Grantham Running Club had a bumper 33 athletes taking part in this year’s 24h Continental Thunder Run at its regular venue Catton Park, Walton-on-Trent. The Conti Thunder Run (affectionately known as “TR24”) is an off-road 10km relay race against the clock. Renowned for being physically and mentally challenging to competitors whether they’re running solo, in pairs, team of five or large teams of up to eight. Continuously run around the technically demanding cross country route from noon on Saturday through to noon on Sunday.
Grantham Running Club’s Team A, the fastest of their TR24 mixed teams of 8 were hoping to improve on last year’s 5th position. Kicking off with a fast first lap of 43:05 from captain Sam Jepson, they gained a strong position. He handed over to ultra and trail running specialist Jonny Palmer who was making his debut at TR24. Jonny quickly realised how tough the relay event was going to be, clocking a team best time of 39:34. Following on were Andrew Pask, Sam Dodwell, Sarah High, Dean Riggall, Robin Atter and Rori Rodell.
As the team churned out the laps through the night, they were in 4th place, agonisingly close to the prestigious 3rd. In the handover pen early on Sunday morning Jonny Palmer noticed a rival team member from the team above about to start his lap. Setting off 3 mins before Jonny received the baton, there was clearly work to do. Thankfully this game of cat and mouse was something Jonny relished, hunting down and passing his rival with 2 km to go. Handing over to Andrew Pask, Jonny explained “we’re in 3rd, no pressure!”. Running as hard as his tired legs would carry him, Andrew cemented the team’s position and was never passed during his lap.
As the 12:00 cut-off approached, the team began to get tactical. Realising there would be a handover at around 11:15, there was only one man who could guarantee to be back before 12:00. Step forward Jonny Palmer yet again. Now on his 5th lap he ran brilliantly to hand over to Sarah High for the crucial pre-cut off handover. With the team now guaranteed to be in 3rd, Sarah had a free run and was welcomed home by the team on the home straight waving the GRC flag all the way in.
The team’s 3rd place was the highest ever for GRC in its long history in this event.
GRC’s second mixed team of 8 with the simple name of Grantham Running Club 2 completed 25 laps over the 24 hour event. Richard Payne ran the team's first and final completing 4 laps for the team.
Rob Howbrook also completed 4 laps and secured the teams fastest lap in a fantastic 48:05. Peter Jennings, Phil Crowcroft and Marj Spendlow were all first timers at the event, putting in solid performances. Peter and Phil completed 3 speedy laps and Marj completed 2. Following a nasty tumble at 4k on her night lap she made the sensible decision to not go out for a 3rd lap.
Vicki Ball captained the team and was happy to complete 3 laps securing herself a course PB. Trail loving Dale Towning and seasoned Thunder Runner Martin Rodell were able to utilise their experience to produce impressive laps to help the team finish in an impressive 20th place.
GRC fielded another team of 8 which became 7 when Alison Clark was drafted into the D team to substitute for a lost member who had to withdraw before the event.
Captained by Sylv Hull, the team set out with the ambition to achieve 21 laps between them, with everyone hoping to manage 3 loops of the gruelling course. The other main aim was to have as much fun as possible doing it.
First out in the atmospheric mass start at noon was Martin Carter who is coming back to fitness. His next lap was in the evening then he had the delightful timeslot of 3am after which he could fully relax and bask in the glory of a job well done.
Wayne Baxter took the next lap and got better and better as the event went on, thoroughly enjoying the challenge of the night lap in the rain. After struggling with his fitness lately, this was just the kick up the pants he needed, and he did the team proud with his 3 laps.
Naomi Rivers firmly banished any of the disappointment of the 2021 event when she was only able to run one lap due to injury. She was determined to be a valuable team member and delivered in spades, not only racing round the team’s fastest lap but putting in an extra 4th lap at the end. This gave the team the 21-lap target and also pushed their position to a creditable 63rd out of 129 teams.
Zoe Wragg also performed brilliantly, delivering 3 laps and big improvements on the previous year – even though the hills never got any easier.
Kate Marshall employed her ultra-marathon experience to good effect, running two great laps. Unfortunately, a nasty tumble on her night lap in the woods left her with a big knee and some spectacularly appropriate green and black bruises so it was decided caution was the better part of valour and Sylv Hull would take her slot on the Sunday morning.
Sylv massively enjoyed the event, though she was slightly slower than in 2021. The night lap and chasing the ice cream down van were possibly her greatest achievements.
Fraser Marshall set out with the intention to improve on his 2021 performance, and he certainly surpassed himself. Even his 3rd lap, where pace typically slows, was five minutes faster than his fastest 2021 lap, despite being rather battered after stumbling on the notorious tree roots in the woodland section.
The GRC Tigers had a less than ideal start, losing 2 members who had to withdraw before the event. First timer Alison Clark stepped into the breach, moving across from the Pace Cadets. A further disaster befell them on the morning of the event when captain CJ Walker-Lees was called away to o a family emergency. She handed over the responsibility to TR24 novice Julia Hallam who stepped up to the mark, rejigged the running order and rallied the team who were determined to do their best.
Alison Clark, Helen Hillson and Julia Hallam took the reins of the team to organise themselves and to get out to those hills and get running The course was tough from the outset, the first corner presenting a steep trail climb. With GRC club mates encouraging them round at every opportunity, the girls smashed out a lap each; Julia 1:20 mins, Alison 1:13 mins and Helen 1:4 mins. Mark Hillson stepped in, finding his running shoes and running a lap for the depleted but enthusiastic team. Gordon Geach then took to the field to take a lap. Sophie High also joined the effort, going from spectating to running a lap in for the team’s total. Later the girls returned into the darkness for another lap that each found challenging with a few stumbles and trips along the route.
Following the early morning’s rain, the girls once again organised themselves to complete a third lap each. Determined to complete another lap in whatever time it took, they were not going to give in and headed out. With 15 minutes left on the clock, Gordon headed out for his second lap to complete the team’s effort, pushing them up several positions.
The GRC 5 were a small mixed team in a very tough category. Matthew Williamson set them on a course for a good result with an opening lap time of 45:40 which was the team’s fastest lap.
Matt then passed the baton to Catherine Payne who belted round the course in a swift time of 51:33, her first of an impressive 5 laps. Team captain Robert McArdle was up next and completed his first lap in 52 minutes dead and went on to run an awesome 6 laps.
Ben Hatherley and Ben Mason were the next to go round and both ran 5 impressive laps.
The relentless running and consistently strong laps meant that the team racked up an amazing 26 laps between them, resulting in a magnificent 4th place out of 65 teams, a best ever placing for this team.
The weekend was a spectacular success for the club, with amazing camaraderie, banter, team spirit and performances. It’s a firm favourite with members and we can’t wait to go back next year.