It was with some apprehension that I headed for the Adidas Thunder run in July this year. I had volunteered to make up the numbers in an all female team when I saw a friends posting on Facebook asking if anyone would be interested. It was many months later, as the event drew closer that I began to wonder about the wisdom of signing up so readily. This was to be a completely different event from anything I had done before, I was in a team of four with two friends that I had met on a trek in Morocco almost two years earlier and hadn’t met again since.
I arrived the day before the run and was immediately surprised by the scale of the event. I drove round and thanks to text messaging, met up with one of my friends who had arrived just before me and selected a pitch for our camp. Unfortunately it was raining heavily as we set up a ‘team tent’ for shelter whilst, eating, socialising etc and our individual sleeping tents around it. By morning the rain had stopped and we were able to have a wander round the site and take in the scale of the event.
The race started at mid-day and I was runner three of our four runner team, I was very nervous as I waited for my turn to run the 10k off road route round the event site and surrounding park-land. When the time came, the hand over went smoothly and I set off determined to run it as if I was on a training run, keeping to a trot, knowing that I had another four or five laps to complete over the next 24hours. The run itself was more enjoyable than expected, very muddy early on and then in and out of woodland and fairly flat. Whilst there were a lot of people on the course, it didn’t feel overly crowded and mostly people were good at letting others past and being encouraging and polite, and support as we passed the camping areas was great.
The relay went on, and we each ran a lap roughly every 3.5 hours – my favourite lap started at approximately 3.30am, I came out of the woods, on to the ridge at approximately the 8k mark, just as dawn broke so I enjoyed the dawn chorus and soft morning sunlight as I ran down the hill and round the lake before heading back in to the camp, up, round and down to the handover.
It became apparent that once we had completed 5 laps each there was going to be time for one more before the mid-day cut-off. Not all the team were up for doing a sixth lap, so I volunteered along with one of the Morocco friends and we headed off on the last lap together. By this time the rain had started again and the mud was building up. The remaining two team members met us at the finish and we ran down the home-straight together.
After the run we headed back to camp, wet and muddy, in the now horizontal rain, to get all the gear packed up and to head home! The whole event had been very well organised making it enjoyable to be part of. I had a great weekend and enjoyed catching up with friends and making new ones. 'Go Team Toubkal!'
Marianne Heading discovered winter endurance racing in 2007, while working as a volunteer for the Yukon Arctic Ultra. This experience inspired her to take up running and go back to the Yukon as a competitor. Since 2007 she has been back to the YAU multiple times, completing both the 100 and 300mile races, in 2011 she became the first European female to complete the 300mile YAU and in 2019 won the 300mile MYUA. Events are not a very regular feature, but other races include the Semi-Raid Reunion, Roveaneimi150, ITI350, Karwendelmarsch and closer to home the Four Inns, the Druids Challenge, Equinox24, run to the castle, Hardmoors55. Being outdoors and enjoying the countryside and wildlife are a higher priority than being fast... luckily! Training runs and walks are often prolonged by a break to watch wildlife and take in the surroundings!