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Saturday 23 July 2016

Thunder Running

This morning we head off to join our team mates at Catton Park for the Thunder Run where they seem to have been in residence for months but it’s only actually been 24 hours. I think they suspect we’re not coming but we don’t let folk down, only ourselves occasionally and the people who organise the Leeds Half. Which we both bailed on but they probably didn’t notice.

We pitch our tent, meet our team of eight known collectively as the Unbr8kables and then head off to the race briefing where again there is no mention of an allocated holding area where you can store your dogs while you do the hand over. It would have been nice for L and I to run consecutively but given this organisational omission we are allocated places three and five in the running order.

The weather is already quite warm and the midday sun beams down as the race kicks off with a spectacular mass start at 12 noon. Our lead out man puts a marker down with a 53 minute lap and battle has commenced.

I have no idea how many teams are in the event but there are over 250 in the teams of eight category alone. As well as the eights there are teams of five and then there are the real nutters. Those doing it in pairs and those doing it solo.

By the time I do my first lap at 2:15, which is a little later than I’d predicted with runner number two doing a more leisurely 80 minute lap, it seems incredibly hot. The first problem though is not the heat but recognising my team mate who I only met a few hours before and has since changed her running top. Eventually when it becomes clear no one else is going to take the baton off the girl who is standing there looking lost and confused as well as knackered I do. I just hope that was my team mate who slammed the snap band (the baton) onto my arm.

During my lap the heat does takes its toll as a hilly 10km off-road course. It’s enjoyable though and it nice the way the route meanders through the campsites enabling good support to be available across most of it. I am also hampered by making the wrong shoe choice, perhaps the trail shoes that I’ve never ran further than the length of a dog agility course in were not the best selection on such hard baked ground. Standard cushioned running shoes might have been wiser.

I come in with a foot full of blisters but even that could probably have been prevented had it not been for the schoolboy error of not lacing them up tightly enough. The time though is 50:35 and the dodgy calf is fine. Get in.

Now just what did the girl I was handing over to look like? Not this one, or this one, or... hmmm, she’ll do. Now I’ve either performed two successful changeovers or we’re about to be disqualified. As I meet up again with L, she doesn’t seem alarmed at who I’ve just tagged into the race so hopefully it’s the former.

I’m buzzing after my run and feel like I’d like to go around again asap but it’s a minimum of eight hours to my next lap.

It’s so hot now that even L is drinking fluids and she has purchased a ‘Secret Training’ bottle which comes with free refills of watermelon or lemon and lime or mango and others. Then after a 60 minute lap from whoever I tagged in its L’s turn. Will her ankle hold up? I’m not sure if she’s ran this weekend by her physio but I guess what she doesn't know won't hurt her. I wave L off and then head off to get a ham and cheese roll from the car to perk myself up.

L does well with a 74 minute lap and then we can both chill for a bit. We visit the Shardlow Brewery’s bar which is aboard a Routemaster Bus. We daren’t drink too much and instead head back to the car to heat up some pasta for our evening meal.

I was hoping for a second lap at around 10pm based on us averaging 60 minute laps but that was a bit optimistic and I start my second lap at 11:35pm, by which time it’s a lot cooler. This time the girl who is running before me gives me a fashion show before she sets off, showing me her brightly coloured ‘wasp’ attire so I shouldn’t miss her this time and I don’t. What we really need is an inflatable haddock like some of the other teams have which clearly identifies them to all and sundry.

We purchased some really good head torches a few years ago and these really come into their own this weekend, lighting up the course brilliantly. It had been suggested that carrying a hand torch as well would be useful but I certainly didn’t need one. All the same I stalk a girl who was running at about my pace so that I can use her light as well as mine.

The only problem was that when I stopped for drink at the water station at halfway she didn’t. I downed my drink quickly and sprinted off after her but then we headed into a narrow wooded section where a slower run got between us. I saw her in the distance getting further and further away. Bugger. I eventually squeezed past the other runner, upped my pace and then went down like a Premiership footballer looking for a penalty. Where did that tree root come from? Well actually they are everywhere and I just wasn’t paying attention.

My battery pack becomes detached and it takes me a while to reassemble everything. Then I have to pass the same runner again, the girl meanwhile is long gone or so I thought. I now run my own race and probably run quickly, then about 2k before the finish I pass the girl and leave her for dust coming home in 54:30. Not bad at all. Again I’m itching to go around again having really enjoyed my night time lap.

Now it would be great to get a bit of kip as its half past midnight, and almost my bedtime, but L is off out in an hour. So it is not until L gets back around 3am that we finally turn in. I get around four and a half hours sleep before I’m up again and ready to run again at 9:30am.

It’s cooler this morning and light of course, which all makes for a really enjoyable last lap. The on course support and camaraderie has been great throughout, even at night, from both those watching and those actually on the course running. This time I get round in 53:39 and tag girl four who is tasked with getting round in enough time for L to start the team’s last lap before 12 noon and bring it home. Naturally she is terrified about this prospect but she sets off with twenty minutes to go before noon giving her plenty of time to soak up the atmosphere.

Those of us without dogs (e.g. not me) join her for the last stretch and all cross the line together. The team has done 21 laps between us, that’s 210km. Which is a pretty good effort.

So were the Unbr8kables broken? Not a bit of it. We would not be broken. In fact my calves survived 30k and L’s ankle maybe 30k worse off but she’s still walking, just.

We had tentatively thought about doing it as a pair next year but I’m not sure that will happen, a five would be nice though.

We get home, have a shower, do the usual debrief in bed, and then head off to the Golden Fleece. There’s not a lot dark doing there so we move to the Lincolnshire Poacher which is better. The Sunday curry rounds things off. 

(Saturday 23rd July/Sunday 24th July)

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