The Accidental Ultra Runner


Bit of a misleading title really, because it was more ill-advised than accidental. Oh, and I’m not actually an ultra runner. But other than that it’s spot on.

Many of you will have heard of Thunder Run, or TR24 as it’s commonly known. For those of you who haven’t, it’s basically a 24 hour event where teams of runners complete as many hilly 10k laps as possible within the allotted time. I’ve done it for the last couple of years, both in a team of 8 and a team of 5, which doesn’t work out too bad because after you do a lap you then have a good few hours of rest before it’s time to go again. A few crazy souls enter the “solo” category, which means that there are no team mates to take over from them and they plod on relentlessly for 24 hours. It’s an awe-inspiring display of what the human body is capable of, with some of them clocking up well over 100 miles. I’d struggle to drive that far! No, I’ll stick with the team category, thank you very much.


Registration for TR24 2014 opened last week and, due to its well-deserved growing popularity, most places sold out in within hours. And when I say “most places” what I mean is “all team places”. Crestfallen, I started coming to terms with the fact that I’d have to give my favourite race a miss next year. I was so lost in my own self-pity that I didn’t realise that my fingers were still busily tapping at the keyboard while I wasn’t looking. By the time I did realise,it was too late and they’d already filled in my payment details and hit the button marked “I’m a bit mental, please accept my entry into the solo category for TR24 2014”. It was okay for my fingers, they wouldn’t be running the damn thing. You wouldn’t have caught my legs filling in the online application, for several reasons. The most obvious reason being that there’s no way in hell I’ll be able to run that far or for that long.

What sort of idiot enters a 24 hour endurance event when they haven’t even run a marathon before?

This idiot, apparently.

The most surprising thing about entering as a solo, the thing I still don’t quite believe, is that I was stone-cold sober when I did it. This is the sort of decision that only really sinks in when you wake up next to a panda in a Dutch hotel room, surrounded by empty absinthe bottles and haunted by vague memories of being thrown out of a barmitzvah.

But I’m in, so I’d bloody well better start preparing for it. I’m painfully aware that I’m barely even a runner, let alone an ultrarunner, so my current plan is to pretend I’m in a team and have a rest after every lap. To be honest, I’d be more than happy with six laps in total (I did three this year after a training slump that often put my weekly mileage in single figures) and any more than that will be a bonus. My longest training runs at the moment are around 18 miles, and I don’t tend to suffer too much the day after, so theoretically I should be able to do three laps straight, then rest for 18 hours, then do another three. I won’t do it like that, obviously, but it helps to put it in perspective and keep the terror at bay.

By planning to take regular lengthy breaks, I feel like a bit of a sham compared to the hardcore solos who keep going for the whole 24 hours. They’ll be pushing themselves to the limits of human endurance while I sit and watch from my camp with a footspa and a jug of Margherita. In all seriousness, I’m fully aware that by taking this place in this category I’m potentially depriving someone else who could have run it as a true solo, so I will be giving it by best shot. I just don’t want to break myself in the process.

I’ve noticed in previous years that the solo runners put little see-through plastic crates next to the course, similar to the ones Triathletes put at their transition points. These tend to contain things like food, drink, a change of clothing and some basic medical supplies. In a childish attempt to confuse people, mine will contain some nunchuks, a cobra and the instruction manual for a Hotpoint BHDW129 integrated washer dryer.

I’ll keep you updated with the training/panicking, but for now I’ll leave you with my tactics for the event:

  1. I will win,
  2. I will cheat, and
  3. It will involve some sort of rocket-stilts.

(Note to organisers: I won’t, I won’t and it probably will)


PS: I’m currently shortlisted to be part of the test team for the excellent If I get on the team it’ll mean I get to review lots of great new kit and share my findings with you lovely people. I’d be really grateful if you could spare a few moments to vote for me. All you need to do is send an email saying “VOTE JAY” to

Thank you, you’re ace 🙂

Follow me on the twitter if you like: @borntoplod


14 thoughts on “The Accidental Ultra Runner

  1. You’re so hardcore you could probably be one of those nice ice-creams you get at the cinema that cost about £10 each but still taste very nice, despite the feelings of guilt from eating little chocolate polar bears.

    Or at least I would imagine that’s the case. You could just be a bit mad, in which case hello! Welcome to the club. There isn’t a team vest as it would make it far too easy for them to round us up with giant butterfly nets. You’re embarking on something so fundamentally ridiculous that your feeling of achievement will be heightened to as-yet-unheard-of levels and you may find it impossible to stop humming the music from Rocky.

  2. You are both mental and awesome for the solo entry!
    If I ever decide I’m going as far as a marathon I want to borrow those super rocket stilts – reckon you can do me a deal? 😉

  3. Fair play you’re going for it! I did a 12 hour version similar to that called ‘Hell on the Humber’ and if you think you’re mad now you’ll certainly reach new levels of madness during the event. The mind plays strange tricks on you at 3am when you’re sleep deprived! Good luck!

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