Be careful what you put out on social media!!!
Haha…I joke but it was one of the best things I did this year in saying that I had a free weekend and would be happy to join in with a team for the 2015 Adidas Thunder Run. However I hadn’t heard anything after a day or two so decided to book myself a place on the Wimbledon half marathon instead.
A few days later Kevin included me in a tweet that was sent through #UKRunChat asking for a sub 40 min 10km runner to join a team that could potentially win…the problem was that I had said yes to accompanying a newbie runner Ana, who was in my Puma ‘Running Bug’ Team, Team Ignite. She had only just started running as was inspired by my team to sign up for a distance that she’d never done before with me, who should never met before just days before her 40th birthday. She said she would still do it without me so the Thunder Run was ON!!!
I spoke to Simon on Twitter and Facebook before we actually spoke on the phone and it was sorted. I offered them 4, possibly 5 laps of the 10km course and he said that they would be grateful for anything.
So, what is the Thunder Run some of you are probably asking yourselves? It’s basically a 24 hour , 10km x-country lap race based around the runner’s camp site in Catton Park, Derbyshire. At 12pm on Saturday the gun goes and finishes at 12pm on Sunday. You can do it in teams of 8, 5, in pairs or solo…and the aim is to get the most laps in that time. Last year I did it with 7 friends/clients/twitter followers and we came 10th completing 31 laps. Simon’s team “5 Guys Still Named Mo” was actually now a team of 5 (sub 40 min, 10km runners)…I felt the pressure to do more than 4 or 5 laps but what’s a challenge if it ain’t challenging?!
If you want to see the video I made of last year’s video, please click here.
I had just recently completed my first (and only?!?) Ironman and with the lack of training I had put in, paced myself so well that I didn’t get the challenge I was expecting. I stopped when I needed to for food, toilet breaks and stretching and despite 2 mental battles crossed the line feeling a bit flat although ecstatic that I was then an Ironman. Basically I completed an epic race but within my comfort zones and was expecting to be pushed to my limits. I did make me realise that “anything is possible” if you’re not in a hurry!
I arrived around 9am on Saturday morning instead of the planned Friday night arrival due to the heavy rain and opted for my bed instead and was the first to arrive. I met up with a good (twitter) friend James and after not really looking too hard pitched my tent next to his groups as I wanted to get my s**t sorted asap. The rest of my team arrived within an hour and found plenty of space to pitch their tents…maybe I should have tried harder to find a location. Anyway, I met the rest of my team and we chatted quite loosely about our tactics and waited until 11.30am.
Last year, we had so much fun with our #FitTeam14 team and on one occasion I recall chatting to a guy who was part of a team who were very serious and trying to win their category’s competition and he clearly was not enjoying himself. On meeting Simon’s team I was worried that they would all be running geeks (haha) and be talking about splits and gels etc but the guys were so chilled out that they had forgotten half of their kit…slight exaggeration but I did have to lend some tent pegs.
The plan was that Mike, the only member from last years winning team ‘5 Men Named Mo’ was to go off first with Simon second, I was third, Peter was going to do 2 laps then Steve completing the line up before handing back over to Mike again. Before we went to the start line and to hear the brief Mike presented us all…well apart from himself, something else forgotten, haha a bottle of his home-brew with personalised labels…EPIC!!!
At 12pm the gun went and Mike went off from the front but as we’d all done this event before we knew not to go out too fast. It’s a marathon and not a sprint so he felt it necessary to change his trainers after 2.5km as the ground was still holding a lot of rain which helped him complete his first lap in 40.21.
Simon took over and did a 40.08 before it was my turn to test my legs. The two weeks prior to this, I’d ran over 100 miles to motivate my Puma/Running Bug Team Ignite Team so was unsure of how I’d feel. Right enough it was slippery but remembering that I went off too fast last year and paid for it came home to hand over to Peter in 43.01. I sound like I’m making excuses but one thing that caused me problems throughout the event was my stomach…I needed to go for a number two…sorry! I didn’t want to push hard IN THE RUN as I felt something would give.
Peter did his two laps in 41.54 and 42.35…epic effort. Then Steve completed our line up and the team’s sixth lap with a time of 42.13.
It’s obvious that I needed to get as much rest asap to be able to tackle the whole event and had ’40 winks’ before my change over and with Peter doing two laps this was the longest break I’d get. Last year I had a lot more rest and remember struggling after doing 4 laps…this was going to be much, much harder!!!
