Thunder Run (TR) is a 24hr off-road relay race with the aim to complete as many laps as possible, of an undulating 10k loop, either as a solo participant, in a pair or as a Same sex/mixed team of 3-5 or 6-8 runners.
The race starts at midday on the Saturday, finishing midday Sunday (in case you couldn’t work that bit out) and providing your last runner begins a lap before the Sunday cut off, the lap will be counted in the team total.
NYMAC had 2x mixed teams of 5 at TR this year.
NYMAC’ers can hack it (NCHI)
NYMAC’ers are massive (NAM)
• Mark Brown
• Paul Bainbridge
TR is booked so far in advance as it sells out very quickly so inevitably you end up with runners who originally put their name down who can’t make it and / or are injured. Paul had suffered from an ‘athlete’s groin’ injury (as he put it) leading up to TR and it was only a late call from his physio that allowed him to run. Big respect to Paul as having not done much running in the weeks leading up to TR he smashed out 4 laps.
Unfortunately NAM did need 2 members – thankfully Lucy forfeited her solo entry and Georgina stepped in late on to fill the hole left by an injured party.
This was my second time at TR having attended last year. I wasn’t wholly convinced I wanted to do it again so soon– I certainly wasn’t well trained for it but there’s a camaraderie and a team spirit about it that I guess wins you over before you think about the actual running you have to commit to.
Catherine and Georgina left home around 6am, meeting up with Mark and Paul at Woodhall services to head over to Catton Park to reserve a camping spot – successfully managing to bag almost the same spot as last year by the pond .. so we shared our pitch with the baby frogs.
Having put the gazebo’s up and walked a section of the lap, they waited for me to arrive around 2pm with my tent.
Once the tent and the stove were set up (after one of many downpours) we had a cup of tea (or another beer if you were Georgina) and had a bit of down time before heading to the main event area to register, collect T-shirts, buy a big bobble hat (customary!), get some food and have a pint while we waited for the others to arrive.
We even managed a glimpse of the (now disappearing) sun …
Jack arrived around 6pm having had a stop at Wetherby services to ‘shed some weight’, got his tent up and he was followed by the girls and Nick & Skiddy a couple of hours later.
That’s it – We had two complete teams.
Alcohol consumption seemed very low compared to last year (Hmm no Fawcett attending?… ) – much to Georgina’s disappointment as I suspect that was the main reason she agreed to come along. Still, motivation was at an all time high …
The majority of us were in bed just after midnight although the campsite was quite noisy so getting a decent amount of sleep was going to be a challenge. The torrential downpour at 3am had me out of bed several times to alleviate the pool of water that accumulates on the roof of the tent porch (it’s stressful taking your own tent – more so if Georgina is let loose in it! ) but I was pleased to notice that the floor of the porch (and our bags) remained dry.
Saturday – race start day!
With the race not due to start until midday, by the time we’d had breakfast (and paracetamol if you slightly over did the beer . Mark), we felt like we were just sitting around waiting to get underway. Understandably a little bit of tension sets in at this point but that soon disappears once the race starts.
Skiddy got NCHI off to a fantastic start with a 42:21 min lap (after claiming he was not in ideal condition so plan on him running 50 mins!). Nick and jack followed with sub 47 (6 mins up on planned) and sub 44 (1 min up) respectively so we were well ahead of schedule already. It didn’t help that they ALL came back from the first lap commenting on how tough the course was. Yeah – thanks for that!
Having ran first last year and getting caught up in the ‘race start’ I was fourth runner this time around starting @ 14:15. Half way through the lap the heavens opened like never before … I have rarely seen rain like it! Fortunately it was warm and quite nice to run in but I was absolutely soaked then I started worrying incase those back at camp hadn’t zipped the tent doors up!
Thankfully they didn’t let me down.
After finishing my first lap and handing over to Catherine she got the tail end of the downpour and then she had to make her way through the ensuing mud bath that followed. Catherine isn’t exactly Nicky Spinks on the off-road muddy/downhill tracks so she excelled in running bang on her target of 51 minute’s and she had the mud splashes to back up the effort!
The tracks in the first 5km remained treacherously slippy for the majority of the day and through the night. There was 2 types of runners through these sections – the cautious – picking their way through the mud .. and the bowlers who just went for it! What the heck – it’s only another lap each of your team mates have to do if you break some bones.
Mark ran first for NAM with a great sub 52 lap followed by Lucy, Jayne, Georgina and Paul who all ran well, completing their laps under 55 mins.
