Thunder Run

This was my second year at Thunder Run. After the 2013 episode of Thunder Run, in which it really did lead up to its name; caked in mud throughout the 10km course, thunder, lightening, torrential downpours you name it we had it. This year we had the complete opposite, as temperatures hit a near scorching 30 degrees, the dry heat, solid ground and most importantly ample amounts of cake with the ability to eat it at any time of the day. Happiness is cake and that wasn’t going to go a miss given our name ‘Cake Fuelled Sheffield Running Club girls’. The team consisted of myself, Jenny who I ran in a three with last year, Sue, Deb’s as last minute stand in for Sarah who sadly had to drop out due to injury and finally Dawn and family ‘Wesson’ including support crew hubbie ‘Chris’.

Running didn’t emerge as a hobby it emerged as a way to catch something edible

We arrived in sweltering heat at around 3pm and bagged a really nice flat spot not to far from the start but not too noisy either just behind a row of portaloos, big enough for all of the 20 plus Sheffield RC gang. The Perfect Pitch. Club members began to trickle in from 4pm onwards. We had all set up camp and took a wander around the site. A large 24 hour catering tent with tea and reams of cakes and an abundance of fast food smells lingered around the start/finish area. There were also a few marketing stalls doing their business. As long as there was an ice cream van and the sun was shinning I would be happy.

We did our registering bit, picking up our numbers, chips, orange clippy band a.ka. ‘the baton’ and our blue TR24 2014 t-shirts. Fellow club member Natalie was running in a different team but had kindly ordered us fantastic huddies supporting the name ‘SRC’ on the back and our own names on the front – just in case we forgot who we were in at 3am in the morning.

Bagging the first massage session was a rather clever strategic move, given it wasn’t busy we got a good half hour of calf pounding, back digging and elbow bashing. Thereafter relaxing and chilling, cooking food and chatting away until the sun went down. After what was not such a great nights sleep due to music being played till 11.01pm by our noisy neighbours (quiet time was supposed to be 11pm on site – respect to all runners please).

I woke up to a dewy field full of runners sleeping soundly, blue skies and the early morning sun glaring its way across the camp-site. As the first one up, I needed a cup of tea and piece of cake, so I fiercely fought with my burner at 7am in shear frustration for all I required was hot water for my cup of tea. Soon the other guys emerged and we had a lazy breakfast of porridge pots and of course much needed cake.

My policy on cake is having it and eating it. – Boris Johnson

We had a few hours to relax and enjoy a lazy morning. It was really time to work out a potential running order scribbling on a few bits of paper. Such sophistication. No posh excel spreadsheet or timer just a simple pen and envelope, as they say the best ideas are on the back of a fag packet, the best race strategy was on the back of a race envelope. We had planned on around 55 minutes to an hour a lap each, although we knew it may be slightly faster for starters as we would be fueled on cake. We agreed that Sue would go first followed by Jenny, myself, Dawn and then Debs. This would allow those who wanted to get less runs in to get in a night run. We had also agreed to do doubles over night for myself, Sue and Jenny in order to allow for more efficient sleep. This strategy worked out well. A couple of the girls decided they would do fewer laps so some of us bunny hopped through extra laps.

At 11.30am we made our way down to the start for the ‘briefing’ but heard very little of it, instructions blasted through the tannoy were drowned out by far too many excited Thunder Runners including ourselves as we were too busy jumping up and down and taking team photos.

The runners then lined up ready for a noon kick off. Sheffield Running Club were supporting 4 club teams, the duo; Jason and Carolyn, the 2 five ladies teams, myself, Sue, Dawn, Debs and Jenny in one team and Alexa, Helen, Rachel, Anna Lisa and Kate in another team. The mixed team of 8 consisted of x6 ‘lads’ and two associated girlfriends.

We waved goodbye to the first leg runners as they went on their way running into the midday sun. Fellow Twitter friend ‘Martin’ was last with his bright coloured stripped ‘go slower’ compression socks waving everyone as he walked along, a great strategy to walk the first lap. The sultriness heat would blaze down for the rest of the afternoon and well into the early evening. Not that I was complaining.

Jenny took orange snap band for second lap and I was on next and snapped the band onto my wrist as she came bounding through the finish line. Lining up and setting off on the first lap there is always an air of apprehension knowing the unknown. How fast do I go out? The first stretch is grass but flat before climbing up woodland, steep enough for many to walk. I was feeling strong enough to run up with the odd ‘excuse me’ ‘passing on the left’ ‘can I squeeze past please’. The first 1km always seems the longest, knowing I had another 9 km left and then potentially another 51 or even 61km left to run in the next 22 hours was daunting challenging but fun at the same time and I knew there was plenty of cake back at camp to keep me going.

