Exactly what is a fun time where running is concerned? We are the fun runners, right? We are supposed to know about such things, so its no surprise that we get involved in races such as the Continental 24 hour Thunder Run. Put simply it’s an off-road 10K trail and you compete to finish as many of these 10k laps as possible in 24 hours! What could possibly go wrong?
We assembled a crack team of 7 to tackle the event as a team and take the fun to Walton-on-trent where we would eventually clock up 27 laps / 162 miles between us, but that’s a mere detail. The weekend was always going to be a laugh, whatever laps we managed.
Starting weeks in advance the team was busy making plans. Who was going to bring a tent? who was going to run in the dark? Who was going to make breakfast? You know…the important stuff! With the details sorted, the checklist assembled we headed out in 3 cars up to the venue and met up on site on the Saturday morning. The first thing that struck me was the sheer scale of the event. Make no mistake, this is not some small backwater event, this is massive! It looked like we were driving through Woodstock in the 60’s or Glastonbury or something with oceans of tents and flags laid out as far as you could see. After eventually finding our camping spot, we got registered, pitched out tents, put up the LFR banner (very importantly) and got about the serious business of having a cup of tea. Laura Thompson had drawn the short straw and was first to run, so we all went up to see her off on the start line, meeting superman, wonder-woman, batman and all manner of fancy dress enthusiasts on the way.
The atmosphere was electric with everyone clearly looking forward to the event, as we soaked it all up in the sizzling heat under the sun.
And so it began, 24 hours of running, interspersed with tea, banter and lots of supporting of our team and anyone else we felt needed a pick up, and towards the end lots of people needed that!
The first runs were brutal…it was a very hot day and the course was challenging in that it contained a few big climbs, a lot of tight twists and turns and plenty of tree roots to pick tired feet over. What was funny, though, was our game-plan went out of the window after about 3 laps. Pre-event, we had conservatively estimated about an hour per lap and this was our general expectation, however, fairly soon it became apparent to us that rather than saving ourselves and conservatively aiming for this figure, we were all racing every lap like crazy nutters and going for it LFR style! Plan B was quickly adopted which was as simple as it gets….run like hell and see how many laps we can manage and worry about getting tired later! Given the course and the heat, we were all wrecked after the first set, but did that stop us? Did that dampen our spirits? Hell no!! Bring on more tea!! We went into the night runs with the same wilful abandon of common sense and raced hard right through the night! Some like running off road at night, and some don’t. Its just one of those things, so we divided up our schedule to accommodate the team’s abilities and preferences. Chris Taylor did the last daylight shift, then Mark Beesely, Claire Twigg and myself took the dark hours as this was more of our thing….and if that’s your thing too, then this is definitely the event for you!! The night runs were awesome, racing up through the trees, with a headtorch lighting your way, leaping over roots, occasionally crashing into things…it was awesome and the three of us loved every minute. Then came sunset, and Janice Lamont, Laura Thompson and Julie Wallace took the reins as we hit the morning sun again.
The last set of runs were hard on the body. No sleep, and running everything at 110% meant we were all completely wrecked but Chris’s porridge and yet more tea to the rescue and the LFR team spirit kicked in and we willed each other through it, right up until Julie came down the finish straight on the last lap and we all joined her for the last 100 meters.
Of course, no LFR event would be the same if we didn’t go to the bar to celebrate at the end, but also to celebrate the teamwork that went into it! This was through and through a team event, everyone pulling together to bring something to the party and to support not just each other but the whole running fraternity. It was something to be proud of being part of.
Driving back we reflected on the laughs over the weekend and what struck all of us was just how much fun we had in such a relatively short space of time. It was over too soon, but to address the point at the start of this blog about what exactly is a fun time where running is concerned…well this is it!! I had not done a race like that before, but sure enough I will be lining up to get another team together next year for this event, so watch this space…