Two down - Thunder Run done #RememberBen
by timPJul 28th 2015
Just thought we'd write a note and let you know how we got on at the Adidas Thunder Run last weekend.
Not sure if you know the format but it is a 24 hour endurance race where you run as many laps of a 10k off-road circuit as you can within 24 hours. You can enter as a solo runner, pairs or teams of 5 or 8. If you enter as a pair or a team then it is a relay format and only one runner in your team is on the course at any given time.
We know that you were big into team sports with Cricket and Ultimate Frisbee so we entered a mixed team of 8.
We thought it would be nice to drive to the venue on the Friday, set up camp, have a leisurely walk around the course, nice evening meal and generally chill out so that we were all relaxed for the midday start on the Saturday. It didn't quite work out like that, a two hour journey that took four, a field so packed that we struggled to find a spot to make camp, oh and the rain! It was hard to believe that it was the last weekend in July, the rain hammered down all day and it was so cold we all ended up huddled under blankets eating our evening meal, all thoughts of a walk round the course dismissed.
How things change in England in the summer, we woke at 5am to clear skies and a check of the weather app suggested that it would stay dry until about 10am on the Sunday morning when the heavy rain would return.
The weather app turned out to be correct, the sun came out in time for our last team mates to arrive and pitch their tents.
The rules of the event are pretty simple, one member of the team on the course at a time, all team members must complete at least one lap and your last lap must have started before the 24 hour cut off. The winners were the ones completing the greatest number of laps in the shortest time. Our strategy was quite simple, make sure we had a runner on the course at all times to make maximum use of the time available and get everyone in the team to run a lap as soon as possible to make sure we would be classified as finishers.
Having been to the event before we knew that the course was a mixture of open fields, gravel tracks and very twisty wooded footpaths with lots of roots to trap the unwary. Due to the heavy rain on Friday and overnight we were pretty sure that the track was going to be very challenging early on so we decided to send our stronger runners out first in the hope that with sun out it would improve as the day went on.
So just before midday Marc lined up with about 1000 other runners and charged off into the distance when the starters gun went off. It was a fantastic sight with athletes of all shapes, sizes and ages sprinting away, fuelled by adrenaline and pent up anticipation forgetting that it was an endurance event and not a sprint.
The first runner completed their lap in about 34 minutes, the first solo entrant in 38 minutes both extremely quick times given the course and conditions. Marc returned in a much more sensible 51 minutes and handed me the baton and I got underway on my first lap.
The first 3/4 of a kilometre is a wide grass track at the edge of fields, it was surprisingly firm and dry and for a second I wondered whether the choice of trail shoes was the right one. All doubt disappeared as we turned into the first wooded section, it was very steep, lots of exposed roots and very, very slippery. I must admit I loved it, traction didn't seem to be a problem and I flew up the hill passing quite a few runners who were struggling, concentrating on where to place my feet helped take my mind off of how much effort was being expended. Out of the woods and it was on to a downhill track, equally as muddy and equally as slippery. This time runners were finding it difficult to run in a straight line, sliding from one side of the track to the other as the camber changed. Again I seemed to find running in a straight line a little easier than some and made quite a few passes, only to be re-passed once the course returned to the firmer fields. This pattern was repeated as the course basically consisted of three wooded sections linked by fields and tracks that skirted around the edge of the campground. Overall the course was a great mix of surfaces and character so it was always interesting, the proximity to the campground meant that there were lots of spectators (and resting runners) cheering you on. This was especially true of the last short steep climb about 500m from the finish line, no-one wanted to walk this section! I managed my first lap in a very similar time to Marc and handed the baton to Lee and he set out on his first lap.
When it was time for Debbie to run she set off at a really good pace and attacked the first hill with gusto. In hindsight maybe it was a little too aggressive as she started hyperventilating. Luckily a nurse who was competing as a solo runner came up behind her, realised she needed a little help and managed to bring her breathing back under control. We both wore the vests that we had made up in your memory and Debbie was able to tell the nurse your story, almost bringing her to tears. A number of people asked over the weekend so they all got to hear about you. With her breathing back under control Debbie was able to successfully complete her lap and pass the baton to the next team mate in line.
I'm really proud of the way that Debbie takes on these challenges; she has had a few tough years with family bereavement and injury and is still far from being back to full fitness but nevertheless throws herself into it without hesitation. A huge factor is the extra motivation she gets from doing these events in memory of you Ben,
The rest of the race was a mix of running, resting/sleeping and eating with team members being reliant on each other to be waiting at the handover point to take the baton at the end of their lap, a true team event.
The laps at night were fantastic fun, running with a head torch gives the tracks a whole different perspective and it's like you are on a completely different course. It is quite surreal getting your head down, setting the alarm for 2 am and then running a 10k at 3am! It is also quite lonely only seeing the team mate you are taking over from and the one that takes over from you. It all ran like clockwork until about 5am when we had a 20min gap after one of our team who injured their ankle on a previous lap wasn't t able to go out again. Panic over and we were soon back on track inching ever closer to the cut off time of midday on Sunday.
We had set ourselves, what we hoped was a realistic target of 24 laps or 240km for the event. At 10am on Sunday the heavy rain returned, just as forecast and we were halfway through our 22nd lap. To hit our target we needed to complete laps 22 and 23 and start the 24th before the midday cut off.
Taking over from Marie at the end of the 22nd lap Marc was up to the challenge, completed a rapid 23rd lap and started the 24th 15 minutes before midday. We eventually completed the race at 12.43pm on Sunday in 120th place out of 229 in the mixed teams of eight. All in all we were pretty happy with that result, it was a great team effort and I know youâd approve.
We had a great weekend, spent with a good bunch of friends, enjoyed a challenging race and managed in a small way to spread the word about the terrible tragedy that happened in July last year.
Debbie and I have to say a big thank you to our team mates and supporters; Marc, Lee, Marie, Rich, Jon, Dave, Simon, Katie, especially Debbie B (who sorted out all of the catering for the weekend) and not forgetting Harvey the dog for making it such an enjoyable experience.
We need to go and rest up now, Challenge Weymouth is only just over 6 weeks away and we have plenty of work to do to get ourselves ready for that. Weâll write another note a bit closer to the time to let you know how the preparations are going.
Lots of Love
Uncle Tim & Auntie Debbie
ps your friends and family have made some wonderful donations to the two charities chosen by your Mum and Dad in your memory. It just goes to show how much you are loved and how much you are missed.
My next race