Running is my private time, my therapy, my religion – Gail W. Kislevitz, writer

The ground was solid and stable, no need for trail shoes as I ran around in my Hokas. Not a mud bath in sight. Yet. The route is challengingly acceptable with odd hills thrown in for fun, meandering around woodland every couple of km, up grassy fields and on wide paths. A real mixture of terrain to keep even the most feather-brained runners in concentration. The 5km marker meant only half a km to much needed drinks, more of which went over my head than in my mouth as the blazing heat continued to pour down. Up the Conti climb I clambered – a hill which there would be chip timing on between 6-7pm to see who could race up the fastest.

Through more woodland trails I ran, emerging out over fields adjacent to the start then bending back on itself into another woodland for lots more  wiggly running. Tree routes had been painted an added touch that would benefit the night running more so. I love the 7-8km section weaving in and out and round and round the woods jumping over tree stumps and roots, like a merry go round. Only a couple of guys over took me and I was feeling energetic, blatantly ignoring my watch when it beeped randomly.

Near on 8km the route emerges into a ridge-way plateau with views of the camp-site stretching far below. A slight alteration in the course from last year meant we ran down the side of the field and then dropped down to double back on ourselves through the noisy but most encouraging camp-site. Campers cheering us all on with the kids shooting cold water at us all. Much needed in the heat.

The last hill is always a killer, short and sweet but painful at its best and tormentingly tender at its worse. A big ‘Sheffield, Yorkshire’ cheer went up as I was supporting my Sheffield Running Club vest. I gave them a big thumbs up and ran through to the finish to hand over to Dawn waving frantically at me. A positive but very hot first lap. When looking at my lap times a few days later I came in at 46.00 bang on. Boom boom bang I will take that. The cake awaits…

Happiness is cake

After milling around for a few hours, checking the oven like tent and melted jelly babies, drinking copious amounts of chocolate milk and eating my body weight in cake, I was soon back on the the course. It was just before 6pm and in also time for the Conti Climb – a timed competition of a 100m climb to see who could run up it as fast as possible. Even though it was nearly 6pm it was still as hot and road shoes, shorts and vest were still a must as runners continued to run round in circles in the burning heat. I was still feeling capable of getting round again in a relaxed sort of way. I was comfortable with my pace if not more so than the previous lap. I blame the cake. I Stopped properly for a drink before the Conti Climb then giving everything I could from the chip start to the chip end Racing up the Conti Climb as best I could – result 107th out of over 500 runners.

When you have the enthusiasm and the passion, you end up figuring how to excel. – Deena Kastor

Catching my breath at the top I ran through the much rewarded cool woodlands and back out to the sweltering heat still feeling the love. Once again the kids were out in full force squirting water on request. I handed over promptly to Sue who would start her double lap with head torch in tact – mandatory after 8pm at night.

I will have my cake and eat it

Refueling was key, and I used this window of opportunity to eat more cake and get my calf’s bashed out in the massage tent. Massage was donation only, give as much or as little as you want but be kind to the massage guys who were on a 24 hour mission to repeat the same conversations over and over again to all runners. I had to wait around 45 minutes for my session so it gave me chance to wander about on my own in my own little head space and bump into random people that I knew from other camps and races. It was great to see the Long Eaton Running Club guys, ex flatmates’ brothers girlfriend and a number of twitter followers. This was just one humongous outstanding social running event.

Rumour had it from fellow twitter followers that the ‘Cake Fuelled Sheffield Running Club Girls’ were in first place but only by a small margin. I didn’t really want to know, I didn’t want the pressure I just wanted to run at this stage in the ‘game’. Obviously it was time for more cake. It’s amazing how time passes when you are having fun and eating too much cake.

After the massage it was past 8pm which meant Sue would be back soon and Jenny would be on her double lap. As dusk turned into dark, there was just enough time for some proper food which of course involved cake but also cold potatoes, cupasoup and a tin of tuna washed down with scrummy desert – Jenny Jack and Wesson Jack, a.k.a. cake.

I really like running because I really like cake

With enough planned time to digest the food and have a ‘nice cup of tea’ and some more cake I took the opportunity to relax. Dark clouds however were looming up yonder, threatening the potential of rain. Thank goodness for Sue’s awesome gazebo, possibly the best thing about our camp. The raindrops gently began to patter down onto the outer of the tent shells. I re-adjusted my tent not wanting a repeat of a flooded tent last year. The rain passed somewhat and soon it was time again to venture out into the darkness with head torch in tact. It was still very clammy, everyone was running in t-shirt and shorts, no need for winter thermals just yet.

