The concept is simple, the circuit is 5 miles long and the clock starts at 12:00 Saturday lunchtime when the runners set off to complete as few or many laps of the 5 mile loop as they want to in 24 hours.
You can choose to enter this a solo runner, a pair, a team with 3-5 runners or a team of 5-8 runners.
This is the first time that this event has taken place and many of us have done the Thunder Run a few times which first started in 2009. Anthony and I arrived on Friday afternoon and pitched our tent in the area closest to the start of the course which is specifically for solo or pairs competitors. We then went for a look around to see what the facilities were like and found Richard Hughes already set up. Camping from Friday night to Monday morning is included in the entry, there are portable cabin loos and showers and lots of classy portable loos which contain proper toilets not just basic plastic benches. There was a first aid tent and a few stands where the sponsors were demonstrating and selling headbands, head torches and energy and recovery products. Clearly the best was the catering marquee which sold everything you could want from porridge, cooked all day breakfast, jacket potatoes, chilli, pasta, burgers, steak and onions, pork, chicken to name a few things on the menu as well as tea, instant coffee as well as barista type coffee to drink. These were available Friday night, and then from early Saturday morning until tea time Sunday.
In the event running from Quakers was Anthony Corbett and me (April Corbett), Mark Colling and Richard Hughes as solo runners. Jamie and Claire Norman running as a pair, and then there was the team called the Coffin Dodgers. The team was Wendy Colling, Gill Colling, Phil Rutter, Sandra Cass and Roy Macdougall.
Wendy, Mark, Gill, Phil and Sandra arrived and we all mucked in to help get the tents set up as quickly as possible. There was a bit of an issue when one of the tents had been separated from its poles which were safely stored in the garage back at Darlington but no harm was done and there was enough sleeping space for all. Once this was sorted we all met up in the catering tent for our evening meal which was great and prices were reasonable ranging between about £3 and £6. We bumped into Clare Apps who used to be a Quaker but left about 4 years ago after moving to London when she joined the Fire Brigade.
Saturday morning the camp is buzzing, at 7:00 people are already wandering about in running kit with their numbers pinned to their fronts. At registration you receive your t-shirt and many runners have chosen to wear them, something us Quakers refuse to do until the race is over. The pairs and team have been given a yellow wristband, this is the baton which they must handover to their team mate to start the next lap. Every runner has a chip that is fastened around your ankle with velcro.
As it’s Saturday and parkrun day we had realised that Wetherby was the closest and it wouldn’t be too far to go to fit that into the plan. Most of us decided to be sensible as we had enough miles to be running without adding onto them another three but Phil Rutter, Wendy Colling and Gill Colling decided otherwise and off they went. When they returned they were surprised that their team member Roy Macdougall was still missing. We were all concerned as not arriving really early is unusual for Roy and we were not able to contact him. It was much later in the day when we found out that he had needed a trip to A & E on Saturday morning. Luckily for all, everything was ok.
There was a briefing to all at 11:45 making sure we all know what is happening and what the rules are. 12:00 and we are off, everyone is excited wondering what the course is like. We set off and there is about 200 metres of grass before turning onto a sandy coloured trail path which is actually down hill before turning 90 degrees left into some trees. The course is marked in kilometres which is great and each marker had a motivational comment. At about 2.5km there was a VW Camper van at the bottom of a hill with the biggest speakers you have ever seen kicking out music very loudly. Two marshals were dancing dressed in hawaiian shirts and shorts. There was a water station at 4.5km with flapjack, bloks, water and SOS energy drinks. The supporters could see you running into the finish for almost the last kilometre which helped get you up the hill to the finish. Once at the finish and you cross the chip mat the pairs/teams handover the baton to the next runner, solos make a choice to carry on or stop for some food or rest. I caught up with Anthony and Mark who were doing lap 8 together, when we got to the start line Mark went off to get some food whilst we decided to walk 2 laps with a plan to go to the catering tent for steak and onion baguettes and then have some sleep. It was 01:00 Sunday morning when we were eating them and they tasted so good but after stopping we cooled down and were shivering on the way back to the tent. We slept for longer than we anticipated after getting into the cosy warmth of the sleeping bags and then set off separately to carry on. I caught up to Richard Hughes and walked along for a while chatting about how we were all doing, Anthony then caught up to me and we finished that lap together and decided to continue to run/walk together. Once we had completed another 2 laps we discussed whether to stop and have bacon butties or do another lap. The bacon buttie option won, obviously!
Those of us that had stopped before 12:00 all went to the finish area, Jamie was still out running for the Stormin’ Norman pair and Roy was still out for the coffin dodgers. The rest of the dodgers waited about a 100 metres from the finish with a plan to join Roy so that they all crossed the line together. The plan didn’t quite work out when Roy sprinted off and crossed the line before them.
The trail was not quite what we expected in that it was more like dusty, stony forest drive trails than the usual muddy tree root paths that we are used to so it was a bit hard on your feet after a while.
Once we were all finished we hadn’t back our ankle chips and exchanged them for a super sized medal, we are now able to wear the t-shirts!
This to a lot of people will sound like total madness, the truth of of it is that it is an amazing event. The team camaraderie is excellent, we were all happy to share food, sun cream, make drinks for each other and help in any way we could.
Would I do the event again, of course I will!
Maybe next year we can have a few Quaker teams take part. There is no pressure to run fast or even do many laps, as I said earlier it is entirely up to you whether you do 1 lap or many laps. If you want any more info about the event just ask one of us.
Team Coffin Dodgers completed 30 laps and were 10th out of 32 teams.
Stormin’ Norman pair completed 12 laps and were 9th out of 11 teams.
Male solos, Richard, Anthony and Mark were 32nd, 42nd and 61st out of 75 male solos.
Female solo April was 9th out of 31 female solo runners.
Looking at the pictures taken at the finish I reckon we look pretty good considering we have worked so hard and had very little sleep.