While I am solely responsible for the rather “original” team name Thunderbabes (all I could think of was that it fitted in nicely to the Thundercats theme tune), the 25 laps completed in the adidas Thunder Run 2014 were the result of a finely tuned and driven team of seven girls (Lenka, Katy, Jen, Emma, Josie, Leah and myself) and one boy David. Oh yeah, we didn’t just complete the Thunder Run 2014 (a 24-hour race of 10k trail laps), we rocked all and finished in a respectable 77th place out of 228 mixed 8 teams. Here are 24 reasons why we smashed it:
1. We got the rules straight away
Unlike solo races, where it’s up to you to push yourself, running Thunder Run in a team means you rely on your teammates to be there and pick up the baton in the transition zone or you have to do another lap. One team member has to be on the course throughout the 24 hours – from midday to midday. It’s pretty tough but the key to success is preparation.
2. Fail to plan, plan to fail
It may have been written on the back of a scrappy piece of paper, dog-eared and stuffed in a New Statesman magazine but we had a plan of action before the race started at 12 noon on Saturday 26 July 2014.
3. We worked together
To ensure the next person (and the next person) on the list was ready to go. This was critical during the night and everyone worked together to ensure there was someone there waiting whatever the weather (it poured during Lenka’s last official lap). Honestly, I’ve never known such a bunch of conscientious people. I was sharing my tent with Emma and three times she must have been woken up by Katy, Jen and Josie I think to be told to prep for her lap. Some of us were delirious with tiredness but we were completely on the clock.
4. We chose the same place to wait
The Thunderbabes were all about the detail. We decided to stick to one spot in the transition area so the runner knew where to hand over the baton. Slick and smooth, it was a job well done.
5. And helped the previous leg
I’m not sure which kind soul out of the team decided to have a glass of water for the finishing runner but it became a bit of a ritual amongst us. You’d wait and handover the water to the gasping leg before you.
6. As for amusement, well…
I really don’t know where the day went as I was having too much fun chatting, dancing and watching my teammates come in. It was honestly like being at a teetotal festival with your mates but instead of band after band, you had all sorts of runners. From the solos (yes, that is those who ran for 24 hours BY THEMSELVES) to our mates from #shutuplegs and the adidas 2 team, we were the raucous ones shouting at everyone to keep going.
7. And were in good company
Sometimes it’s not what you do but who you’re doing it with that makes or breaks something. Honestly, the whole weekend was a blast. And we also joined up with the boys plus Julie (originally called “adidas team 1”) who were more experienced at the Thunder Running malarkey and really pulled out all the stops. With tales of the storm year before, explanations on how to look after chickens and a variety of gizmos and gadgets on show, I definitely learnt a thing of two from this group. But most importantly they kept us all in high spirits.
8. We’d come well-prepared
I’m not just talking with tents (Jen didn’t have any tent pegs but we soon sorted it out), sleeping bags and enough torches to share between us and we had ample supply of Jaffa cakes, crisps and various other snacks. I know we pitched our tents in the dark when we arrived late at night but we had plenty of stuff to share around, which saw us through the two days and nights in the “wilderness” of Catton Hall.
9. And were well-fed by adidas
Thanks to the adidas team, we also had access to free food all day and all night served by a catering team who stayed up for 24 hours (thank you). I know the thought of a jacket potato after my final run kept myself and Lenka going and I’m sure the diet coke supply also gave Josie a boost. I may have only seen a lettuce leaf once but was fantastic not to have to worry about food throughout the 24-hour race.
10. The kit was cool too
I know our team ran in a variety of different trainers but I actually opted for the adidas adizero XTs, which had been sent to me earlier in the week. Light-weight and grippy, I had no problems with them at all. In fact, they made jumping through woods and running up hills easy(ish). Perhaps it may have been harder if the rain had persisted but I didn’t experience any blisters of black toenails after a total of 40k running and god knows how much bouncing around. And as for the pink power-blast leggings…LOVE THEM.
11. Hot showers
Now this may only be tenuously linked to why we smashed it but the whole idea that you could shower after your 10k laps helped to prepare you mentally for another set if you had to wait for a few hours. Being able to change into something that didn’t smell of sweat made me feel 100 times better.
