Saturday morning dawned bright, early and sunny and after a rather dodgy attempt at porridge four of us headed to the lovely Conkers parkrun to start the weekend in style. Along with lots of other parkrun tourists also there for the Thunder Run we took it as slowly as possible and jogged around enjoying the scenery and the lovely atmosphere. parkrun royalty in the form of Tom Williams, parkrun MD, was there scanning barcodes and I stuttered something about loving parkrun...always the cool kid.
After parkrun we headed back to camp and got geared up for the race. Our superstar runner Mark was taking the first lap but we all headed over to the start for a briefing at 11.30am - we stood in the blazing sunshine to be warned that the weather was going to turn later and it would be up to us to decide whether to continue running...rather ominous but at the time I was more worried about sunburn! It was very odd to watch the start of a race that I was participating in, but I had a long wait for my first lap as I was last in our rotation. We spent the time in between laps sitting in camp and going to cheer on team mates and other runners at about 8.5km which was just near
My first lap started well - I was handed the baton by Neil and set off with a big grin on my face. The first hill that I had heard so much about didn't seem too bad and I was keen to see the rest of the course. However after about 2 or 3K I started to suffer in the heat and struggled quite a bit. No one hill seemed that bad but the constant ups and downs were pretty draining and it became a bit of a mental battle. I also began to really worry about
doing the course in the dark only a few hours later whereas with hindsight I should have just focused on the lap in hand. I started to rely on seeing the guys at the designated
cheering spot and 8.5K and it was a big relief to spot them - they were fab and gave me loads of encouragement and motivation so I enjoyed the last 1.5K and handed over to Mark again with a smile on my face. Neil had come to meet me at the changeover area so we went to get some pasta to try and get my energy levels up and then headed back to see the others.
A few hours later and the sun had gone in and been replaced by rain - by the time Gavin was on his second lap this had turned into a massive thunderstorm and I started to get genuinely worried about the prospect of running up those hills, in the pitch black, in atrocious weather. Poor Michaela was the next to go and I was SO impressed that she summoned up the courage to head out - it was still a few hours to go for me and it suddenly felt a bit lonely sitting in the tent listening to the rain hammering down and worrying about heading out later. That was the low point for me but luckily each person who returned from their night laps came back raving about how much fun they had been. By the time my turn came around the thunder had stopped but it was still pouring down. This mean the course was becoming a bit treacherous but I absolutely loved it - it is hard to describe quite how fun charging through puddles and dodging tree roots is in the pitch black but everyone around me was having a whale of a time and I loved the camaraderie between the runners. I arrived back at camp caked in mud but exhausted so did a wet wipe shower and crawled into my sleeping bag for a couple of hours rest before the morning lap.
The rain had continued all night but by morning it was dry and getting warmer all the time. The course however had suffered rather from the downpour coupled with thousands of runners trampling over it for hours on end, so my last lap was a somewhat slower plod interspersed with walking to try to avoid falling over. Despite this I still managed to skid
and land on my bum, having also put my hands down, so I ended up with a very muddy
bum and two muddy hands! It was a talking point at least and got me lots of attention!
By the last km or two the grin was back and I felt like I was flying along. My friend Richard was in another team but he was watching by the last hill and his shouting managed to power me to the top without walking despite that being the last km of 35 in the 24 hour period...cheers Rich!
The last few hours was spent napping and snacking (Stretch! Salt! Sugar!) before we headed over to collect our well-deserved medals. By this point the memories of the low points were already fading for me - I was tired but happy and I had had a fantastic weekend with a brilliant team. I would highly recommend the Thunder Run - it was a massive festival just for runners and I intend to be back next year.
Michaela's blog includes her version of events and lots of lovely pictures so do go check it out. I will leave you with just one photo...the medal, on Big Dog - he was quite impressed with it as it is yellow and spins round...