126 miles, the distance from Liverpool to Hull, one side of the country to the other. This is how far Jason and I, managed to run between us in the space of 24 hours. In July 2016, temperatures were high and so were the stakes, with me (jokingly) labelling our training plan ‘The winners of the Thunder Run 2016.’ The exact aim was a bit unknown, although I guess ‘keep running until we both die,’ was a contender, as was ‘let’s aim for about 10 laps each and see how it’s going.’
What is the Thunder Run exactly? More importantly, why would anyone want to do that to themselves? The Thunder Run, is race that involves running as far as you can in 24 hours. The course is off road and each lap is 6 miles long. There are a number of different categories and we decided to opt for the mixed pairs category, having ran in a mixed team of 5 the year before. Running in a team of 5 (about 5/6 laps each) had been horrific enough, so we decided to make it even harder.
Training had consisted of running as many 6 milers as we could, sometimes 4 times a day. The pace was slow and a struggle at times but we stuck at it, Jason, as always slightly more disciplined than me. I was too busy focusing on being able to stay alive. Coincidentally, the distance from my house to work is approx 6 miles, some would call this fate. So off I trotted most days a week for about 6 weeks, with a new cool running bag on my back.
The one thing I always get asked about Thunder Run is: ‘but how did you sleep?’ The answer: well obviously we didn’t. The next question is usually: ‘but what did you eat?’ The answer: not much, small snacks – jelly for a sugar rush etc. It’s just about running and everything else is secondary. I understand that eating and sleeping are important for performance but we weren’t going fast and kept the calories topped up the best we could. There’s no real time for 3 course meals in this game.
The mixed pairs race we were involved in was tense, a lot more so than we realised at the time. I just wanted to give it my all, it turned out that about 6 hours in that our all was actually good enough to be leading. (Don’t get too excited.) We carried on, dragging ourselves round 6 miles then sitting down for about an hour then repeating the cycle. Darkness discented as it does every day, and we kept on, with head torches and a slightly slower pace. With tiredness setting in and only a couple of hours left, it transpired that we were in 2nd place, with first place too far ahead and third and forth place closing in. We had been in the top three for the whole of the race, so dropping out of that zone and finishing in 4th would not have been fun. So that was the challenge.
We finished 3rd, 20 seconds off 2nd but not 4th. We were ecstatic. There did follow a short spell of ‘what ifs’, were did we lose those 20 seconds? However, the sheer achievement of a podium finish and running 126 miles (I managed 60 to Jason’s 66) over 24 hours overshadowed the ‘what ifs’. We had accomplished something really special, mostly importantly we had accomplished it together.
One of the most hardest parts of the race was being in team but not really seeing each other. To help keep us motivated, we kept a little note book so we could exchange messages. Here’s some carefully selected quotes, that hopefully sum up our experience:
‘JB gone off into the sunset’
‘This could be good or bad but we’re in the lead.’
‘Felt sick, think I’m dehydrated so taking water on board.’
‘Thanks for talking to me before. Sorry I was emotional. Difficult stuff.’
‘I’m so proud of us and you. This is taking a lot of strength and we are united.’
‘It would be nice to get a podium position. If only so I can wear my podium outfit.’
‘This is also without doubt the hardest thing I’ve done too and it is good that we can share it together.’