Keep calm I am going for a midnight run

Jenny came through and off I went, my torch instantly doing a fine job. The light shimmering around my running space creating a delicate mist of haze just in front of me. Priceless. The luminosity of the night glaze filtered through the gaps in the trees. I thought the woodlands would be hard but the torch did the running and my legs followed like on a lead. Savouring every step I whizzed past many struggling with their small beams of life on their heads. This was worth the investment triple fold, bye bye cheap petzel of last year, hello world of LED sensor. Somewhere on the course I think I said hi to Kate within the first 1km who had just started off before me, and scurried onwards. This ‘hi’ could have been on this lap, my second night lap or even one of my later ones, I know I said hi to someone who looked like Kate, I hope it was Kate and I wasn’t dreaming.

On parts that I dreaded last year I was indulging on this year, relaxed and in fruition as I jumped over the tree stumps and hopped through the wild grass. I was in high spirits. Even in the wiggly world of the woods at 7km I had stars in my eyes, my torch doing the work my feet merely following. The exhilaration of the night woods charged me with even more energy. I bounded out onto the ridge-way and down the banking feeling energetic for a midnight run, but also being aware this was my double lap and I didn’t want to over do it. According to my lap times I had banged on 50.01 minutes for my first night run as I ran through the start finish for my second lap.

A run begins the moment you forget you are running. – Adidas

Just before the first climb I could hear breathing behind me turned round to see a guy just by the side of me, ‘do you want to get passed’ I asked politely, ‘Thanks he replied, as he took the leading role up the dark hill. He was going to become my best friend for the next 50 minutes. We ran almost together through the first wooded section following taking it in turns to take the lead.

We reappeared out into one of the wider open spaces and started chatting about last years’ event. The mud, the carnage and the night runs taking nearly twice as long. Both of us chasing each other up the hills and round the tracks following each other, feeling confident and relishing the challenge of keeping up with my newly found friend. 7km in and we were still both running strongly together, working off each other like you do at 1am in the morning. 8km in, 9km in, we were the night partners in crime, right to the very finish. What a lap. Only half a minute slower than my previous lap at 50.32. I would take that given it was my double. I handed over to Dawn for her first ever solo night run and shook hands with my dark mysterious night partner thanking him for a fantastic night. Running just doesn’t get better than this.

While you were sleeping I was running

On a midnight runners high I walked back to camp excited that I had overcome my night fear of running, having the adventure of my 12 miles life. So what do you eat after a 12 mile run at 1am in the morning? Cake only knows. So I had cake, some chocolate milk and probably something else then decided it was time to retreat to my little tent. But alas I tried to get some sleep but I was so restless and high on night time endorphins it was impossible to sleep. I heard voices outside and joined a couple of the others who were up ready to run. A cup of tea and some Jenny Jack at 1.30am went down a treat. More cake. Of course.

While you were sleeping I was eating cake

Working out who was next on was a challenge as everyone else was asleep, so after nudging Sue to ensure she was ready to run I went on my way to my tent to try and put those endorphins to sleep. The phone was set for 3.30am, giving me enough time to get up come round refuel with cake and run again.

Cake is the answer no matter the question

Although I had set my phone alarm I didn’t need it as I awoke restlessly at around 3.20 after less than an hours light rest. Emerging from my little green tent people were still milling around the camp area either having just come back from a run or getting ready to run again. Back down to the start I pondered legs feeling fine, head feeling fine, just a little weary eyed but all fine. And the weather was fine too. Such a fine day. Today is going to be a fine day too.

The fresh morning air makes you feel like every day is full of possibility – Morning Runs

Heading back out on course, the early morning light was just seeping through to create what would be a very bright day. The woods were still dark but far from lonesome. Now knowing every knick knack and cranny the run felt fluid although I had no ‘friend’ with me this time.

Through the camp-site once again I went, now a very familiar sight but baked in silent sleepers, the only sound of running shoes pounding the grassy course. Through the second woodland in what could be described as dusky dark I shot. It was getting lighter but the run was quite arduous on the eyes, moving in and out of the woodlands having to adjust to the light each time. The darkness of the wiggly section 7km in felt more challenging than last time and torch light was still needed.

When the going gets tough…the tough eat cakes!

The 8km sign was a gracious light infested array of wonderness. Shining in the distance whilst I ran onto the ridgeway and there I saw the other team member Alexa looking strong. Off came the headtorch as the world was now in fresh daylight. I passed Alexa wishing her luck and powered down the banking back round the camp-site still silent. Before I knew it I was on the last 1km home stretch but alas also in need of the toilet. So run I did, whether that was to the finish or to the toilet only my inner poo will know but I made it again in under 50 minutes.

Back at the start/finish area I began to feel queasy. I wasn’t sure what I wanted, I needed to refuel but probably something other than cake. After a much needed toilet stop at the posher loos, I made way way back to camp and began to munch on some jenny jack. Thank goodness that our camp was just behind the loo’s as I had to rush off to do what I needed to do. I came back to camp then only 5 minutes later I was back at the poo poo loos which thank goodness they were still clean and full of fresh toilet roll. Until I had done what I needed to do.

