Monday, 1 August 2011

The TR24 - Adidas Thunder Run - PART 1

31/07/2011 - Ok I've been a bit lack at updating the blog in the last few weeks but in my defense I've been very busy both at home and work.  As I mentioned previously I spent a lovely weekend in Brighton and had I not been so busy I'd have regaled you with tales of running the Brighton sea front, lovely meals out and just the best day with good friends at their seaside hut.  It was great but sadly I missed the chance to blog it and now I have a race report to produce.  The Adidas TR24 Thunder Run 2011. Now forgive me but this will be a long post - it was after all a 24 hour race.

The day started in the usual way, the sun came up I assume hauled across the sky by some sort of giant turtle thing and I hopped out of bed ready for an early start. I use the term "hopped" in it's inaccurate form as I in fact rolled out of bed and staggered zombie like to the loo. It was Saturday the 31st and in a little more than 3 hours I'd be at Catton Park for the 2011 Adidas TR24 with a team of people who'd to a large extent were unknown to each other. First thought of the day "I hope we've not got a prat in the team" as 24 hours of tiredness can cause ructions if there's a personality clash in the team. Second thought was "what if I'm the prat in the team?" Anyway as far as the race goes I'll quote Adidas themselves as an explanation of the event.

"a 24 hour off-road relay race against the clock. Whether you run solo or in a team of 2-8 it'll test your tactics, endurance, speed and team work. It's an exhilarating, rewarding and tiring race with a great atmosphere. You'll find TR24 physically challenging and mentally tough but an experience not to be missed."

I had pre-packed the car the night before so it was just a case of washing and I was ready to go.  I was taking two of my team, the Stotfold Runners, in my car; the other three members traveling in a second car. At 08:50 Rackesh arrived; 5 minutes late but that was good as I'd forgotten to get the address of where we were going so that 5 minutes gave me time to print off the directions without looking stupid. And so we set off for Derbyshire, picking up Chris on the way, in the most glorious weather.

We arrived around 10 am to find that the other three members of the team, Pete, Steve and Linda already there and settled in having reserved us a spot for our tent.  Just time to set everything up, get our tags, t-shirts and goodie bag etc before the race start of 12 o'clock mid-day. BTW the goodie bad was very good.  A really good quality running t-shirt to commemorate the race, four re-hydrating powder sachets of different flavours to make drinks with, energy gell and some deodorant (so no excused there then), oh and a drinks bottle.

Ok let me set the scene; so we're all there waiting for the race to begin and there's one thing I need you to keep in mind; the heat.  It was a bakingly hot day without even the hint of a breeze.  Now camping with weather like this is a dream but we all knew running in it was going to be hard.  The site has a carnival like atmosphere.  Everyones happy and there for the same thing, there's shops and food places and stands and even a place to go get a massage. Oh yes and it quite beautiful there.  So it's understandable why the place is full of family there supporting their loved ones; or simply ignoring their love ones and settling into a nice cold glass of wine in the beautiful surroundings. Add to that lots of pretty ladies in tight lycra to chase round the course and I'm in heaven.

Well it's time and the first team member running is Pete - lucky chap.  Now Pete is a personal trainer and a top chap to boot ( but he'd injured his ankle just over a week before the race so was not in his best shape.  Numerous visits to the physio, strapping and a fair haul of Nurofen would hopefully see him through.  Pete had asked specifically to go first as he wanted to test his ankle; a decision that would come back to haunt him as his first two runs would be in the baking heat. I should have felt sorry for him but it was his choice so as the realisation of two runs in the blistering heat dawned on him I laughed instead. We wished him all the best and reminded him of the plan for us all to take the first lap gently as it's an endurance race not a sprint.

The camp site is set-up so you're never far from a place where the runners come past so from where we were camped we were soon able to calculate roughly when we might expect one of us to pass by. So we ambled over to await Pete's arrival. We were getting a little nervous as runner after runner came past declaring to their mates standing at the sides "It's far far worse than you realise, it's hell" or similar. Just as we were getting worried about Pete and whether his ankle was holding up there he was. He was running reasonably smoothly so the ankle must be holding up and he even managed a smile as he passed all the while mumbling something about how he hated me and why did he agree to do this (a theme he'd run with throughout the 24 hours).
Linda was up next and was already at the holding pen waiting for Pete's arrival. Linda's what I'd call a proper runner and I having shared the experience of the TR24 with her she's someone I'd put in my team at the drop of a hat. Apart from her laugh and the nice cup of tea she made me her experience having done this event the previous year was invaluable to the team. Pete flew in in around 55 minutes (forgive the timings here as I forgot the sheet we jotted to times down on so I'm going from memory) which considering his ankle and the heat seemed pretty reasonable. When we understood the course better "pretty reasonable" was upgraded to "bloody good". We did our calculations and worked out when we need to be looking out for Linda coming past. At the appointed time we wandered over just as she screamed past; oh damn too fast to get a picture. I had to run to another point of the course to get a picture of her running by. Then we all realised that Chris was not going to be expecting her to be arriving so quickly and we hoped he'd by there waiting for the baton hand over. Unfortunately he wasn't so Linda had a frustrating minute or so waiting for someone to hand the baton to. But eventually a slightly embarrassed Chris arrived, apologised and took off for his and our third lap. Linda had run a 53 minute lap!!!. Linda backed up Pete's assertion that it was a tough course and soooo very hot. Keeping hydrated was going to be an issue and me without beer.. 

