Race Report: Thunder Run | Eclectic Cake: Race Report: Thunder Run

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Race Report: Thunder Run

WHAT:  24-hour relay run
WHERE:  Catton Park, Derbyshire
WHEN:  26-27th July 2014

Elation, relief, pride, delirium...this photo sums up my Thunder Run experience perfectly.

It was the moment teammate Leah and I crossed the line with just seconds spare to hand over the baton for a 25th lap of technical trail running that would help us come 77th out of 228. The crowds were buzzing around the finish to cheer out the final few seconds of the 24 hour race, five other members of team 'Thunderbabes' were screaming with the excitement of smashing our goal by an extra lap, as another, Becs eagerly bounced around with a smile almost too big for her face, ready to blast out another speedy 10k. We'd come a long way to get to this point – 240 kilometres to be precise – and it was certainly an emotional journey...

After sleep-interrupted with dreams of already running, I kitted up with the team, waved off the first runners in a rush of noise and waited...With around four nervous hours until my first lap, I had time to kill but somehow I couldn't tear myself away from the side of the course. Each runner that passed – brave solo runners, speedy club runners, fancy-dressed fun runners – was fascinating to watch. This was a festival for runners and all abilities, shapes and sizes were invited.

The wait also gave me time to bond aka snack with my brilliant, self-declared 'party team' (on paper the Adidas B-team)captain BecsLenkaKatyJosie, EmmaDavid and Leah, each one inspiring and encouraging as the next. If I got to pick the team again, it would still always be these guys. We were also joined by the Adidas A-team who had already shown evidence of their experience as endurance runners the night before – their tents were laid in the light, we fought with poles in the dark, they brought spare tent pegs, I brought none – but they were more than willing to share their expertise (and pegs) throughout the weekend and even shared their secret race strategy with us. I tried to piece together what type of course lay before me from their different descriptions but nothing quite did it like Katy's "it's hilly, good luck!" as she passed me the baton for my first lap.

She wasn't wrong but she hadn't mentioned how rewardingly beautiful the course was. Or how friendly and supportive the other runners were. Or how fun dodging trees and their rooty lumps was. Or how refreshingly amazing the half-way spray of water on a sweltering day was. Or how satisfyingly long the descents were. Or how brilliant it was to look down from the highest ridge at night to see tiny runners in the distance lit by only their head-torches. Or how loud and frequent the cheers through the camp were. All these things made those hills shrink a little and feel far more manageable.

I'd run my planned three laps by 5am – two in intense heat and one in pitch black – the furthest I've ever run in my life but despite having only an hours sleep, a confused nibble on food (I'd already had three breakfasts that day) and a massage, I was itching to go out for one last go. But this last lap would be piled with pressure. Thanks to Becs' brilliant captaining, we'd had a runner on the course every single second of the race and had created a bit of a time bumper. We worked out that if David could crack out a sub-50-minute lap and Leah's last was sub-75, we'd have time to send out Becs for another go. My brain took over and told me it wasn't a good idea to run again, especially after feeling a little knee niggle earlier...but then I wouldn't have to run the whole thing, I could act as company for the first half and walk back...but if I slow Leah down, we might miss out on lap 25...but she's also nervous and four legs are better than two...

I finally pulled on my grippy Adizero XT 5s with just 10 minutes to go before we expected David to come charging in and I'm so glad I did. My legs felt surprisingly fresh after a few hours rest and my new purpose as pacer completely distracted me from any tiredness. The extra run also meant I got to thank the marshals on the way round for looking after us for a gruelling 24 hours, congratulate the solo runners on their final victory laps and clap the crowds who were now nearly exploding with support for the final runners. At the final hill, supporters told us we still had a few minutes to get over the line before the 24-hour cut-off (runners could start another run up until the very last second). Their energy was feeding mine, it was overwhelming and I couldn't help leaking a couple of tears. I'd had an amazing weekend and it was very nearly over.

We celebrated the only way a party team should, with tent-warm champagne and endless pictures of us necking it.

Much like a music festival, we arrived fresh and excited at the knowledge that something special was surely going to happen. We left slightly broken but with the memories of 24 very special hours and, as Josie put it on the way home, absolutely "filthy".

Thank you to Adidas and the team at Speed for hosting such a brilliant weekend. Thunderbabes are GO!

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