Mike had opted for spikes this time and flew around in 38.43, Simon smashed out a 40.52. I did a 42.14, Peter again did 2 laps with the first at 42.03 but ‘struggled’ on his 4th lap by coming home in 46.08. Steve did a 41.43 when we decided that Peter should take a longer rest to recover…Uh Oh…less time to rest. He’d given us a luxury on an extra 42 minutes with his extra lap but now we had 80ish minutes less to rest. Glad I had got that nap!
Mike banged out a third lap of 38.44…how’s that for consistency?!?! Simon did a 41.59 3rd lap, I did 44.46 with Steve following me completing our circuit with a 45.55.
At 9pm we had to start wearing our head torches and TRY to avoid the tree roots. So as night-time came in we allowed ourselves to look at the leader board…we were first!!! I got so excited to see our team name up there but knew that anything could happen…
We went through our 4th lap but on my turn the stomach issues I was fighting even with constant toilet stops got me on my 4th lap as I had to run into the woods and go for it!!! Luckily there were plenty of leaves and after what seemed an age I was running again and handed over to Steve after 47.52…my slowest by far but we were still fortunately in the lead.
I decided to go to bed and sleep as Peter was back in the game so I did. The system we were using was that the runner before the one you took over from would finish their lap, wake you and then sleep. I remember waking and thinking SHIT, it’s light!!! A few minutes later I heard people calling out my name!!! “OH FUCK!!!” I was still fully dressed and in need of, you’ve guessed it, a number two. I ran to the toilet, got myself ready and went to the team’s campsite. Peter was lying in his bed when I looked in the tent and he said “Where have you been? Mike’s been looking for you for ages!!!”. I said “IN MY TENT!!!”.
I felt so bad but also completely confused! I hadn’t been anywhere apart from my tent…and then the portaloo but that was a few minutes ago. Mike then walked up looking pretty pissed off…”Where have you been?” said Mike. “IN MY TENT!!!” I said again feeling that I’d let them down by being exactly where I told them I’d be!
We had to establish a plan and that was that I had to take over from poor Simon who had done a 46.53 5th lap only to be told that I couldn’t be found and that he had to go round again…I felt awful but equally confused. I jogged to the start line to tell Steve to go back to bed as I had been found and had to wait for Simon. I looked at the leader board and saw we were still in first place for now.
I went to the ‘final hill’ just round from the finish line to give Simon some much-needed support. He wasn’t there at the usual expected time but a few guys wearing the same colour number as us (each category had the same numbers) running quite quickly were. I feared that Simon had been overtaken. Eventually, the usually chirpy, speedy Simon appeared looking like he’d run 200km not 20km. He looked at me at muttered the words “I’ve not eaten!”. Fortunately, he obviously didn’t have the strength to hit me but unfortunately he struggled getting up the ‘final hill’. I gave him a wee shove and then ran back to the score tent to see we were in 2nd place.
My heart sank even further but this was about 3am and we still had time on our hands. At that moment I heard some guys saying that they were now in first and that they thought they’d passed the leader looking tired (Simon). What followed was like a ray of sunshine. They continued talking and said they’re guy who was out on the course didn’t have much left in him either…this was the fuel I needed.
I ran to the changeover area and waited for Simon who was almost on his hands and knees, come in with a 60.02 lap and then went for it. The other team ‘#DONTBESH*T were at least 10 mins ahead of me but with a tired runner. It was a beautiful time of the day but I had no time to enjoy it as I wanted to get as close to their runner as possible to give my team the best news possible. I remember overtaking some quick runners but without cranking your neck round and looking at the runner’s numbers you had no idea what category they were in. I crossed the line in 44.25, handed over to Steve and made my way quickly into the timing tent.
WE WERE FIRST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We had a major cock-up but rectified it almost immediately! I found Simon looking exactly the same as he did when I took over from him except he was in warm clothing and told him the good news. He looked and sounded awful and told me to notify his wife and kids (in his tent) that he was alive. This man was in a bad way and I had to try to lift his mood so tried to get him to think positive as the mind is the strongest part of the body and again a stronger man would’ve hit me but I promised him I would tell them and went to find them and tell the team that we were okay again.
I met Vicki and the kids as they were on their way to find ‘Dad’ and I told him he was fine and waiting for a massage, then found Mike and Peter to tell them that we were back in the lead after our hiccup. Mike still looked confused as to where I’d been…”IN MY TENT!!!” was still my reply. We both tried to forget what had or had not happened and concentrated on the race. He even admitted that he must’ve been hallucinating and got the wrong tent but then said “you have a Scottish flag attached to it?!?!”…that’s mine!
