When the adidas PR team pinged an email to the Sport-locker.net inbox asking if we wanted to take part in a run, we were all over it.
I mean, how hard can a ‘run’ be?
Extremely hard, apparently, as our editor Sam Van Gelder found out last weekend…
Always read the small print
It wasn’t even written in small letters. The email clearly read:
“We are putting together a media team for the adidas Thunder Run on the 27th & 28th July in Derbyshire. It’s an endurance race with a 10km route, check out the website: http://www.tr24.co.uk/index.html”
I assumed our in house running machine Thomas Hyde (Triathlons and sub 38 minute 10ks are his bag) would be game for the experience and chance to network with like-minded runners, so I accepted the challenge on his behalf without even consulting him.
What I didn’t realise until two weeks before the race was that he was actually in a training camp in Kitzbuhel that weekend!
So I decided to take a proper look at the event. FAIL.
24 hours non-stop running. 10k off-road laps. Camping. 24 HOURS NON-STOP RUNNING?!
Too late to pull out? You know, one of those niggling football injuries that you can’t shake off?
I seriously considered it, but then I took a sip of man-the-hell-up juice and decided I needed to accept this challenge.
And I’m really glad that I did.
With all the latest adidas gear packed (more on those later) it was soon time for me to get the train down to Catton Park, Derbyshire.
Upon my arrival at Lichfield Trent Valley station, I jumped in a taxi and the adrenaline really began to pump. It pumped even harder after my driver informed me that “gypsies dress very smart at the campsite you are going to.”
Thankfully, the campsite he had in mind was different to the one I was actually meant to go to.
So I was delighted when I eventually (and safely) arrived at the adidas Thunder Run campsite, where I was soon joined by my fellow teammates.
And what a team it was. The Boost Your Speed squad consisted of the following:
- Kieran Alger Editor of T3.com and serial marathon runner.
- Charles Rodmell from Gear Selected and both marathon running and BMX riding mad.
- Simon Freeman (Team captain) and his wife Julie from Freestak. Simon has run a 2:37:07 marathon (yes you did read that correct) whilst Julie is just as keen for any running challenge.
- Tobias Mews Adventure Sports Journalist, Filmmaker & Endurance Athlete who the weekend before finished 2nd in a 100km race!
- Adam Purser from Run247 Only member of the team who had run in a 24 hour event before.
- Harry Benyon Adidas PR man, infrequent runner and my running partner for the weekend (although I would later wish this was not the case!)
- Me Amateur footballer and golfer. Definitely not a runner.
Lastly, and by no means least, Ciaran Pillay team gaffa and general team overlord.
So as you can probably tell, I felt a little out of my depth.
Friendly acquaintances made, it was time to get some rest before the big start on the Saturday morning.
Two problems. I didn’t have a tent. Or a sleeping bag. I felt like a proper newbie plonker.
But Adam took me under his wing and offered me a place to rest my head for the night. He had a tent and everything,
Julie offered me a blanket. I put what felt like 20 layers on (it was in fact two layers) and tried to get some shut eye.
A freezing four hours later and I still hadn’t slept a wink. Hyperthermia felt as if it had well and truly set in too. I was having a blast!
Waking up on barely an hours sleep to the early sunrise was certainly a shock to the system. But after a shower, brew and bacon sarnie, I slowly began to feel normal again.
The race began at midday and I wasn’t running until later in the day. That was because the team had agreed on a pairing system – two people would alternate one 10km lap each for four laps before handing over to another pair – ensuring that you could then get around eight hours rest to eat , sleep and recover.
We got off to a lightning start. Tobias and Kieran started very quickly, Simon and Julie flew round, Charles and Adam continued a quick pace and then it was my turn. Shit.
It had been sunny all day. Like Marbella sunny. But by the time I took to the course at around 11pm, it was pitch black, ridiculously muddy and absolutely chucking it down with rain.
As Adam turned the corner and bounded towards me with the wristband (a baton for the relay) I seriously contemplated fainting on the spot.
He slapped the band around my wrist. Go. Go. Go.
It was amazing. Honestly up there with the best things I have ever done in my life.
I could barely see a thing. Charles had learnt me his head torch, so I could see about five feet in front of me but nothing to the side of me.
The rain was proper driving into my face. The trail was thick with mud and puddles. I felt like a kid again going out to play in the rain.
Except this was much more fun.
The course, despite being really well marked out, took an absolute battering in the torrential downpour.