We all then settled in to the routine of run / eat / drink / brave the portaloo’s / figure out when we’d next be running / bed / whinge at georgina for going in the tent in her wet muddy running gear / whinge at georgina for leaving the tent doors open
I had a quick shower after my second lap followed by a pizza and a garlic bread. I had packed quite a bit of food but soon realised there was nothing substantial in their to get me through the night laps.
Saturday night laps
You don’t come to TR and expect to get much sleep. Even if you try to grab a bit between laps there’s always people coming and going, tent zips going up and down and you tend to sleep with one eye on the clock worrying that you may have cocked up your timing and miss your takeover, all the while, making sure you find time to eat and get some fluids in to you. It takes some managing when you are in a team of 5 and you only get around 3.5hrs between laps.
Having said that, the night laps are absolutely my favourite and what a gorgeous summers night it was to be out running.
My third lap was at 10:30pm so the headtorch was required. I’d decided that I was going straight to bed after this lap. It gets very quiet around camp when the night laps start – you return from your run and there’s maybe 1, 2 people at the most who are up … The rest are either running or trying to grab some sleep.
My fourth lap began at 02:55hrs … I managed a very successful visit to the portaloo at 2:40 just as I was about to leave camp to see Jack for the hand over. It put a spring in my stride but alas, it didn’t make me run any quicker! I get quite stressed about portaloo’s (and I’m not alone in that – it was the topic of most of mine and Georgina’s conversations) so maybe a nice quiet visit in the dead of night will be my preferred tactic from now on. Night lap completed and it was back to bed for me for an hour. It helped knowing the sun would be up for my next lap about 7:30.
Sunday – almost there!
Into my 5th lap and the tiredness had REALLY set in. I was starting to walk a little on the hills – allowing myself ten seconds here and there … hoping I could hang on and get round under 60 minutes. I’d prioritised my sleeping bag over food and hydration dring the night and I was starting to feel it. There was a chance I had another lap to do yet though so I needed to get this done so I could get some breakfast in me asap.
After my 5th lap finished at 08:25 we started looking at the timings as we knew it would be tight as to whether I’d get a 6th lap in. Skiddy, Nick and jack would do a 6th lap … the question was – would i? Skiddy ran 51 minutes finishing at 10:20am … assuming Nick ran around 55 minutes as per his plan and Jack ran just under 45 mins I should be able to start just before midday but it was touch and go. I was prepared for it. I was shattered and it wouldn’t have been pretty but I was up for it. The glory lap so to speak! But it wasn’t to be. Nick had a tough last run … after running 5 laps ahead of his planned schedule he had a bit of a rough last lap. He finished his lap in 60 minutes which was still a sterling effort for a 6th lap when you’ve hit the wall and started begging marshalls for jelly babies! That meant jack had to run a sub 40 to enable me to start before midday and as strong as Jack is we didn’t see that being an option so I got my gear and headed off for a shower. Then the nervous wait began waiting for Jack to come in .. if he’d pulled off the lap of the century and got in before midday he’d see that I wasn’t waiting for him! As it happens, Jack ran 42:45 minutes – his quickest lap of the race! – crossing the line at 12:03. All credit to Jack. A huge sigh of relief from me that he hadn't come in before midday! I really didn’t want to explain to him why I was stood there freshly showered eating a sausage sandwich..
Georgina got to run the final lap for NAM – setting off at 11:18 she ran a 58 minute last lap, still smiling as she crossed the line. It was Georgina’s first time at TR and she wasn’t that chuffed to find out early on that she had to do more laps than she’d originally bargained for but as it turned out Georgina proved herself to be a solid consistent runner and it was great to hear her say she’d come back again.
It’s a funny thing Thunder Run. You do your first lap and the thought of doing 4 or 5 more is frankly terrifying. It’s a tricky thing to get your head around. There is a routine to it that takes me a couple of laps to adjust to then you just need to deal with it. It’s not ‘normal’ and it’s certainly not easy but by the same token it shouldn’t be otherwise where is the challenge. It takes a while to settle in to what you are doing and just accept it. Once you do – it becomes (dare I say it) far more enjoyable. Yes it’s a race but at the end of the day it’s a team event (it is for me anyway but I’m not exactly the most competitive runner). I said over and over again that if NYMAC were entering it again next year, i was going to have a year off. It’s one of those things I don’t want to do every year. Mark and George made similar remarks but by the time we were leaving they’d already said they’d come back.
If you’ve never taken part I’d advise you to give it a go. It’s just a great weekend with club mates. Eating, drinking and a spot of running thrown in for good measure. What more could you want.
If I am asked if I want to go next year will I say no? I very much doubt it.