Listen to your inner Poo it knows best.

I had very much run-down my insides and began to feel woozy again. Not wanting to repeat an episode of crazy pooness of a few years ago at Spooky Sprint 10km where I was rather ill, I forced a porridge pot down me very slowly and gently sipped on a cup of tea. Before I had time for another poo stop I was back on. It was around 8.30am.

We had overestimated our times and as a result had to reschedule our start times, which put us in a rather fortunate positive position. An obligatory stop at the posh a loos was a must before I started on my 60k’er lap. I lined up with 10 minutes to spare but then I needed to dash to the posh a loo again. I was afraid I would miss incoming team mate but needed to go. I pulled my bowels together deciding enough was enough, and I would have to run on runny tummy.

The most powerful lesson you can learn in running? You’re capable of much more than you think. — Amby Burfoot

With the heebie-jeebies in tact off I went. Within the first 1km I had side stitch, feeling my insides rattle about, but I soldiered on, battling the niggles. Mentally this was my hardest lap as I gripped my sides and tried to pretend the stitch would go away. Eventually my head made my legs do the talking and off they went stitch aside lost in the deep woods. Hurrah! Back down the camp-site, it was now full of morning campers cooking breakfasts with delicious smells of bbq’ed sausages, bacon and toast. Up into the woods I went with a few cheers from the guys I was overtaking.

Many runners were now really beginning to take the toll of the mileage in their legs. My legs were feeling strong as I ploughed up the hill with enough strength to avoid any walking. 2 girls shouted at me ‘well done’ and then proceeded with a further comment ‘You look awesome girl’ ‘wow, keep it going, awesome’. I turned round and thanked them with the biggest grin on my face, I felt stable and capable of getting round for the 6th time since midday yesterday. That was one of the nicest complements I had ever had about my running, such few kind words urged me on to chase every other runner around the course.

So I started out the lap feeling rotten, yet I had clawed it back and somehow managed to get through on a 48 and a half minute lap. I was over the moon and proceeded to dance my way back to camp all stitch forgotten wondering how I had just run under 48 and a half minutes off the back of 60km.

The clock isn’t slower; you’re just faster. – Adidas

We had just a few slots left so Sue was on next. We worked out we could squeeze 2 more laps in. The rules were that as long as a team member started before mid-day they could run another lap. The rest of us decided to double up so we would all get an extra run in. First Dawn and Debs with a fantastic sprint finish from Dawn then handing over to myself and Jenny on our final lap – lap 28.

We had heard about an hour previous that we were the leading 5 female team and that other teams were lap(s) behind so this was for shear fun just because we could run we did. We agreed to walk up the hills and run the runnables.

What a magnificent lap, two SRC vested girls surrounded by big cheers most of the way around the course, from those just running around on their last laps too as well as those that had finished and cheering on the last of the us. Around the course we maintained a perfect rhythm together. Mammoth cheers helped us push through the final 1km.

We came to the last hill where fellow runners were now in their abundance cheering us all on. The electrifying support was astronomical. The rest of the team, Dawn, Debs and Sue awaited at the top and joined us as we all merged together to run into the finish. Back around the field we ran together. As the finish came in sight we all joined hands with the biggest grins on our faces, this moment was spine-tingling. This would go down as the most awesome finish of any event I have done as we all crossed the finish line together. We knew we had bagged first female team of 5 with 28 laps, we were 5 very proud and happy Sheffield Running Club Girls – fueled by cake.

Run and be happy

The other club teams had done fantastic. Jason with 13 laps and Carolyn with 11 took away first mixed pair. The other girls team had come 14th out of 28 a tremendous effort as most of the team had not run over 13.1 miles previously. The team of 8 mixed rated in the top 30, a brilliant result for such a challenging category. An explosion of endorphins at its best.

The longer I run, the smaller my problems become.- Adidas


First female team of 5.

Personal Lap times

  • Lap 1 – Around 1.30pm in the afternoon: Lap 3: 00:46:00
  • Lap 2 – Around 6.00pm in the evening: Lap 8: 00:47:32
  • Lap 3 – Around 11.30pm – double lap Lap 14: 00:50:01
  • Lap 4 – Around 12.20am – double lap Lap 15: 00:50:36
  • Lap 5 – Around 3.30am in the morning: Lap 20: 00:49:54
  • Lap 6 – Around 8.30am in the morning: Lap 25: 00:48:38
  • Lap 7 – Around 11.30am walking up the hills: Lap 28: 00:54:42
  • Conti Climb Results: 107 out of over 500

Photos of the event

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