My name is Steve and I am a recovering insomniac.
So why I had agreed to take part in a 24 hour relay race is beyond me. Personally I blame peer pressure.
But regardless I found myself in a car on Friday evening on my way to Walton Upon Trent. My bag had travelled down in another car on the morning and it appears I did not pack light. (I like to be prepared for all eventualities, it’s an OCD thing).
The tents had already been pitched by the DH Runners who had travelled down on Friday morning. In total we had a team of five and three supporters. Our team comprised of myself, Andrew, Lindsay, Kev and Dave and our support team were Kathryn, Adrienne and Frances. It appears that some of the other teams assumed that we meant business. We had rocked up with our own physio (Kathryn) and a paddling pool which they’d assumed was for ice baths.
How wrong they were though because by the time I had arrived Andrew and Kev were a bit on the merry side having downed some wine and god knows what else. We were all in fine spirits though, excited and nervous at the same time for what was to come.
We chatted the evening away until dispersing around Midnight. For me sleep was in fits and starts but overall not bad considering I’m not a massive fan of camping. I arose around 6am and the rest of the group started appearing not long after.
We’d decided that we were going to head down to Conkers parkrun before the Thunder Run started at Midday. Conkers is a parkrun held on national trust land and was about 20 minutes’ drive from where we staying.
On arrival we’d agreed that we weren’t pushing this one and it would be a gentle jog around the course. The group was split up pretty quickly though as the thoroughfare to the start line narrowed. Myself, Kev and Dave were near the front while the others were further back. Setting off we eased into a 28-30 minute finish pace but as the path cleared I totally got into the mind-set of taking people down. I just can’t keep my competitive edge down at the moment, I’m not sure whether this is an effect of my marathon training and feeling good about where I am running wise or whether I’ve just gotten suddenly very competitive.
As it was I just kept feeling stronger through the second half of the course and seemed to be kicking on all the time. I finished in 179th position with a time of 26:03. Now it was time to purchase a breakfast to set me up for the day ahead.
Pretty much on arrival back at the campsite we were prepping ourselves for the start of the run at Midday. The order we’d decided on was Kev first, Andrew second, Dave third, myself fourth and Lindsay fifth. We were working on the basis of around 50 minutes to an hour per runner for working out when we would be changing over. This would give each runner around 3 ½ – 4 hours recovery time before heading out again.
Suddenly the campsite was awash with flipboards, huddles of people talking strategy and laminated spreadsheets. People were really taking this seriously. Some were taking it too seriously (more on that later).
As a team there was absolutely no pressure put upon each other to finish in a certain time or anything. We were there for the experience and to see how we could cope with such a run. For me it was about enjoying the weekend, battling some personal demons (lack of sleep, running at night) and spending some time with some of my favourite people.
Midday quickly rocked up and Kev got himself right to the front of the start line. It was a boiling hot day and there was barely a cloud in the sky…the potential for sunstroke was definitely there.
Kev returned from his run a little worse for wear. He’d gone out a little too hard and just needed to get his breath back and some liquids/food in him. A little later I was trying to be helpful and I took his pan of boiling water off him to pour away. I totally didn’t have a good grip on it though and ended up dropping it and seeing it splash everywhere. The poor lad had just returned knackered from his run and here I was trying to give him second degree burns. He should have known better to hand me a pan of hot water though; I can’t have a cup of coffee without spilling it. Clumsy is definitely my middle name. Thankfully there was no lasting damage done though.
Andrew returned having handed over to Dave and both ended up posting solid first runs. With Dave out on the course it was time for me to get sorted for my turn.
