Report by Peter Johnston
It’s getting increasingly rare that there’s something that is a completely new challenge for me, but as I entered Lap 15 and the 88th mile of the 2021 Thunder Run, that’s exactly what was happening.
In 2019, I entered this event, hosted in Catton Park near Burton, with an aim to run 100 miles in the 24 hour time-limit. Sadly, a combination of injury, over-eating and general lack of fitness meant that I went into it with a more modest target of 100km instead. Back in 2019, I completed the 100km at about 2.30am (the race runs between midday on Saturday to midday on Sunday) and then lay down. Having not slept for nearly 4 hours, I got back up again and got on with it, eventually completing 14 laps (87 miles) of the 10k off-road, undulating course.
Since the 2019 event, I’ve regretted those 4 hours as I probably could have walked the 13 miles needed for the ‘holy grail’ of 100 miles, so I entered again as soon as I could. Of course, 2020 didn’t happen, and so I found myself back on the start line for the 2021 edition. This time, the longest ‘break’ was 15 minutes and I ploughed on through the night, reaching 100km well before midnight and then getting the 100 miles at about 8.30am. During the night, I had gone from 7th place to 4th and then 3rd, but by the time I got to 100 miles, I’d managed to get into 2nd place! This is a race all about distance rather than speed, so for someone who has never troubled a podium before, this was all quite exciting!
By the time I crossed the line after Lap 18, I knew that even if I did a 19th lap, it would be slower than the eventual winner as he was already out on that lap. Fortunately, 3rd and 4th place couldn’t get round in time to do 18 laps and so, with my 2nd place secure, I decided a 19th lap really wasn’t necessary and that 112 miles would do!! With 8500ft of ascent over a root-laden, uneven course, my feet have never taken such a battering, but to have the 100 mile ‘badge’ it was all worth it.
Now, the question is what challenge comes next?! For the moment, I’ve nothing for me individually, but I’m really hoping to take a Wirksworth team to the event in 2022 so that I don’t have to do all the laps next time!