Once again L and I are in a team of five and our team consisted of the completely injured (me), the just getting fit again after being injured (L), our seemingly a little more reluctant each year team captain, a first timer and the first timer's super keen husband who was drafted into last year’s team at the last minute and loved it. Frankly, we're probably all tempted to leave him to it.
There’s also the teams of eight, pairs and the truly mad folk who do it solo. As ever it all kicks off at 12 noon and for the second year in a row I get to lead off.
I don’t mind doing the first lap, as this is the only lap that you can really call a ‘race’. After lap one, you have no idea what agenda the other runners on the course have. E.g. which team category they are part of, how many laps they are doing\have done or whether they even care. Instead everyone eventually becomes a sleep deprived comrade in the trenches. Life long friendships and relationships have most probably been formed between people who met through such adversity at TR24.
As I take my place on the start line, I have everything well strapped but especially my ‘broken’ ankle on which I haven’t run in a month but which probably needs a least another month to mend properly. I tell a small lie, I did jog to the bus yesterday to test it out and that wasn’t pleasant. Fingers crossed I can at least complete a lap.
So off I go across the field in front of the crowds and up the first big hill through the trees. I get as far as the 1k point before some creature decides to bite me on the leg, my good leg, an insect I assume. Ouch.
So now I’m hobbling on both legs as I head downhill to where the course goes through the campsite before heading back out into the wilderness. My lack of training and the heat means I struggle from the off and resort to walking at several points around the ‘not flat’ course. The heat means I am never more grateful to see the water station at around halfway.
After which is the main section through the trees which I wasn’t looking forward to. This is where I came a cropper in the dark two years ago and this is where all the tree roots are. Therefore there are plenty of opportunities to re-fracture my ankle.
Finally that section is done and I’m climbing\crawling up onto the plateau above the main site before the route descends again and turns back on itself as it head back to camp. This is where I fell in the wet last year...
I make it unscathed back into campsite, past the pompom girls\boys and up the final incline. Then it’s back down to the finish and the changeover point to pass on the snap baton. Job done. 54:35. Which is slower than all three laps two years ago and slower than the drier two last year but I made it round.
I visit the St John’s tent to show them my insect bite. They are very impressed and hand me an ice pack that this time doesn't come with a spell in detention. Then with L due to head out as our number three, I go for a pint on the beer bus. As all runners know, hydration is everything.
When I go out again five or so hours later, it is to record a 57:50 and my night lap is a shocking 65:29 but this was partly because my head torch packed up at 6km with the most difficult sections still to come. I had to resort to running in other people’s lights which probably got me a bit of a reputation as a stalker.
Then I do an only marginally quicker 65:15 in the morning. I would loved to have done a fifth but the body said no.
In 2016 with a team of eight we manage 21 laps in total and with a smaller but potentially quicker team of five in 2017 we had high hopes of beating that. Then came the rain and we managed only 19. So this year we should have been able to have pushed it out beyond 19 but sadly we only made 19 again. This was due to some of us being half fit, having a novice who had to be cajoled into her second run having hated the first but then did brilliantly, actually managing an impressive four full laps and some questionable tactics.
Still it was another fun packed Thunder Run weekend although a bit less fun packed without the mud and after which, after three years in a row, we handed in notice of our retirement from the event, at least for a few years.
(Sunday 22nd July)