Chris is an Army guy, immensely likable and as chilled as anyone you'll ever meet. We knew he'd be a strong team member but we'd learn just how important he'd be to the team as the race wore on. You sort of suspected that if you said "Chris mate, we cant be arsed. You mind doing the rest yourself?" he'd have gone "I'll give it a go - any chance of a brew though?" Again we were waiting for him to run by us at his appointed time, we'd got the timings sorted by then, and he came past with a smile and a wave. He did not look fast and I knowledgeably predicted a 60 minute lap. Rakesh had gone over to the start/finish line for his lap and to take the baton off Chris and I think must have been a little shocked when Chris came flying in having just completed a 50 minute lap. Wow!!

Rakesh is a damn good martial artist ( a 5th dan in Shotokan Karate and holds a 5th dan and an instructor qualification with the The British Combat Association. He's also another top bloke and I'm please to call him a mate. Like everyone else he was given strict instructions to take it easy and not to knacker himself in the first lap.  Of he set, after a while came past with a wave and sprinted to the finish line in 54 minutes. So much for everyone taking it easy lol. He passed the baton over to Steve.

Stephen is a quiet unassuming guy with an easy relaxed way about him.  You can't help but like him immediately and he was the perfect fit into the team that by pure luck gelled perfectly. He's also the celebrity in the team and featured in an article in the Mirror news paper on Friday ( and you can follow his progress at  We chose his charity as our team charity and if you can please sponsor us via his charity page at

We knew that Steve would be quick as he was the one out of all of us that was doing somewhere near the sort of mileage in training that you need to to do this sort of race and we were not let down.  He came in at something like 52 minutes looking like he'd just been out for a light jog through the park.  I was next out and was glad to take over ownership of the baton and get going.

First lap and within half a kilometer you hit a sharp right up a steep narrow track through the woods. With very little room for overtaking and a rather uneven, root and stone straddled path the climb up was harsh. It's a course of ups and downs with seemingly few completely flat bits. In fact as harsh as some of the "ups" are it's the "downs" that were the more worrying. As each lap drained the energy from the legs trying to control ones pace and stability while running down a steep decline proved very difficult. I push myself up every hill, ran every bit as best I could. I loved it, it was just the sort of terrain I love to run in and though I'm definitely the weakest member of the team I still managed to complete it in 56 minutes. Considering the heat and the harsh (that word again) nature of the course I reckon I'd have got a personal best on a flat course. I may have been the slowest so far but I felt I'd kept myself in spitting distance of the others. Speaking of which some chap came passed us, while we were waiting for I think Chris, with his face covered in spit. Now I looked and since he did not appear to be running for a pedophile charity he either had a lot of enemies out there running or he was spitting on himself. Either way not a good look..

Anyway first laps done, Pete out on his second and there was much patting on the backs over a great start. We'd set ourselves a pretty ambitious 24 laps for our first crack at this race and we'd given ourselves a much better start than we'd hoped. Nearly everyone's second lap was incredibly as good as their first with Chris actually doing a 49 minute lap - which was to prove to be to team record for the day.

My second lap was in the dark and I was really enjoying it until around the 7th kilometer through a wooded section I stumbled on a steep down hill bit and "shocked" my right knee. While it was not the crippling pain of a sprain etc it was painful enough to slow me down to a limping jog and though I tried to finish with a sprint I came in with a 60 minute lap. Still not bad but I wanted another sub-60 minute one. More worrying was whether the knee would hold out.

So the night runs had started and we were all on our third laps. Pete was starting to struggle with his ankle and his third lap was quite a bit down on his other two. No problem though as we were well ahead of schedule and we were doing amazingly well considering. Then I heard news of our first casualty. Linda had taken a stumble in the last wooded section and badly sprained her ankle. Even so she'd still managed to get in at around 64 minutes, very credible considering the pain she must have been in. I had anticipated that we'd probably lose someone during the race and linda's ankle injury meant sadly she could not continue. It was a real shame as she had looked good for at least four laps. Thankfully she'd already put three excellent laps in the bank so she had every right to feel proud of herself and to relax and enjoy the rest of the time there.

Out after Linda was Rakesh and his previous laps had be well under the hour so we were a little concerned when well after an hour he'd still not finished. Eventually he appeared looking in a lot of pain with a 78 minute lap. He'd taken a fall in the wooded section within the first 1k and had stumbled round the other 9k in agony. He said it was the most painful thing he'd ever done in his life which I think puts this lap as one of the most remarkable of the the teams race. His race was over. So we're two down so there's no time for sleep as me and the other team members need to fill in the gaps.

Steve stressed out
Chris and Steve had once again again banged in times in the low 50's laps for their third laps and were showing no signs of slowing up. I set off and found instantly that my knee was a problem. Any downhill bit where normally I'd be making up time was was reduced to a painful stagger. I was getting frustrated as I just could not get any pace into my run. This lap was about survival and finishing. I limped across the finish in a disappointing 80 minutes and passed the baton to Pete for his fourth lap.

Go to Part 2

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