But this only made the twisting course, in all its quagmire glory, that little bit more exciting.
Some puddles of slurry became thigh deep. Some corners in the woods became almost unturnable (if that is even a word). The tree roots became almost invisible anyway.
I had a ball. As each kilometre passed, I felt a huge boost to kick on. My legs didn’t want me too but I didn’t want to let the team down.
My adidas Supernova Riot 5 trail shoes were certainly not going to let me down.
TECHNOLOGY DISCLAIMER. The TRAXION outsole offered amazing amounts of grip and despite the course being thick with mud and puddles, the Continental rubber on the sole worked an absolute treat. Whilst others were slipping around me, I was powering through. I honestly cannot put into words just how much these shoes surprised me.
The end of my first lap was in sight. I ran as quick as my legs would take me. That was just over 52 minutes. The second slowest run of the group so far. But I didn’t care. I felt like a champion. The sense of achievement as I passed on the baton to Harry was immense.
Over to Harry. He’ll be at least another 50 minutes I thought. I was very wrong.
Barely had I had time to get my breath back and I was off again. Bloody Harry and his 43 minute 10k lap. In those conditions! Wow. My legs hurt.
The second lap was much more of a struggle. Had it not been for the lifesaving Maxifuel supplements (in particular the ViperElectro tabs and ViperActive gels) I don’t think I would have got round.
My legs were dragging. Cramp felt like it was only one outstretched leg away the whole time but I had to power on. Harry was waiting for me. My team were counting on me.
The course still proved an amazing distraction though. I never had the chance to get bored like I do on some monotonous road runs. The trail keeps you on your toes (literally) at all times. Always watching out for that deep puddle or branch or tree trunk just ahead of you, your mind is constantly occupied.
59 minutes and 15 seconds later I had made it back. Off Harry went (another sub 48 minute 10k). I was a broken man.
But Ciaran was there. Like he was at every changeover. For 24 hours. Hats off to that man. He really did put the I in team. (Apologies for that Team America gag). But in all seriousness he made us feel like a family.
The MaxiFuel RecoverMax shake went down like a treat. I’d just run 20k! In the dark. Buzzing does not do it justice.
After a quick shower (in the dark, a bit of a theme) and massage (in the light, thankfully) I went back to the camp for some sleep. Ciaran, the hero again, had offered me his sleeping bag after my near death experience the previous night. Toastie.
Yet again however, I couldn’t sleep. This time because I was just so pumped. I kept running through the course in my head. Smiling at all times. What a feeling. I could now see why runners get hooked on well, running.
I eventually arrived in the land of nod and got some much needed sleep. I had another 10k to run in the morning!
At least that was the plan. As I awoke in the early hours, it was immediately clear that my legs were not going to run another metre. How to break the news to the team…?
Ciaran popped his head in my tent. I told him I couldn’t physically run. He replied, “No worries, I’ll do it with Harry.”
What a team.
We waited for Adam as he finished our final lap. It was a rather emotional end as he crossed the finishing line for the last time. 24 hours. 29 laps. 7th position (out of 253 teams). What a race. What a feeling!
Not once was I made to feel inferior. I had run two laps. The rest had all run four by the end of the run. Julie ran five! Yes, that’s 50k! What a woman.
And this didn’t bother them. We all had a blast together. I’m not quite sure how they managed to run so many laps, and I’m equally not sure how they could still offer me praise for the meagre two laps that I did run.
But they did.
And as the email chain has proved over the past week, every single one of us missed that team spirit we had engineered in just a matter of days.
Although our legs were quite grateful for the rest!
To end this waffling train of thought, the 2013 adidas Thunder Run is up there with the most exhilarating, rewarding and mind-boggling outrageous things I have ever had the pleasure to take part in.
I was part of a team, marshalled superbly by a determined team manager, who was simply there to have a good time. Yet we still managed to have that competitive edge: a sublime combination.
I learnt that being out of your comfort zone is a good thing and that running can be fun. Extremely fun. And tough. Very tough.
I’m missing the team already. Here’s to hoping that Tom is at another training camp come this time next year…
The powers that be at adidas also made this awesome film about our experience:
If the above report wasn’t enough to whet your appetite for next year’s race, then:
1) We’re offended!
2) Register their interest for next year at: www.adidas.com/go/allin24 – sign up here and you’ll be notified when entries open.
3) Watch this video too:
Clicked on that link featured on 2) yet? Thought so! You won’t regret it…