20 July 2019
The rain held off for parkrun but, by the time we got back to Catton Park it looked as if the clouds were gathering. This was not good news for the Thunder Runners or for Kim and I who’d been planning to walk a couple of laps of the course for our Clarendon training.
It was still dry when midday came around and the twenty four hours of running began but the sky told us the rain would fall sooner or later. Rob and Commando set off in good spirits all the same. They were still adamant they weren’t going to take things too seriously this year. They swore there would be no back to back laps and no running all through the night. Kim and I weren’t convinced, we’d heard it all before. Once they got going we were sure they’d get caught up in the atmosphere and just keep going.
We saw them pass by at the beginning of their first lap looking happy and confident. We cheered them until they were out of sight then we sat in the gazebo and looked at the sky. We were both itching to get out on the course ourselves and start walking our two laps but, as were weren’t official Thunder Runners, we knew we’d have to wait until the fanfare of the first lap was over.
We expected them back within the hour but one o’clock came and there was no sign of them. Time passed and we began to get a little concerned. By ten past one we were standing at the barrier scanning the runners in the distance trying to spot them. Almost ten minutes later they finally appeared. Rob looked as if he was limping and Commando looked quite pale under his tan.
After they limped back into the camp and sat down they told us the whole sorry tale. They hadn’t got very far when Commando started having stomach issues. In fact, he said his stomach hadn’t felt right when he set off but he thought it was just the usual runners nerves and would settle once he started running. Then, somewhere up in the woods on the technical part of the course, Rob turned his ankle and bruised his foot. Between his foot and Commando’s stomach, they’d ended up walk running the rest of the course.
After we’d got them drinks we left them sitting feeling sorry for themselves and went off to do our laps. Of course, as unofficial participants, we couldn’t actually start from the start line and we knew there were parts of the course we wouldn’t be able to walk but we set off with purpose and were both quite looking forward to it. The first part of the course was fairly easy, although the weather was very muggy with the distinct feel of thunder to it. We passed through the campsite and then would up towards the trees.
When we started to climb things began to get tougher. The ground was muddy because of the rain and the first lap of runners had churned it up badly in places. The trail was narrow, steep in places and there were roots and pot holes to negotiate. This wouldn’t have been too bad if we hadn’t had to keep moving to the side to let runners come past. There were several trips and a couple of near misses when one or other of us almost fell. Suddenly two laps didn’t seem like such a good plan, especially as it was only going to get muddier and more churned up.
The views from the top were worth the climb but maybe not a broken ankle. For a while we walked beside fields on fairly flat high ground. It was easier going, at least until we got to the woods where I saw the ghostly mist last year. There were no ghosts this time but the trail narrowed again and we were back to the problem of passing runners and the feeling that we were going to get thrown off the course at any moment.
It was quite a relief to come out the other side and onto a wider track with no need to keep ducking to the side every few minutes. Now we could relax a bit more and enjoy the walk. We even found a dragonfly in the long grass.
We’d managed to get round a fair bit of the course before our nerve went. When it came to going through the gate and around the lake though, we chickened out. There were just too many runners and too many marshals. To make up the miles we headed across the road towards the car park field where I took so many quiet walks last year.
It might have been quite nice with the river and the swans but the rain chose that moment to start falling. This was no light shower. The heavens opened and within moments Kim and I were both soaked to the skin. My fingers were so wet I couldn’t even open my phone to take photos. We just put our heads down and headed back towards the tent as fast as we could. We fully expected to find that Commando and Rob had gone out on another lap but we found them sitting in the gazebo where we’d left them.
The rain continued for the rest of the day and into the night. None of us moved from the gazebo except to use the portaloos. Rob could barely put any weight on his foot and Commando didn’t want to move to far from the camp loos. It wasn’t the Thunder Run we’d planned but at least we had good company and we made the best of a bad job.
There were no night runs and, even though things had brightened up by morning, the ground was now so churned up none of us felt like going out to try another lap. In the end we just packed up our tents, took our rubbish to the bins and went for one last walk around the stalls. Once Commando and Rob had collected their medals it was time for the long drive home.