The aim of the game is simple… Run as many laps as you possibly can over the course of the 24 hour duration. And that can be attacked in teams of 6 to 8 people, 3 to 5 people, pairs or solo.
That was the premise for the Conti Thunder Run which was staged at Catton Park on the Derbyshire/Staffordshire border. The course was a 10km trail route with the event starting at 12 noon on the Saturday and ending at 12 noon the following day.
Emma Caplan arrived with some of her friends from Runderwear and they formed a team of five females, ready to tackle the formidable task ahead in relay fashion.
That meant taking it in turns to complete a lap of the course before passing on the baton to the next person and so on and so forth. Then at the end of the 24 hour period all of the laps would be totted up to work out which team had run the most.
To make it fair, the results are split down by category, so Team Runderwear were up against all the other female teams of 3 to 5 people.
Although there were five runners in the team, the chances were that that they were still going to have to cover a lot of distance over the course of the 24 hours, so it was going to be grueling.
Emma was joined at the event by Vicky Unsworth, Hayley Yellingham, Judy Willits and Betsy Bebbington making up the five members of Team Runderwear and they had Margie Kelly with them for support.
They rocked up to the event in style, travelling in a blue Runderwear minibus. That was a sure sign, if ever there was one, that they meant business.
Vicky Unsworth got the ball rolling for Team Runderwear, getting round in 50:29 before passing the baton over to Betsy Bebbington who came in with a time of 46:04.
Judy Willits took up the third leg, getting round in 56:36 before handing over to Emma for the fourth lap. Emma knew she would have to take it steady and pace herself if she was going to last the duration of the 24 hours.
Recently she’s been doing a lot of training for the Ironman 70.3 in Weymouth in September though so her fitness has been pretty good of late. The Thunder Run was bound to put that to the test though as time went on.
As well as being all off-road, the course was quite undulating, with 450 ft of elevation and very few flat sections along it. It was certainly one that would put the athletes through their paces later on in the event when the legs are starting to tire.
Completing her first lap in 45:54, at an average pace of 7:28 minutes per mile, it was a solid start from Emma and she handed over to Hayley Higham to complete the fifth lap for the team.
They’d all now run one lap each so it was back to Vicky for her second lap. When it came round to Emma for her second lap she kept it very consistent, finishing in 46:05, once again with an average pace of 7:28 for the run.
By the time they did their third runs, all the runners were beginning to tire and as the night was drawing in, that put a different perspective on it.
It was gone 11pm when Emma set off for her third run so she was dealing with the growing fatigue already having 20km in her legs, as well as the darkness which made it much more tricky to see where you were going.
Completing that run in 56:20, it was considerably slower than her other two previous attempts but she’d made it round and that was the important thing at this point, and the Runderwear bus went rolling on.
One of the difficulties with these 24 hour events, as well as the accumulating fatigue from running so many miles, is sleeping. You get very little time to sleep as you know it’s only a matter of time before you have to get up and run again. It really is challenging.
Refueling and getting enough food on board can be quite tricky as well, as you often don’t have a big enough gap between when you’ve finished your run and embarking on your next one.
For her next run, Emma started off the ungodly hour of 4 am!! It must have been difficult to get herself going at that time in the morning and find the energy for another lap, but she did it.
Getting round in 53:45, she successfully completed her fourth lap and passed the baton over to Hayley.
There was still time for Emma to complete one more lap before the event finished and that meant setting off at 9 am for one last blast.
Demonstrating tremendous resolve and digging deep into her reserves, Emma made it through her final 10k in a time of 48:37. That left enough time of Hayley to complete her fifth lap and her Betsy and Judy to run one more each.
It was a fantastic team effort from the Runderwear ladies and they had each managed to keep going amazingly well for the entirety of the event.
The criteria is that if you start a lap before the 24 hours has elapsed you get to finish that lap, so Team Runderwear ended up with a grand total of 27 laps for the duration of the event.
That was enough to see them secure victory in the Female 3 to 5 category, ahead of “Been there Run Bat” who were the runner up with 25 laps. Then it was “SDRR Signed up whilst drunk” who chalked up 24 laps.
The average lap time of Team Runderwear was 54:58, compared to the 58:23 of “Been there Run Bat” and Emma’s first lap time of 45:54 was the fastest that anyone ran in the category.
Covering over 30 miles over the course of the weekend, it was an impressive show of endurance from Emma, as it was from her teammates as well. It was certainly one to look back on with pride.
As well as celebrating great running achievement, these 24 hour events are also about celebrating great camaraderie and team spirit between friends. They show what amazing feats you can accomplish if you have a good team and support network behind you to push you to go the extra mile. Or the extra 30 miles!!