Talk about a day of two halves. In the end the utterly grim weather overnight put paid to any serious targets we had as a team of hitting 250-260km in the surprisingly tough Adidas Thunder Run 24 hour race.
Tough because the 10km course was actually pretty challenging in places with some technical terrain through woods and then a few short, sharp climbs. The aim being as a team (in our case 5 of us) to run as many laps of the course as possible in 24 hours.
I wasn’t really sure how I’d actually fare in the end, I don’t mind putting myself through pain in the name of racing but the idea of running 10km then sitting out 4 (ish) hours for my turn wasn’t something I was entirely looking forward to I must admit.
During the day (the race runs from 12:00 Saturday to 12:00 Sunday) the weather was scorching. Indeed, I saw one runner collapsing early in the race due to heat stroke so taking it reasonably steady was the order of the day and my aim for the race was to cover 60km in laps just around the 48-50 minute mark.
This was fine for the first two in the daylight and heat, indeed I ran a little under in all the excitement but by the time I’d done my second lap and headed back to the tent (in the overflow field nearly 1km from the start) it was getting into the evening and the weather forecast said a massive thunderstorm would be rolling in about 9pm.
So it was, about 9pm Thunder Run lived up to its name as the heavens opened and it basically lashed it down for the next 6-7 hours but with the added bonus of thunder and lightning cracking overhead.
We took a decision as a team to stop running for an hour or two until the lightning passed and unsurprisingly that took all the momentum out of our race.
In the end it rolled around to about 1am and we decided to take a look at the leaderboard to see just how far we’d dropped off (we’d dropped off for sure, outside the top 50 listed) and the rest of the guys decided to hit their tents and grab a few hours sleep in order to try and make a bit of a charge in the morning but I couldn’t sleep…
So it was that at about 1am I was back in my soaking wet gear and heading out into the darkness for a lap in the torrential rain.
I love this stuff though, and once the lightning had passed rain is just rain.
The course though had turned into a total quagmire for almost the full 10km and running it in the pitch black was a real test for the Petzl Myo head torch. One which it passed with flying colours. It’s a very bright torch on full beam but I ended up using it on the 3rd brightest setting because running in the woods in driving rain and humid, muggy temperatures actually created a bit of a mist so a full blast head torch didn’t help as much as a lower beam. Either way, if you’re in the market for a torch, consider this one.
After the first lap, I headed back to the tent to see if anyone else was mad enough to head out but seeing nobody up, I just carried onto a second night lap. This time I was actually sociable and spent a slower (1:05:00) lap chatting with a nice chap from Oxford. Targets were well gone so I figured it takes a special kind of mad to be out running at 3am in the driving rain and shin deep mud/puddles.
I actually felt pretty strong after a night time 20km but decided to grab some dinner from the reasonably well stocked (and half decent value) food tent and then being soaked through I headed back to the tents to grab an hours sleep and see what was going on.
The morning shift
As I headed out for one more lap mid-morning in soggy wet gear and on a course that was now for the most part a muddy slide and slide I actually felt ok in the legs although now slow due to the nearly unrunnable conditions which even in my normally trusty Salomon Speedcross were slippy at best it was good to hit 50km for the day and when I got back to the start, the rest of the team headed out for a final lap together which I rejoined for a group crossing of the finish line to celebrate.
The TR24 experience
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed it. The atmosphere was great but sadly any hopes and targets we had as a team went out of the window when the weather turned nasty and even without the storm the rain and course conditions would probably have knocked a couple of laps off.
As it turned out, our aim of 250km which last year would have put us into the top 20 wouldn’t have been good enough to even get on the leaderboard top 50 this time out so the standard and popularity of the event has improved significantly and there were some seriously strong runners on display.
Not for me
I’m not sure the run/wait/run/wait format is my cup of tea to be honest. 4 hours sitting around between laps is a long time and while my legs actually held out much better than I’d feared, I don’t think I’d do it again as a team.
Passing the solo runners and giving them encouragement certainly did appeal and I originally wanted to do TR24 this year as a solo runner but simply couldn’t commit to the training time needed to meet my aim of 100 miles/160km but seeing how it’s all set up and how many inspiring solo runners there were, I’d definitely consider TR24 again but probably only to take a crack at it as a solo runner.
Great experience, everyone should give it a go once!