Once Dave slapped the baton on my wrist I was off. The course itself made its way through the campsite before heading into the woods for the first time. I was making myself aware of everything as I knew that I would be running the course with my head-torch later on and wanted to run as much of it on memory as I could. Around 2k in the course made its way back into the campsite for a loop before heading back out again for the first serious climb just after the 3k mark. Being the first run for most people (apart from the soloists or pairs) most were steaming up this first hill. For most this would be the first and last time they did that. 4k to 5k was more running through the woods and the open areas before hitting the drinks station at around 5 ½k. This first time at the drinks station I was given a sponge, hosed down and grabbed a drink of water. Sadly this wouldn’t last. On my next run out only the water was on offer and that was the way it would stay for the rest of the event. Immediately following the drinks station was the Conti Climb. This was an uphill section with timing mats at the start and finish (sponsored by Continental Tyres, hence the name). The aim was to run it as fast as you could and, if you were one of the fastest, you could end up winning a pair of trainers. I did run it but I didn’t steam up it. There was still a lot of the course to do and I didn’t want to blow myself up too early. I was now back into the woods after this for the twisty/turny section between 6k and 7k. The route here was taped off and was sharp, narrow turns with plenty of exposed tree routes to catch you out if you weren’t careful. On emerging from the woods again it was a short climb to the 8k marker and then it was downhill onto the flat before emerging back into the campsite. The rest of the route was winding through the campsite (with plenty of kids soaking you with water pistols) with a climb right near the finish. Overall it was a very technical course which was inviting you to run it fast all the time. I’d done a lot better than I was expecting first time out and ending up posting a time of 55 minutes.
I handed over to Lindsay and she went out for her first run before the cycle began again.
I wasn’t overly sure of what to eat but I knew I needed something so I ended up tucking into a pot of porridge. Luckily my next run would still be in daylight so I wouldn’t require my head-torch just yet.
My second run came all too quickly. Overall it wasn’t too bad. I had slowed a little since the first go round but I was still happy with my time. I knew that once I finished this one I was going to grab myself a shower and get some food in me. I’d already decided on a jacket potato with cheese and beans as my evening meal and now I just needed to get around the course and get it done at the second time of asking.
On my return I immediately joined the large queue for the showers and ended up bagging myself a cold shower. On handing over to me the guy who had just vacated the shower told me to be careful as it was freezing. I was more than happy with this as I totally wanted a cold shower.
Ten minutes later and I was tucking into my much needed jacket potato and wondering if it was worth trying to get my head down for a bit before my next run. Before that though there was foam rolling to be done. By all accounts the noises from my side of the tent were a bit suspect during my foam rolling session. (#sexnoises)
It wasn’t long before my third run came about. I had maybe had about 30 minutes sleep in between and wasn’t feeling in the best of conditions. Literally 10 minutes into the run the heavens opened up and I was getting soaked. I was thoroughly miserable at this point and was starting to have a few aches and pains. Running in the dark was disorientating and, quite frankly, vile. Some people were really enjoying it though (good for them). The one good thing about the rain was that it was hiding my tears. I started having to walk in places and ended up getting back in a thoroughly miserable time of 1 hour 20 minutes.
On the way back to the tent I overheard a guy moaning to his team-mates that out of the three runs he’d already done he was disappointed with his last one as he’d done it just over 40 minutes and he’d wanted to do all his runs in 39 minutes or less. Fairplay to him for being competitive and wanting to do good times but that didn’t stop me wanting to kick him in the face.
So I headed back to the tent and grabbed myself a tin of mackerel which I stared at for a bit before finally eating. I was knackered at this point and it was time to get my head down and try and get some sleep. I reckon I managed a full 1 ½ hours of sleep before waking again which wasn’t great but something was better than nothing. Upon waking I heard a guy in the tent across having a right rant at a team-mate who had just posted a time of over an hour. He’d apparently messed up their whole schedule and the other runners would now have to run faster to recoup the timings (Jesus!!). Rather than just lie in the tent I got myself ready for my next run and headed over to the café area. I needed something to perk me up so I grabbed a coffee and a massive muffin. I’d told Lindsay not to expect back in before an hour and fifteen minutes given my last run. As I was heading out this time though the sun was on the rise and Dave had given me a hug before I set off.
