The once empty fields of Catton Park, Derbishire was quickly filling up with colourful runners in Wellies and raincoats putting up tents, filling up watering cans, prepping food and equipment for the weekend. Not even the summer rain could damped the nervous excitement of the runners and spectators. “Why?” I hear you ask. Well, the last weekend in July is the Adidas Thunder Run. Runners from all over the country 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’s we had a mixed Women’s and Men’s running team with Gary Dalton and myself, Anne-Marie Lategan 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 parading our camping area to ensure that our team mates would have space to camp. From 7am on Saturday morning our team mates started to arrive all smartly dressed in their sponsored Adidas gear. This was the first time we met in person. As a veteran to the event I knew that a friendly hand shake from a stranger will soon turn into a hug of friendship that will last long beyond the 24-hours.
As noon approached a combination of nervous and excitement tension was filling the air. Event veterans and newbies all line up. Our team strategy was simply to have an enjoyable weekend with everyone doing what they can, no clipboard time keepers counting every 86 400 seconds. Yes there was a sign on course with this info. Probably not the best motivational quote at 1am when I read it without falling over but informational never the less. We decided to run alternating male 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 was around 50 to 70 minutes we sat around eating Jade’s homemade flapjacks and my homemade sweet potato and banana muffins getting to know each other. Things happened 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 camera man. 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 and that they will put some along the course. So you could images Laura’s surprise when she got to the top of the Conti Hill to find her quote “the sooner you step away from your comfort zone, the sooner you’ll realise it wasn’t really comfortable at all” Laura Bell #allin24.
By night fall we all completed one lap. The conversation soon changed from discussions about mud drying out to strategies of how to run in the woodlands in the dark comparing head torches. Where else in our normal life is comparing lumens, beam distance and burn time of head torches a normal appropriate conversation. And if you think that was boring you soon realised the importance of it when a runner approaches 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 please 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 realised 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 struggle 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 manage to escape the rain but the heavens open on Alexy and Paul last laps. In true Thunder Run sprite they enjoyed every muddy step and finished their laps with a smile bringing the team home with 25 laps.