Anyway, Simon was out for the rest of the race and we worked out that we’d all have at least a lap to do with Mike and I doing another one…I would have the final lap. SEVEN laps. I desperately tried to work out that my last lap would not be possible but then we were in first place and I/we had to do everything possible to win.
The rules of the finish are that if you start a lap before the clock strikes 12pm then you can continue it and it counts so I would have that lap. At least I knew that I would know how much of a lead I would have before it started.
I needed a massage as my legs were in bits! I wasn’t that tired but had went over my left ankle quite a few times and my peroneous was not happy! I went to the massage tent and left my name on the list. A while later whilst queuing for a huge fruit smoothie, I was avoiding solids, they announced my name…I hadn’t got my smoothie! The woman behind the counter said she would bring it in to me. I felt like a King being massaged whilst my drink was brought to my bed…awesome!
I ran my heart out on my 6th lap and on handing over to Steve promptly bent over double and started to cry. Now, I wasn’t crying like a normal cry…this was a physical cry. I had pushed myself so hard and achieved what the Ironman hadn’t a few weeks prior. I believe to truly push yourself to the limit you need pressure and sometime I have to imagine pressure to get the best out of me. I usually imagine my kid’s lives are on the line and it usually works but today was different. I had 4 strangers to run for with expectations of winning. I had to find something from somewhere I’d never been before. I had somehow let them down and had to repay them…I was happy…but crying. I completed that lap in 43.58…my third fastest lap and had now totalled 60km!!! The massage and smoothie had helped.
Mike was about to start his last lap, our penultimate lap and on standing up he said he felt faint…Oh crap. I gave him my ShotBloks and said take them if you need. Peter backed me up which was good because I don’t believe Mike believed anything I said. Steve came in and handed over to Mike.
I was really nervous that our fastest runner would hit the wall or bonk and that would be it. We’d been first for most of the 24 hours and it was ours to lose…
I waited at the ‘final hill’ and saw many runners dead on their feet including a lot of ‘Solo’ runners. If you think what I was doing sounds tough can you imagine doing it in pairs or on your own?!?!
I waited and when Mike was expected, like the messiah he came bolting along with a huge smile on his face. I cheered and ran to the start line to start my final lap. The rain was lashing down and he still came in with a 42.35!
We had at least a 15 minute lead so if I could just stay on my feet and not hit the wall or stop for a poo then we’d win! I started off very steadily and kept it at that pace throughout. The course was now soaking and very muddy but as an obstacle course racer I was in my element. I continued doing what I’d done on every lap which was to encourage as many runners as possible and ‘tap’ the #allin24 motivational posters. I believe that touching things give you strength so those signs gave me a BOOST…pardon the Adidas pun!
I got to the final hill and I heard a now alive, Simon cheering me on and he came to run with me up the hill and to the finish line. That gave me another boost and I rocketed up the final hill with the guy who paid for the 3am cock-up. I felt so happy that I started to cry again…I tried to say to Simon “Don’t tell my RAF mates that I’m crying” and then burst out laughing as I realised what a fanny I was being!!!
Another thing about the Ironman that I was slightly disappointed about was that I didn’t do the Blazeman roll as this video inspired me to copy ‘Jon’, so I got down and rolled the timing mats and crossed the finish line for my seventh and final 10km lap in 46.38.
What happened next was 5 grown men became big kids and just kept hugging each other for about 5 mins and then we couldn’t stop smiling for the next few hours. We sipped a well-earned beer and just smiled at each other. Mission accomplished!
So what actually happened in the early hours of the morning when Mike came to my tent and found me not there? Well, Simon, Steve and Peter went off to take down their tents leaving Mike and I to have a chat. Mike did come to my tent and I was in it…however Mike must not be a regular tent user and on unzipping my tent saw nothing but a bag, some smelly running kit and some muddy trainers. He didn’t realise I had a “secret compartment” or as I call it a “sleeping area”! I simply told him I was in a part further inside the tent. I tried not to burst out laughing because we’d been pushing ourselves hard and at 3am when you’re tired you are not thinking straight but if I or anyone runs the Thunder Run with Mike again…please show him around your tent so he knows where to go to wake you up! Haha! I can laugh now!
Anyway, we waited until the presentations and along with all of the other winners, received our trophies and a token for a new pair of Adizero XT Boost trainers…BOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!!!
The Thunder Run is “Glastonbury for runners” and an amazing event. It was great to see so many friends from the Obstacle race world as well as social media followers as well as making friends with strangers. I love making memories and here I made an epic one and have some souvenirs that will remind me of one of the best weekends of my life.
I love social media…thanks to Simon Jackson, Kevin Betts and @UKRunChat!