Nine months ago I revealed that I’d signed up as a solo for this year’s Thunder Run (aka TR24), meaning I’d be running as many 6 mile laps of an undulating course as my little legs could manage in the space of 24 hours, all on my lonesome. This decision showed that I had the common sense and foresight of a man going to the zoo and walking into the lion enclosure with half a gazelle sellotaped to his groin.
But as we all know, when things are far away in the future they don’t have to obey the laws of common sense, so I just adopted an “it’ll be fine” mindset and got on with my life.
And then, a couple of months ago, reality started creeping in with a VERY smug look on its face. I carefully studied my “Road to TR24” training diary from the last few months, and after a while I had to accept that it was just a blank piece of paper. Although I bemoan my lack of foresight, back in October when I first signed up for this event I did actually have a fallback plan, which was to run the event as if I were part of a phantom team. The bail-out plan (because back then, a big chunk of my brain knew I wouldn’t do any training) was for me to run a lap, then rest for a few hours while my imaginary team-mates did a few. By following this approach, I reckoned I could still bang out an acceptable half-a-dozen laps and still have plenty of time in-between for naps and cake.
So that was sorted then, I’d be fine.
Except, while I’d anticipated my lack-of-preparedness, what I hadn’t expected was the feeling of guilt. While stepping off the course between laps is perfectly acceptable under TR24 rules, it’s fair to say that I was planning to kick the arse out of it with my rest-for-hours approach. Among the TR24 community, solo runners are afforded a lot of (well-deserved) respect and admiration. They’re a different breed; a cocktail of near-superhuman fitness, endurance and mental toughness, topped off with a massive dollop of rock ‘n’ roll. These guys and girls are the legends of TR24.
I’m not one of them.
Maybe one day I will be, but for now I’m just a man who likes naps.
The more I thought about it, the more I felt like a fraud. This year’s event sold out in record time, and I kept thinking of all the solo runners who didn’t manage to get a place. I toyed with the idea of having a T-shirt printed up with the words “NOT A REAL SOLO” emblazoned across the back, along with a picture of a monkey (nothing significant about that. I just like monkeys). But in the end, I did what felt like the right thing; I found someone who was interested in running as a solo and I transferred my place to them.
As soon as I did it, I knew it had been the right decision. A weight lifted from my mind and I was happy in the knowledge that my place had gone to someone who was more likely to do it justice. I then set about looking for a team place instead. It’s not guaranteed, but as the event draws nearer there are usually a few gaps opening up in the teams as people drop out for various reasons. I started asking around, hoping to find a small team who valued having a laugh over running fast.
By the beginning of July I’d found a couple of potential teams who seemed happy with the prospect of welcoming a slightly weird1 little hobbit man into their fold. Everything was falling into place.
Okay, if you’re a fan of happy endings, you might want to stop reading now.
You see, in typically disorganised fashion, I’d overlooked one crucial thing. I was due to work a set of night shifts over the TR24 weekend, and I hadn’t managed to get the time booked off. I’d known about this from the start and my initial attempts to get the time off had failed, but I’d then just filed it away in the aforementioned “it’ll sort itself out” cupboard and forgotten about it. Long story short, I tried again to get the time off work and failed miserably
No Thunder Running for me this year 😦
This only really hit home this week, when twitter and facebook started to buzz with excited TR24 talk. Messages and posts started to assault my brain, with people discussing where to set up camp, how much beer they would need for the night before and what colour the shirts would be this year. A lot of people I’ve come to know through writing this blog will be there this year too, and I was looking forward to meeting them and stealing their stuff.
Right now, I feel like a little boy standing in the rain outside Huggington’s Emporium of Toys, Sweets and Puppies, pressing my nose against the window and watching in envy as all the other kids run around laughing, eating their own bodyweight in fudge and each being given a free robot teddybear that shoots eye-lasers and is guaranteed to be their best pal forever.
Okay, moping over. Writing this blog has always been a cathartic experience, and now that I’ve vented a bit, I honestly feel a lot better about the whole TR24 thing. There’s always next year, and besides, there are a lot of other 24 hour events out there so I shouldn’t really get too fixated on just one.
Unfortunately, while I’m okay with missing out on TR24 this year, I’ll need months of intensive counselling if I’m to come to terms with the pain of knowing I’ll never get to visit Huggington’s Emporium of Toys, Sweets and Puppies.
To all of you Thunder Running this weekend: Have fun, and bring me back a flapjack.
1 Not that weird. Okay, so last year I took about 30 large cardboard boxes with me and found a use for all of them. That’s not weird, it’s innovative. You know how the old proverb goes: “camping isn’t camping unless you’re watching Countdown on a cardboard television”.