(or, My Long-Winded and Largely Off-Topic Race Report of the Adidas 24hr Thunder Run 2012)
Well, that’s it then.
After all the build-up and the excitement (as rambled about in a previous blog post), this year’s Thunder Run has been and gone. So how was it? Did it live up to my expectations? Was there really an escaped tiger?
Well, it was okay I suppose. Nothing special. I certainly won’t be entering again. In fact it was boring and it smelled funny. I know there were a few of you who for various reasons couldn’t make it this year and some who had to pull out at the last minute. I hope the fact that it turned out to be a bit rubbish is of some small consolation to you. If you were one of those people, you might as well count yourself lucky and stop reading now. Off you go, make yourself a nice hot chocolate. Have a biscuit and count your blessings that you didn’t waste a weekend on such a load of old tosh.
…Have they gone…?
…I’ll leave it a little bit longer, just to be sure they’re in the kitchen…
Okay, so time for the truth… Thunder Run 2012 (aka TR24) was
Without a doubt the best event I’ve entered. Well organised, great value for money, challenging course, fantastic atmosphere, free puppy for every entrant.
Well, not the last one, but perhaps the organisers could take note for next year.
Apologies in advance if I waffle on a bit, but it was a 24 hour event so don’t be surprised if this turns into a 24 hour race report. Anyway, by now you should all expect a certain amount of non-sequitur-strewn rambling whenever you click on my silly little blog. Unless this is the first time you’ve read it, in which case – hello, let’s be pals.
I suppose I should really get to the point (or at least start to vaguely meander in its general direction). As I mentioned in the earlier post, I was a member of “The Runners Forum 24 Hour Trotters” or “Team RF” for short. My team mates were a great bunch* – eight runners of varying ability but equal loveliness. I’ll get the introductions out of the way first shall I?
Jane: The first thing I noticed about Jane was her Mancunian accent, which for some reason I’d never expected despite already knowing that she was from Manchester. I think I managed to hide this by stopping myself from blurting out “What’s that thing you’re doing with your voice?” In terms of team dynamics, Jane somehow managed to be our level-headed voice of reason and font of all silliness at the same time.
Rob: Way back in November last year, it was Rob’s idea to put together a RF team and enter Thunder Run. Without him this amazing experience may never have happened and we’re forever indebted to him, although it’s worth mentioning that from around mile four of my third lap, my legs had a slightly different (i.e. more sweary) opinion of him.
Sofie: Along with Jane and Rob, Sofie was the third and final team member who’d been in the RF line-up since its original incarnation. For a while it was touch and go whether Sofie would be able to run, as an old knee injury had started to flare up again a couple of weeks before the race.
Andy T: The T stands for Tent, as he was the proud owner of the only one in our camp that was big enough to stand up in. This made him very popular when everyone’s legs started to seize up after the first couple of laps; trying to wriggle into compression gear in a cramped tent while fiery wolves bite your kneecaps off is rarely fun.
Paul: A last-minute addition to the team. Paul’s paramedic skills were thankfully not needed on the day, but it was good to know there was a plentiful supply of morphine, entonox and Hello Kitty plasters on standby if things went wrong. A thoroughly nice bloke; when he himself wasn’t running, Paul spent every spare moment cheering on other runners.
Andy G: AKA the Neon God. A bit of a shrinking violet, doesn’t like to draw attention to himself. For some reason, Andy’s Lady Gaga-esque number of understated costume changes attracted an endless stream of comments. Even the race commentator got in on the act, referring to Andy’s outfit as “the most offensive thing I’ve ever seen”. I don’t see the problem myself – everyone knows that lurid tie-dye is many times more aerodynamic than plain lycra. It’s just scientific fact**.
Emma: The yin to Andy G’s yang, the Scooby to his Doo, the… well, you get the idea. Andy and Emma had both agreed to step in as replacements after a couple of team members had been forced to pull out with injuries. They’d been planning to come along to TR24 anyway, as support crew for the mighty Taff, but had then kindly offered to join our happy little band.
Ah, that reminds me…
Taff: AKA the Leg End. Not one of the 8, but a part of our team in spirit. Taff Tanner had signed up to run solo for the entire 24 hours, which will come as no surprise to anyone who knows him. If you don’t know him, imagine if wolverine had in fact been a wiry, softly-spoken Welshman whose bones had been injected with running instead of adamantium. Oh, and he hasn’t got big retractable claws. Well he might, I didn’t ask him. Taff didn’t bring a tent with him, and when I asked what he’d do if he got tired and needed to sleep he just smiled and said “run”.
