On it’s third year Adidas 24 hr Thunder Run proved just how popular an event can become in a short space of time with 1653 runners taking part in the 9 different categories, that’s over 700 more than last years event. The first event in 2009 attracted just 123 competitors of which 60 places were given for free to help raise the profile of the event, this is fast becoming the must do event of the year and will be limited to just 2000 runners in 2012, so with entries opening in October I can foresee places being snapped up quickly.
Adidas Thunder Run , held at Catton Park in Walton on Trent is a 24 hour endurance event organised by Pro-Velo Support comprising of a demanding and picturesque 10Km cross country course is probably the best event I have had the pleasure of competing in. Not just for the running but for the team spirit and brilliant support each runner gets as they pass through various areas of the course. Unlike events like Green Belt and Norfolk Relays (which are also excellent events) where the runners are spread out around the vast course, Thunder Run enables everyone to be together for the entire event which really helps create an excellent team spirit and enables encouragement when the runners most need it.
The 26.2 base camp had taken shape by early Friday evening with tents pitched, club banner and flag prominently displayed along the side of the course just past the 9Km point. Sergeant Major Wilkie had the beer tent and ladies changing facilities squared away, the cakes had arrived courtesy as usual of Ann Bath and Jon and Chris Wilson had finally worked out how to put their tent up. With the logistics sorted out it was time to work out team order, sink a few beers (essential hydration process) wait for the late comers to arrive the next morning and the ultimately for the start at noon on Saturday.
We entered 2 teams of 7 again this year which were evenly matched with 6 fit and able and 1 walking wounded in each with myself and Greg Whiteman starting the proceedings in blistering sunshine to begin a 24 hour period of relentless running, slick changeovers, night time navigation and the sound of Krystal Newbury having a giggling fit around midnight all thanks to Derick Wilkie feeling the need to give runners directions in the dark lest they run headlong into the portaloo’s.
Everyone completed a lap in day time to familiarise themselves with the course before it got dark and the fun really began. The course itself is a good demanding route across varied terrain, some steep hills (mainly in the first 5Km) narrow winding paths through the woodland between 5 and 7 Km where you not only have to think about yourself but also others who are screaming up behind you and needing to pass safely, especially during the night where the darkness required your complete concentration to navigate the course and finish in one piece. A good torch is a must unless you are being followed by the lady behind me on my night lap who had a head torch bright enough to light up the whole of Staffordshire; it was like something out of Close Encounters. A nice long downhill section around the 8 Km mark helps you recover somewhat before the course ends with the final 1 ½ Km through the camp site where the support and encouragement is at its best and one final short sharp hill before a nice downhill section to the finish line. Unlike last year the course wormed through the centre of the camp site rather than skirting along the edge, this we were told was due to many wasp nests along last years route but as it turned out it made it a much improved addition especially as we had set up camp right along the new part of the route.
Thankfully unlike Luca Pengelly last year who lost a fight with a BBQ we got through the event with no major injuries requiring treatment, Derick Wilkie unfortunately had to pull out after his first lap after aggravating his calf injury, I was ambushed by a tree root at 2am which sent me sprawling in the woods and Grant Davison turned his ankle slightly but I put that down to the fact that every time I saw him in camp he had a beer in his hand.
There were some great performances by all that took part this weekend, Lizzie Wilson, Chris Wilson, Javier Fuentes, Nikki De Sousa, Grant Davison, Krystal Newbury, Jon Wilson and Greg Whiteman all completed 3 laps each. Neil Parker despite nursing an injury that left him doubtful prior to the weekend ran a gentle 2 laps and the remaining runners myself, Libby Marchant, Zoe Wingfield and Ann Bath all completed 4 laps each. In particular Libby ran a double lap early Sunday morning after lack of sleep in a brilliant time of 1:57:14 her first lap of the 2 was recorded at 0:56:25 and she narrowly missed a sub 1 hour on the next lap by 49 seconds crossing the finish line in 1:00:49, an amazing effort considering the course and the sleep deprivation. Thankfully there were no mistakes this year on the wake up calls during the night legs and everybody worked together well as a team to ensure each runner was ready to take the baton when it was their turn. The base camp was a hive of activity throughout the night which does make it a little difficult to get some serious sleep in-between legs; unless of course you are Ann Bath who it seems could sleep for England on the main runway at Heathrow if asked to do so.
There were many great moments throughout the weekend which I am sure you will hear about over the coming weeks but once again this proved to be an awesome event that will definitely be on my calendar next year once the dates are announced in October, I really hope we can get a couple of teams entered again next year if not more. I for one would love to see some of our speedier members giving the leading teams a run for their money, I’m sure you could give them a scare, you know who you are. This event attracts some amazing endurance athletes and the winner of the solo male category achieved an amazing 20 laps with only 1 hour of rest in the 24, and in particular a guy called Chris Seddon who with only 2 hours rest achieved an amazing 10 laps carrying a 40lb Bergen on his back, truly inspirational.
I’d like to thank the club for paying the entry fee and my fellow Thunder Runners for making the weekend a memorable event, one which I am sure we’ll be talking about for a long time to come. Once again my long suffering better half Sam gave some amazing team support and hats off to Libby’s boyfriend Rafie for cooking enough BBQ food to feed an army.
Don’t miss out in 2012, I certainly won’t be.