Thunder Run, Catton Park – 23.7.16 & 24.7.16

Race Report by Jenna Pogue

1 week after finishing the Conti Thunder Run 2016, I still feel exhausted!

The race is a 24 hour, off-road relay at Catton Park, Derbyshire and 3000 runners took part either solo, in pairs or in teams of 5 to 8, camping on-site and completing 10k laps around the clock. I was in a team of 7 with Rich Taylor, Rachel Brock, Darren Chambers, Nicky Ellis, Anne-Marie and Dave Goodwin.

I’d never ran off-road before and I was clueless about how to train. Run around a field? Or find a mud filled ravine with brooks, branches, roots, trees, grass and gravel to run through. I’d recently trained for a marathon, ran Northbrook 10k and took park in club training and handicaps so I decided that was enough to allow me to wing it on a new terrain on the day.

I was due to run at 5pm, Midnight and 7am and the recent weather had been changeable so I packed light clothes, warm clothes, weatherproof clothes, 3 sets of socks, gels and shoes (road and trail!) hats, gloves, a neck scarf, plus sunblock, bug spray, sunglasses, a head torch, a hand torch, a whistle, a watch, a foil blanket, plasters, painkillers and spare batteries. I also packed a full camping set including food, drinks, clothes, bedding and toiletries. I thought I’d gotten everything but I realised I was wrong after my first lap when the benefits of Vaseline became clear!

Lap 1 @ 17:15 and it was baking hot as Nicky handed the baton to me and I set off across the field and straight up Rooty Muddy Steep Hill (not it’s actual name!) The next 1.5 miles took me through Continually Uphill Rocky Patch followed by Nice Downhill Into Camp by which point I was so hot, I threw my running hat to some strangers, promising to come back for it later. Luckily at 5k there was a water and wet sponge station before the middle section of the route continued into Up And Down Grassy Part, Long Muddy Slippy Slope and Winding Root Alley. After this, I was pleased to see some Spa Striders offering encouragement ahead of Impossible Hill (that I walked on all 3 laps) before heading into 8-9k across Long Sunny Hot Ridge and I’ll Never Stop At The Bottom Hill. The final kilometre back through camp was brilliant and included lots of support, particularly at the bottom of Short But Steep Gravelly Hill. Handing over to Dave, I was elated but already slightly exhausted. With about 7 hours to go before my next 10k I settled down in camp to shower, eat, support and sleep.

Lap 2 @ 00:15 and I was running again after 1 hours snooze but no real sleep. I set off with my head and hand torches and although the route was exactly the same, I often couldn’t get my bearings. Continually Uphill Rocky Patch felt twice as long and I started to worry at one point that I was going the wrong way. Long Muddy Slippy Slope was slippier and I almost took a tumble in Winding Root Ally but managed to remain upright (unlike some! Sorry LJ and DL!) I can’t remember Short But Steep Gravelly Hill but I know I ran it for a 2nd time and finished this lap 20 seconds quicker than my first one.

Lap 3 @ 07:15 and this time I’d had 3 hours sleep. I couldn’t face any more coffee, bananas or malt loaf but thankfully Parky (one of our Camp Mums) made me some toast with real butter to get me moving. Setting off on lap 3, I knew instantly that it was going to be the toughest. I walked more in the first 3 miles than I did on any other lap, even on Nice Downhill Into Camp I felt like my legs were dead. Around 5k I decided to push on for a while and then let myself slow down at 8-9k to enjoy the last stretch and soak up all the support and excitement near the finish. What I hadn’t considered was the Massey supporters and runners who had no intention of letting a runner slow down or walk and as I forced myself up Short But Steep Gravelly Hill (since renamed, Nearly Going To Throw Up Hill) I could hear Massey chanting ‘Don’t walk, don’t walk’ and strangers laughing ‘she’s gonna kill you for that’

Finishing lap 3, I hobbled straight into the food tent and ordered a sausage batch, a coke and a large slice of chocolate cake. It was the most welcome meal I’ve ever had! It was a great but tough event and as a team, we completed 21 laps and always had a runner out during the entire 24 hours.

Thunder Run 2016