Each year, we host a competition in the magazine to win a place on the Women’s Running team to take part in the Adidas Thunder Run. The Adidas Thunder Run is a 24-hour, off-road relay race against the clock, whereby teams of five or eight work together to attempt to run as many 10K laps of the course as possible. The person or team with the most laps at the end of the 24 hours wins. Last weekend, our mixed team from Women’s Running and Men”s Ruinning, took to the very damp and muddy Catton Park in Derbishire to take on the event. WR’s Fitness Editor and captain of the women’s team Anne-Marie reports on the race.
The once empty fields of Catton Park, Derbyshire were quickly filling up with colourful runners in wellies and raincoats putting up tents, filling up water bottles, preparing food and equipment for the weekend. Not even the (heavy) summer rain could dampen the nervous excitement of the runners and spectators at the annual adidas Thunder Run 24. Runners from all over the country had come together with one goal: to run as many 10km laps in 24 hours as part of a five or eight person team, a pair or as a solo runner. Whoever does the most laps wins. Easy!
This year we had a mixed Women’s Running and Men’s Running team with Gary Dalton and me as team captains and the rest of the team members the competition winners: Jade Booth, Laura Bell, Alexy Dury, Dan Stinton, Paul Simons and Steve Jones. I set up base camp with Jade on the Friday night, patrolling our camping area to ensure that our team-mates would have space to camp. From 7am on Saturday morning our fellow Thunder Runners started to arrive all smartly dressed in their prized adidas gear. This was the first time we’d met in person. As a veteran to the event, I knew that a friendly handshake from a stranger would soon turn into a hug of friendship that lasts long beyond the 24 hours.
As noon approached, a combination of nervous and excited tension was filling the air. Event veterans and newbies all lined up. Our team strategy was simply to have an enjoyable weekend with everyone doing what they can, no clipboard timekeepers counting every one of the 86,400 seconds. (Yes there was a sign on course with this information. Probably not the best motivational quote at 1am when I read it without falling over but informative nonetheless.)
We decided to run alternating male and female, starting with Speedy Paul who did his first lap in an astonishing 38:50. Jade, our own campsite giraffe (named after her onesie), would have her work cut out to turn up on time.
In between laps, which for the mortals between us were between 50 and 70 minutes, we sat around eating Jade’s homemade flapjacks and my homemade sweet potato and banana muffins getting to know each other. Things fell into place naturally; Paul was very nervous, so to get rid of his nervous tension he had to keep the jerry can full. Dan was the first one to take out a camera so he turned into our team’s official cameraman. The rest of us walked around and support runners going on course and coming off. Before the event, adidas asked people to tweet motivational quotes which they would put along the course. So you could imagine Laura’s surprise when she got to the top of the Conti Hill to find her own quote: “The sooner you step away from your comfort zone, the sooner you’ll realise it wasn’t really comfortable at all.”
By nightfall we had all completed one lap. The conversation soon changed from discussions about mud drying out to strategies to how to run in the woodlands in the dark, comparing head torches. When else in life is comparing lumens, beam distance and burn time of head torches a normal or appropriate conversation? And if you thought that was boring, you soon realised the importance of it when a runner approached you from behind lighting up the way just to leave you behind in darkness silently wishing you could run their speed. I’ve been there before and was pleased to say that this year I was one of the night time light bearers. Now, during these events as a team captain, I have come to realise that the night time can be detrimental to team members who are not used to running in darkness. And to tell the truth, I was very concerned about Alexy after she told me that due to her deafness, she struggles to keep her balance if she can’t see. So when I woke up to find that we had no night-time casualties I was ecstatic. I do think Mother Nature was kind to us this year, giving us a dry warm night, but I knew that was too good to be true. On my last lap it started to drizzle. Me and Steve managed to escape the rain but the heavens opened on Alexy and Paul’s last laps. In true Thunder Run spirit, they enjoyed every muddy step and finished their laps with a smile, bringing the team home with an impressive total of 25 laps.
How you would describe your team spirit?
I was really nervous at first because of my deafness. I mean that I am basically hardcore deaf and prefer using sign language. However, I was brought up orally so I can speak and lip-read a bit! I am not sure if the other members of my team were more nervous of me than I was of them! I often wondered that! But upon arrival we integrated quickly. They did ask me if I was happy to be the last runner of the group – I wanted to observe all of the runners before my turn to gain more confidence. This also ensured that I would have the chance to run in the dark. I went out and about and supported other members of my team at different places and took photos.
I thought I would feel the pressure to run fast to please others in the team. However, I just did my best as always and felt no pressure from others. We praised each other all the time. There were no egos at all, it was fantastic!
How would you describe the atmosphere?
The atmosphere was superb, despite fatigue, humidity and rain everyone was smiling. We even made some friends with our camping neighbours. Chatting to people from all over the UK and hearing about each person’s lap; getting tips on how the mud had dried up and how great the forest was as it was getting darker! I loved how we had a little system and role in our team, positioned in various spots around the last 1km to feed back when changeover was about to happen.
Your experiences, good or bad?
The whole experience was amazing. It changed me as a runner and as a person. I didn’t really know what I was capable of or how hard I could push myself until someone woke up me at 4:30am and I immediately (ok, not immediately…) bounced into action as the adrenalin kicked in. Two days after the event and I am still smiling despite suffering with some severe post-event blues. The only bad part of the weekend was the massive queue for the medals in the pouring rain but thankfully Gary (Mens Running Team captain) leapt to our rescue and braved the queue to collect them for us – cheers buddy!