Wow what an amazing weekend I’ve just had, and not because it was my birthday!
A long, long time ago in a a galaxy far, far away (well, OK about 7 or 8 months ago when I was mid-marathon training and loving running) I signed up along with 7 other
nutters blogging friends to the Adidas Thunder Run 2012, a 24 hour 10k trail relay race. I didn’t really know what that meant at the time, someone described it as a weekend away with a bit of running, and I thought OK, why not?
As it drew nearer, I told friends I wouldn’t be out for my birthday and why and some started to question my sanity. I’ve never camped – I’ve always said I find the idea of sleeping in a tent, sharing a loo with thousands of other people and having to do things pretty much in public, with NO soundproofing completely abhorrent. However, since becoming a runner, I find the list of things I won’t do in public has slowly dwindled, bought on by a complete loss of dignity and the development of my couldn’t-give-a-toss what other people think mentality. I think it started with my 1st very long, loud running fart which trumpeted out on a country lane when I was at the front of a group of what felt like 50 but was probably only 5 runners. It was reinforced when I was forced to have an al fresco poo during a long training run after making a bad gel choice, and was cemented by me stripping down pretty much to my bare arse in the middle of horse guards parade after completing the London Marathon, with just a foil blanket, Louise (abradypus) and Alma (plustenner) to preserve my dignity, none of which were substantial enough to keep me shielded from all eyes, but like I said, I couldn’t care less. If you want to stare at my naked bits more fool you!
So, although I was a little wary, I was looking forward to spending time with friends old and new, and getting a bit of running in. I didn’t do a great deal of training, I’ll be honest, and that shows in the fact that I was the slowest by far, but I did have bags of enthusiasm, a box of Jaffa Cakes and a crate of Chocolate Yazoo, which I hoped would win me team brownie points and get me through.
Due to work I couldn’t get to the event until 4hours after it started – frustrating but it did mean I got out of having to do any tent erecting – something I’ve never done before and I’m sure I would be useless at as I never read instructions. When I arrived everyone (except Jon who was running his first lap and Alma who was waiting to take over from him) was sitting around, drinking tea, scoffing and chatting. Marvellous, I thought, I can do that. So I pulled up a chair and started munching, whilst perusing the running order. That’s when it suddenly dawned on me. Dear God, I was actually going to have to run 18 miles within the next 20 hours. Shit. What had I let myself in for? With that sense of foreboding I decided I needed a walk so I went down to the 9 and a bit k mark where we spotted our team mate then ran over to tell the next person they were on their way. The sight that greeted me did nothing to quell my fears, as Alma approached I could see she covered in blood and looking a bit queasy (but still running – trooper that she is). What the hell WAS this? Some kind of assault course? Didn’t they realise I’m the clumsiest person anyone is ever likely to meet? I ran round to meet Alma, luckily although she had a nasty cut above her eye, she didn’t seem to have concussion and was more annoyed with herself than anything else – I know the feeling!
When my turn came to head off for my 1st lap, I was a bit nervous but determined to enjoy myself. Rachel (fairweatherrunner) knows how much I hate hills, and took great pains to point out it was ok to walk up them and save my legs. The 1st 5 minutes of the course was on flattened long grass, and I hit a speed of sub 10m miles. Just as I looked at my garmin and thought oo, I’d best slow down, I turned the corner into the woods and the steepest climb I’ve ever encountered whilst out running. Seriously, it was so steep that at one point I was using my hands to help myself up. From there on in, the course was challenging – lots of switchbacks through the woods, back to flat grass, then up hill, then down the other side, back through woods again, and up another hill which was really squelchy and quite good fun, then onto the best bit along a high ridge with great views and an even better downhill section, before hitting the spotting point, thinking I’m nearly home and turning the corner to one last nasty hill. It had a nice downhill finish though which gave me just enough time to recover before rounding the corner to the finish and the crowds. I managed my first lap in 1hr 20m 29s which I was pleased with – it was hot, I walked most of the hills but made sure I took advantage of the flat and downhill sections.
My second lap was my favourite. I wasn’t down to do a nighttime lap as that’s when all the crazies who’d decided to do double laps were doing theirs. However, Alma’s injury meant she just coudn’t (and shouldn’t) do a double so we had to play around with the running order and I volunteered for a night lap giving those doing the doubles a bit of a longer rest. Oh it was amazing. Magical even. Running through wooded trail, no light other than that of my head torch which illuminated about 10 feet in front of me, no sound but my own breath and the plod plod squelch of my trainers and the occasional hooting owl or rustling animal. I loved it. I want all my my runs to be like that. The temperature was just right, and because I couldn’t see if I was running uphill or downhill, my strong BODY was in control, not my weak MIND. So instead of looking at a hill and thinking sod that I’m walking, I just kept plod plod plodding and only walked if my legs told me the hill was too steep for them. I was euphoric when I finished, it was such a shame no one was up when I got back to our camp to share it with.
My third lap was the last team one. I set off at 11.30 ish, knowing I had to be finished by 1pm. It was my worst lap timewise as I was hot, tired (4 hours sleep in the car was not the best prep for a 10k run) and I ran out of energy at the 6k mark. I was feeling pretty rubbish but then as I turned the corner to the 9k mark, the whole team were standing waiting to cheer me on and it gave me that burst of energy I needed. I was representing my team and I wanted to make them proud so I smiled and waved and sped up. Louise ran alongside me for a bit, I had a cheering squad to get me up the last nasty hill and then Louise was waiting to cheer me down the other side, whilst the rest of the team ran to the end. I managed to find a sprint finish in me and crossed the line with a massive smile on my face, hugs all round from my team mates and Chris (marathonmercer) presented me with my medal.
Our team of 7 managed 22 laps in 24h 50m. I felt really privileged to be part of the team, and as the slowest person there I was not made to feel like a burden at all. I can’t imagine any other team sporting event that I could take part in and feel like that. I don’t think I’m articulating myself very well here but I’ll keep trying. This was a group of good to very good runners. Jons fastest lap was something like 47 minutes, whilst most of the others were around the hour mark. My quickest was 80 minutes, my slowest nearly 90 I think, but I was never made to feel like I was letting anyone down or that I wasn’t good enough and that, as the MasterCard advert says, was priceless. I’m getting a bit teary eyed now, which could be down to the fact I don’t have my glasses on and have had to write this on my iPad (hence no links) as my laptop is buggered, but I just want to say a massive THANKYOU to all of the Fools Rushing team, for making this possibly one of the best experiences of my life. I couldn’t have picked 6 people I would rather spend 24 hours in a field listening to bad karaoke with, you are all A for AWESOME in my book!
Here are some pics taken at the end which is why I look buggered but everyone else looks great!