I’d decided to zip my man suit up and get shifting on this one. This run felt different from the previous, I don’t know whether it was because I’d had a little sleep, or the caffeine, or the sunrise, or potentially it was the recuperating powers of Dave’s hug but I felt on it from the get go. When I got back Lindsay wasn’t there for transition as it turned out I’d got back a lot quicker than I expected. Luckily she was there within a minute or so and she was off for her last lap of the course.
On my return I knew that I had one more left and I was determined that on the last one I was going to leave it all out there. I jumped in the queue at the café to get myself a breakfast and some more coffee and it was then a case of waiting around until 1040ish when I was due to head out again.
We’d decided that my run was to be the last of our team for the weekend. This would see us complete a total of 24 laps between us.
Dave made his way round for his final lap and finished with the Cumberland flag draped over his shoulders.
Then I was off for my final lap. I’d noticed a female soloist up front fairly early on in my run who I nicknamed pigtails as I saw these pigtails flying around every time she passed me. We traded position back and forth throughout before eventually running more or less together for the final 1k. The lap she was about to complete was her 17th and she still went on to do one more finishing in top position for the female soloists. Good on her, 18 laps over 24 hours is a fantastic achievement; I hope she’s properly proud of herself.
As I headed for that final hill I was thrown the Kenyan flag (the adopted nation of DH Runners) for the final stretch to the finish line. Kev and Dave joined me for the last stretch when some joker tried to take me down at the end and steal my glory. I wasn’t having that…if it was a foot race he wanted then he was bloody well going to get one. We crossed the line side by side although I still maintain I pipped him on the line (I dipped, he didn’t).
And with that our combined journey was over.
We handed in our timing chips and received our medals in return.
It was going to be a long trip back to Carlisle but first things first we needed to get some grub. Frances very kindly stopped at the service station on the toll road and Dave and I grabbed burger meals from the Gourmet Burger Company. Absolutely tasty…but very naughty.
I thoroughly enjoyed the Thunder Run. There were parts where I was battling with my own mental insecurities but on the whole I had four good and enjoyable runs out of five. There were some amazing people there but by God there were some miserable sods as well taking it far more seriously than it needed to be. Overall I can’t thank the organisers and marshalls enough for putting on a solidly well organised event. Hats off to them all.
I am suffering from a slight calf niggle in the aftermath and I’m hoping this will go away with rest as I don’t want my marathon training to suffer at this stage. As it is I haven’t run now for more or less 5 days as I can’t put any weight on my left leg at the moment. Frustating indeed.
Would I do the Thunder Run again? Absolutely.
Do I want to talk about it again for a while? Absolutely not.
DH RUNNERS – Position 30, 24 laps (240k) – 23 hours 53 minutes 03 seconds.
Lap 1 – 392,Kev Mulvey, 47:46
Lap 2 – 393,Andrew Graham, 52:08
Lap 3 – 394,David Magri, 51:57
Lap 4 – 396,Steven Claringbold, 55:19
Lap 5 – 395,Lindsay Graham, 59:58
Lap 6 – 392,Kev Mulvey, 48:32
Lap 7 – 393,Andrew Graham, 54:13
Lap 8 – 394,David Magri, 51:24
Lap 9 – 396,Steven Claringbold, 01:00:31
Lap 10 – 395,Lindsay Graham, 01:02:22
Lap 11 – 392,Kev Mulvey, 52:14
Lap 12 – 393,Andrew Graham, 01:08:04
Lap 13 – 394,David Magri, 01:02:35
Lap 14 – 396,Steven Claringbold, 01:20:20
Lap 15 – 395,Lindsay Graham, 01:04:57
Lap 16 – 392,Kev Mulvey, 57:15
Lap 17 – 393,Andrew Graham, 01:03:54
Lap 18 – 394,David Magri, 01:05:11
Lap 19 – 396,Steven Claringbold, 01:09:33
Lap 20 – 395,Lindsay Graham, 01:09:22
Lap 21 – 392,Kev Mulvey, 52:51
Lap 22 – 393,Andrew Graham, 56:09
Lap 23 – 394,David Magri, 59:22
Lap 24 – 396,Steven Claringbold, 01:07:06