About 6 months ago I entered the Conti Lightning Run, as a solo runner. Did not think it through, just hit enter. I also suggested Rose put together a 5 person team from Doncaster AC.
For me, it was about seeing how much about running is psychological as I had no intention of doing massive mileage to train for it. I had been doing some long runs with some of DAC’s marathon training team (probably 20 miles was the longest a bit slower than 7 minute miles) and I raced the East Hull 20 hitting average pace of 6:24 minute miles. That was quite a few weeks ago, I usually run between 30 and 40 miles a week and I try to race every week.
Lightning run was my 20th race of 2015 and 9 of those races have been PB’s, from 5 miles to half marathons on tough courses. I always give 100% at races, I see them as an essential part of my training complimenting the interval training I do on Thursdays. I always race to pace with a realistic target time in mind.
I longest I have ever run in one go is the Marathon (which is also also a psychological test for the last 8 miles) and I have done 3, all getting quicker and all under 3 hours:
2011 Chester – 2:59:23 (target was to go under 3 hours)
2013 London – 2:58:53 (target was 2:55 but was quite ill through the 3 weeks before)
2014 Chesterfield – 2:54:53 (target was 6:30 minute miles, could not do it on the day, I did loose a minute due to a bad fall)
I have also done Thunder Run twice, in a team of 8 and a team of 5, I did 5 laps as part of the team of 5 which was about 30 miles in 24 hours but with a few hours rest between each leg..
I listened to people who had done this type of thing before, Claire Spencer, Kevin Doyle and Jim Fletcher. Walk up the hills, plan the nutrition and its a very psychological thing to run an ultra.
We started at parkrun as usual watching, supporting and photographing the runners. We then had a breakfast in the parks cafe, good food highly recommended. I went for a sausage sandwich with onion and mushroom, this was to keep us going until the evening. We then traveled down to Catton Park, Derbyshire and got our tents up and started soaking up the atmosphere and having a laugh. I camped with the masses, not in the solo camping area so I could be with the team The rain started at about 3pm and was on and off in to the evening and then continuations over night.
For tea I had a jacket potato with meat balls, yum yum and a chocolate covered flap jack.
I picked up my goodie bag, it had a nice t-shirt, a 500ml reusable branded bottle and a packet of plasters lol.
Doncaster AC’s team of 5 agreed the running order and this was to be Marie, Rose, Alan, Sharon and Janet (I think). I had a quick chat with Marie about the plans for the morning and set my alarm for 4:30am on a bank holiday weekend Sunday!
Did not sleep very well and come 4:30am I woke up to the sound of heavy rain. I quickly got dressed, I had already decided to run in leggings, a t-shirt with my DAC vest on top. I had anticipated rain and had my £5 waterproof Go Out Doors top and my £5 waterproof Aldi trousers.
I spent 4:45 till 5:20 in the catering tent with some lovely people, I had porridge, a large chocolate muffin and an Americano drink.
I was a self sufficient solo runner with no team support, I just filled up a plastic bag with 4 x sports drinks, 4 x bottled water, 3 x energy gels and 6 x “healthy” bars of fruit and nuts (different brands). The bag was put against the fence in the solo area. I had already decided to have a rest after each lap to have a drink, a snack and use the toilets. I ran with a small bag on my waste which had gel and sweets in.
Just before 6am we all assembled on the start, I was towards the back, the race director counted us down and off we went.
I was running in trail shoes, my 3 year old trusty Mizuno Wave Harrier’s, I really wanted to run in road shoes and if it had been dry I would have. I have had a painful right foot for a few months and this caused me to worry about wearing trail shoes as I thought the pain would get very intense, as it happened it only hurt for the first 2 miles.
I ran very steady and after lap 1 was completed I decided to remove my waterproof kit as I was getting warm. I liked the course, if it had not descended to a mud bath it would have been great.
Lap 2 was easy, the ground was not too muddy yet, and I spotted my wife Rose at 9km, she was completing the teams second lap. We ran over the finish together and I had a short comfort break. I now walked the 2 worse on each laps, on later laps I walked the majority of the climbs.
Lap 3 was fairly easy but a long length of the course, perhaps 1.5 miles was quickly becoming thick clayey mud on steep hills, bad cambers and basically you had to walk lots of these sections, you will see from the mile splits the pace typically varied from 12 minutes to 18 minutes on the very difficult areas. This mud stuck to the trail shoes making the grips ineffective and making the shoes heavy. Everyone fell down in the mud.
My hips were starting to ache a bit.
I became aware of my position as a solo man, I was currently in 5th place and feeling pretty good.
I continued taking rest breaks each lap, looking forward to my nutty bars.
At 9am, on my 4th lap I thought I am a quarter of the way through this, things are going ok and although I am feeling a bit tired I had run for 19 miles at that point so that was to be expected. It then hit me that if I was running thunder run solo I would only be an eighth of the way through, no chance I am doing TR24 solo.
The rain stopped on my 4th lap and it did not start again, this was good as I was able to see through dry glasses, but the muddy ground got a lot worse though. It started to dry out at about 4pm but that was no good to me by then.
By 10am I started to think about what to do about food, and as I finished by 5th lap I went to the catering tent, got some soup, snickers bars and some coffee. Had a break whilst I enjoyed the soup and coffee, put the snickers bars in my bag and set off again.
On every lap I would come close to injury, as you get tired it gets harder to prevent minor slips becoming major slips or you might hit a root or a hole and almost sprain an ankle. I was told I was actually in 4th place on my 5th lap.
I completed my 6th lap at 12:02. This was my first milestone, I was now an ultra runner.
I had 6 hours to go and I was confident I could get another 4 laps in before 6pm, so I was thinking I might do 11 laps. Don’t get me wrong, I was really struggling but just keep going, nice and steady and the time will pass. Time had become a blur a long time ago.
I was slowing down big time, perhaps 80 minute laps and the mud was killing me. Whilst running my 8th lap I decided that I was not going to do the 11th lap unless I was going to finish in the top 3.
On one of the later laps my right foot found a hole and although at the time I did not feel like I strained anything I had big problems on lap 9. I ran dead steady walking a lot, got to the drink station had a rest, chatted to a lady who got me going again, at about 4 miles in to this lap I felt pain in my left ankle and stopped / walked / stretched. Whenever I started to jog pain came back. I was out. I walked the rest of the course but I had to jog the last 100m because people were shouting. The support for solo runners was amazing.
I think the time was 4:30pm so I could have walked another lap but I had no desire left to do so and I was thinking about not wanting to become injured. I finished as 7th solo man out of 54.
Our team of 5 had a great time, finishing in 7th place overall with 13 laps completed!
We had the most amazing BBQ in the evening, thanks to the Carsons for this.
Sharon said “just want to say mine n Allan’s first experience at this kind of race and the way the team came together and we were made to feel so welcome and comfortable for newbies was great. Fun camping and bbq would highly recommend. Hard conditions with rain n mud but made for a great experience all round”
My lap times are below:
My mile splits are below (they are not correct, the distance should be 53 miles), the new garmin has gone back.
|Splits||Time||Cumulative Time||Moving Time||Distance||Elev Gain||Elev Loss||Avg Pace||Avg Moving Pace||Best Pace||Avg Run Cadence||Max Run Cadence|