The Adidas Thunder Run is the Glastonbury of running. When you arrive on the morning of the race you see field after field of tents, port-a-loos and campfires. Instead of stages you have 10km (6.2 miles) of running track looping around the site and through the woods and instead of music fans you have teams of runners limbering up, solo runners resting up and supporters getting pumped up. There are food tents, people flogging over priced running gear and even free samples to get stuck into.
At 12 noon we gathered on the start line. Those in teams of 8 running relays near the start and we solo runners further back. The aim is to run as far as you can in 24 hours, either on your own, in a pair or as part of a larger relay team. My wife and I were running as solo runners and as the countdown started we shuffled forward and broke into a slow jog.
The first lap flew by. The route was new to me and keeps turning and changing, keeping things interesting. We started off at a quick pace (or at least quick for people planning on running all day) but stopped to walk the few sharp hills. After a flat stretch along the campsite you climb a steep hill into the woods before returning to the campsite at about 2 km. Then along some fields and into the woods again for much of the route. Some of this run zig-zags through the trees along narrow trails and you need to be quick on your feet to avoid the roots and branches. At 5km there is the only water station on the run and someone with a hose to keep you cool. Boy was I thankful for that hose. The temperature was stifling and the humidity weighed down like a blanket and that cold blast half way through the loop kept me going.
After a while you find you have “favourite” km marks that you look forward to seeing. For us it was the 8km one. From here you are high above the campsite and it is all (almost) downhill to the end.
We completed each of our first three laps in about 1 hour 9 min. Not a 10km time that is going to set any records but faster than I was aiming for and after 18.6 miles without stopping I was started to suffer in the heat. We paused at the camp to refuel and fill our hydration packs with water and electrolyte drops. Solo runners have their own campsite which allows them to come off the course to eat/sleep/perform first aid and there is a real feeling of camaraderie. Food eaten and packs full we hit the trail again for another two laps in the heat. Our lap times were slowing as I needed more walking breaks and at times I was finding it hard to breathe.
On the 6th lap the heavens opened with a bang. Lightening lit up the sky and thunder shook the air around us. The rain when it came was torrential and at first was a welcome chance to cool off but soon turned the trail to a stream. When we reached the end of the 6th lap we stopped and dried off and waited out the worst of the storm before heading out again. We hadn’t brought any waterproof clothing and were soaked to the skin in minutes. What was worse was that our head torches were far to dim to pick our way through the increasingly flooded and treacherous wooded sections. We had to walk and shuffle our way round getting increasingly cold. At the end of that 7th lap the rain wasn’t letting up and we decided to it wasn’t safe to continue and after drying off as best we could we crawled into our tent and shivered until we could start to warm up and doze. Through the night we could hear some people struggling on but were also hearing reports of flooded campsites and nasty injuries.
In the morning we crawled from the tent and into the Somme. My wife was already pulling on her last dry pair of shoes for a victory lap as I was deciding to call it a day. I had run 43 miles which would have to do.
The TR24 is a great event. Really well organised with fantastic support and a great atmosphere. I love the fact that there is a festival of running. That there are whole families who turn out to cheer in a muddy field and groups of friends who party through the night brought together through a love of running. I am not sure it is an event for serious runners but as a celebration of the joy and community of running I don’t think it can be beaten.
- The Wall Run Ultra – All 70 miles of it! (bradlearnstorunveryfar.wordpress.com)