12. We all loved the route
As a X country fan, this trail 10k was right up my, well, alley. If you weren’t dashing up the hill as fast as you could, you were jumping across tree roots or swerving along a windy path in the woods. It was a technical course that used your core strength and agility but it had some spectacular moments. For me, the icing on the cake was at around 8k when you were greeted by an amazing vista of the Derbyshire countryside. This is what running is all about. I know, we all (apart from David) loved it.
13. Fearless females (and David) in the dark
Turn the lights down and the excitement is amplified by 100. Armed with a head torch, we all took up the opportunity to run in the dark. Exhilarating? Not half. Once you’d sorted out your head torch so you could see right in front of you, running in the dark was super-exciting. I know I came back buzzing and it took me about an hour to calm down as I wanted to do it all again!
14. Early or later on, we were consistent
We worked the rota so that we had two pairs who went 1,2,1,2 and then two pairs with a longer space between their three laps. I’m not sure who got the better deal to be honest. As the first runner to go out, I really felt the heat of the day. It was swelteringly hot at midday, I sweated buckets during my first lap and only had around 50 minutes to recover before entering the furnace again. The two pairs who were all set for the early morning shift however, didn’t have that much time to rest. Despite the pros and cons of the pairing system, it pulled us through
15. We were a strong and solid team
The schedule had been worked out on the basis that each individual would take an hour to do the 10k lap so 24 hours divided by 8 (there were 8 in a team) means we’d all do 3 laps each. Fortunately we were able to bank some time early on and our team kept strong and solid throughout the race.
16. Our timing was pretty spot on
With 10k laps ranging between 48 minutes and 1 hour 10, we could accurately predict when the runner on the course would arrive to hand over the baton. We could also make calculations based on the previous times in terms of the final lap.
17. Our team had massive potential
That’s not to say bribery didn’t go on at the crucial moment. Let’s talk about David – our secret weapon who after a bit of persuasion – ok a lot of pressure verging on bullying coupled with bribery in the form of beer and cider – managed a vital sub-50 minute 10k.
18. The camaraderie was immense
Going back to the last two hours of the race, we worked out that if David ran a sub-50 and Leah ran for an hour and five, I would be able to run another lap – taking our total up to 25 laps. Laps started before midday would count towards your total. Without the support and genuine feeling that we could do it, I’m sure the last two legs wouldn’t have pulled it off.
19. We got by with a little help from our friends
Leah was tired, I knew she was, but it was the sheer drive plus company in the shape of Jen who joined her for the final lap that ensured she passed the baton over to me at 11:59:13. It was that close and it feels like a blur now. All I remember is Katy and Lenka shouting: “They’re on the hill! We’re going to do it!” Tense, exhilarating and wonderful, thank you girls – it meant so much to be able to do that final lap.
20. And each other’s energy
By the end we were all properly knackered but there was an amazing energy, especially in those last few moments. I swear, I felt like I was going to explode with excitement. When I finished our 25th lap, we were all buzzing.
21. We knew we’d have something to celebrate
Josie and Katy had come prepared with bubbles as we knew we’d need it but no one could judge how much until after the final few laps and finish.
22. Plus set firsts for us all
Apart from Lenka, I think no one else had ever run a 24-hour race and even Lenka had never run a relay race with the Thunderbabes before. It was a first for all of us. Then there was David’s sub-50 10k and Jen’s 40k in one hour. I’d never run a relay race before (ok, at Primary School I did). In fact, in our own individual ways, Thunder Run was a first for all of us. We didn’t just smash it but achieved something together as a team.
23. And will do it all again very soon…
Now we’ve know what to do and are confident that we can run for 24 hours as a team, I know that we’re all keen to relive those very special moments. I mean come on girls, how else do you think I expend all this energy.
24. Because we all love running
If running adidas Thunder Run 2014 as a team taught me anything, it’s when you put together a bunch of people with the same aim and shared love of a sport, they will do everything they can to surpass expectations. More, I just want more of this frigging fun running stuff.
Thank you so much to adidas, Lenka, Katy, Jen, Emma, Josie, Leah and David plus Harry for inviting me to be a part of this very special weekend. It was also fantastic hanging out with the boys and Julie from adidas team 1. Lenka and Leah, this is for you (plus thanks Leah and Katy for the photos).