WHERE: Catton Park, Derbyshire
WHEN: 25–26th July 2015
When you gather together runners and give them time to talk, there will inevitably be a favoured topic. After all, we've been cooped up in homes and offices full of rolling eyes when we mention our favourite pastime...again. I always find the stories fascinating, from a first run to a greatest challenge, there's always a unique tale.
So when I was invited to join the Like the Wind x Adidas team at the Adidas Thunder Run, I knew there would be some good stories shared – the magazine is full of them, after all and I'd be surrounded by thousands of runners at an event which is less race, more running festival.
Beginning team bonding by introducing ourselves in true runner style, I have no idea what most of the team do for a living but I do know the ins and outs of their PBs and training goals. I quickly worked out that I was the slowest among the group, something I was far more hung up on than any one else in the team. We were all there to have fun, lap time or position weren't things we'd even spoken about, yet knowing there was a bit of a gap in abilities made me push to run my fastest.
Having done the event last year, I knew the route was a brilliant mix of winding, hilly trail. But after piling on the pressure, I only remembered to enjoy it over half way round. I was the last runner of eight in the team order and each before me had come back exhausted with tales of tough runs. Whilst I do push myself, the key thing for me is to enjoy every run, otherwise what's the point? Forcing my legs to run fast after a tough couple of weeks training wasn't enjoyable. My first lap story would be different to the others.
Middle way through a drowsy dream, my phone buzzed. In the old days, I might be considering going home at this time in the morning, now I was waking up to force feed myself breakfast before a second 10k lap. I'd only really ever run in the dark twice before and each time I'd felt a little disorientated and unsteady. I'd be lying if I said I was looking forward to running into the pitch black.
This time was different, though. I kept my beam of light ahead of me and put trust in my feet. Despite wanting to do my best for the team, I promised myself it was ok to walk on the technical bits if I needed to but that moment never came. I felt like I was flying along the course, just tickling the trail with my toes, enjoying every twist and turn. The hardest part was taming my high as I crept back to a sleeping camp and saving my story for the morning.
End of my third lap, round the corner from the finish, I gritted my teeth and forced myself to run. Very little rest and minimal stretching between laps had caused my body to stiffen. My final lap was painful and I was forced to power-walk hills rather than run them as I had previously, fearing injury was inevitable. Having my teammates cheer me in to the finish immediately eased the pain.
I'd felt honoured to have spent a brilliant weekend with such a great bunch of runners, soaking up their stories, advice and encouragement. In 24 hours, we'd run 27 laps, 270km and each gained seven friends.
Disclaimer: I was kindly given free entry to the Adidas Thunder Run by Adidas