came 22nd out of 113 teams.
There’s a famous quote that if you want to win something run 100m, but if you want to experience something run a marathon. To this I’d add if you want to experience a little more do the Thunder Run. There’s room within the concept for everyone to experience it their way. Whether it be the crazy solo runners, the club runners trying to do the best for the team, the running hobbyists happy to enjoy a few laps or the spectators cheering on their team whilst enjoying a BBQ and a few beers. We hope you’ll join us and do it in your way next year!