By Saturday morning our motley bunch had all arrived. A few of us had got there the previous evening, planning to beat the rush for the best places to set up camp. Unfortunately, everyone else seemed to have had the same idea and the place was already rammed by the time we arrived, with tents and taped-off team camps as far as the eye could see. We’d hoped to avoid pitching our tents too close to the portaloos as it’d likely be smelly and noisy, but in the end there was no other option. As we set up camp I half-hoped that our teams own intrinsic smelliness and noisiness would in some way cancel out what came from the toilets. Before long the tents were up, including Andy T’s behemoth (which we’d had to move several times to ensure maximum feng shui), and we set off to the race village for some breakfast. In the food tent there was the usual festival fare of breakfast baps, burgers and hot dogs, but with the welcome addition of the three P’s of running nutrition: Porridge, Pasta and Piles of flapjacks. Prices were as you’d expect for an event like this, around £3-4 for a burger, jacket potato (Potato! That’s a fourth P!) or serving of pasta, and £1.60 for a hefty flapjack. At the risk of becoming a flapjack bore, I have to share with you how impressed I was with these home-made oaty little chaps. What’s not to like? They’re a great combination of quick- and slow-release energy, they came in around a dozen different varieties, and (most appealing to the OCD neaty-neaterson in me) they were stacked tidily like little piles of delicious gold bullion.
Anyway, enough flapjackery (real word). As we sat around the breakfast table with a couple of hours still to go until race time, the conversation turned to tactics. It was unanimously agreed that we were there to have fun and to simply enjoy a weekend of running rather than chasing a place on the podium, so all that remained was to decide an initial batting order. We settled on the tried and tested “names in a hat” method (except we didn’t have a hat, so it was more a case of “names in a puddle of coffee that Jay had spilled all over everything, the bloody idiot”). Soon enough, the not-hat had spoken and Jane was to be our first Thunder Runner, with me going second. If I only learned one thing at school, it was the epigram “First the worst, second the best, third the one with the hairy chest” (sorry Emma!) so I was more than happy with that.
Eleven o’clock came around (an hour after ten o’clock – justas I predicted) and it was time for the race briefing, led by Patrick Adams from event organisers Pro-Velo Support. He seemed like a nice bloke and was clearly passionate about the event, so I think the crowd generally forgave him the occasional lapse where he got running confused with cycling. I have a similar problem, in my case confusing cycling with archery, which I think is why the judge said I’m not allowed within 300 feet of any branch of Halfords.
Anyway, I digress. The race briefing went on, and the changeover process was explained at length, as this had apparently been a bit of a snagging point in previous years. The event was sponsored by Adidas, and the rest of the briefing consisted of us being told how fantastic they were. Normally this sort of thing would have grated, but to be completely honest I didn’t mind this time. As huge as TR24 might be, its small fry when compared to the Olympics (also sponsored by Adidas, reportedly to the tune of £100 million). I’m probably being hopelessly naïve here, but I think it’s great that such a major global brand continues to support smaller events rather than diverting all of its time and resources at the big one. Nice one, Mr Adidas.
Briefing over, it was soon time for the first runners to make their way to the start line. Jane was ready to go, while Taff was methodically checking and rechecking his kit, the embodiment of calm. I guess that when you’re going to be running for such an insane length of time, a few minutes spent dotting the i’s is the smart thing to do. And yes, I’m aware that I just used the word “smart” to describe a man who thinks running cross-country for 24 hours straight is a really sensible thing to do. Watching Taff, totally unflustered as he went through his final preparations, I was reminded of the bit in The Matrix where Keanu Reeves goes all zen and stops a load of bullets in mid-air. Taff was kind of like that, only shorter.
And then it was time. The first wave of runners (including over a hundred steely-eyed solos) were all crowded into their respective starting pens.
Aaaaand in typical me fashion, I’ll stop it there for now. Just as predicted, we’re two thousand words in and nobody’s even started running yet. Good job it’s only a short race, eh? Well done for getting this far, and please come back for part two, which I guarantee will feature much*** more running and slightly fewer flapjacks.
* Well I have to say that, don’t I? Otherwise they’ll beat me with mallets. ** Not scientific fact. *** The word “much” should not be taken as an actual guarantee of quantity.