Conti Conti Conti!

You’ve got me running in circles

Each July a rural spot in south Derbyshire hosts the Continental (‘Conti’) Thunder Run, where competitors aim to complete as many laps of a 10km trail course in 24 hours. You enter as either a large or small team, or for those feeling particularly brave, as a pair or even solo. LFR entered a mixed team of 8 – Chris, Dan, Dougie, Emily, Gav (Conti Captain), Kevin, James and Martin – with Matt Ma and partner Mairi entering in the mixed pair category.

What happens next…

The adventure began on Friday lunchtime as Conti Captain (CC) Gav and sidekick Kev secured prime camping realestate in a quiet corner of the campsite, a stones throw from the clean and mostly stench-free toilet block and perfectly placed to cheer team mates on at the 9km marker. Team members arrived thick and fast during the afternoon, and demonstrated superior tent-pitching skills on arrival. Friday afternoon and evening was a relaxed affair involving food, some questionable music ‘entertainment’, the children’s ‘Pyjama run’ (a hit with the Booth family) and general team-bonding activity.

On to the running

Saturday morning 6 brave (foolish?) team members thought the nearby Rosliston Parkrun the perfect warm up activity for the weekend ahead. Dougie (21:07) and Kev (22:07) couldn’t resist gunning it whilst Chris, Dan, Emily, and CC Gav (25:27) had a more relaxed and chatty run. The real highlight of this parkrun detour wasn’t the first-rate volunteers and well-organised event the Derbyshire locals had put on, but CC Gav ‘losing’ his wallet. Cue a sense of panic amongst team members and those back at camp who scrabbled around to find it, only for CC Gav to find it after the run in his glove compartment… (we’re still waiting for those penalty beers CC).

Midday Saturday saw the start of the 24 hour Conti run. CC Gav’s race briefing complete, Emily & Gav’s planning spreadsheet prepped, and team LFR were ready to start. CC Gav took the first leg, positioning himself front and centre under the arch at the start line. The starter’s gun fired, Gav took off and LFR were winning….for the first 200m. Check out the Conti 2023 promo material – LFR will be clearly visible for yet another year!

One lap complete and Gav handed the ‘baton’ (a pretty cheap, increasingly sweaty, rubber wrist band) to Emily. 10km later Emily passed to Chris, then on to Kev, then to Martin, James, Dan and Dougie. LFR sped through the first round of laps with an average time on a hilly 10k course of 51m03s. Enjoying the post-run ‘glow’ of a sunny 10km, team members marveled at (and cheered on) Matt Ma, already at 60kms, and partner Mairi at 20kms. The second round of laps saw evening arrive and darkness descend. Headtorches at the ready, team members set off at unfamiliar running times. Whilst the temperature dipped, the humidity remained and the occasional rain shower provided welcome respite.

As the sun rises

Dawn broke, the team began their third set of laps, and Emily and Gavin began number crunching. Teams could complete any lap that started before the midday cutoff. With our predicted times, our last lap would finish at 12:02…could we shave off 3 mins and get one extra lap in before the start line closed?

Firstly it was Dougie at the double completing back to back laps (20km total!), firstly in 49m52s and secondly in 52m04s. Then Gav came round for his fourth lap and the team roared and cheered him on, he was flying. As we walked back to camp, we then realised we had been cheering Gav’s doppelganger and the real CC Gav went by minutes later, unsupported and unloved! Funny in hindsight and we hope he will forgive us.

With most team members finishing their laps ahead of schedule, it meant Martin started the team’s last lap at 11:48… the team had 12 minutes to spare. He set off knowing he just had to finish and could take his time. However, leisurely this lap was not. With the whole team waiting at the penultimate corner to escort Martin the final 300m to cross the finish line as one, Martin put in a sprint leaving team LFR in his wake and struggling to keep up. We just about kept up and an Inst-worthy team photo followed (see below). Over the course of the weekend LFR runners fought off sleep deprivation, rain showers, dodgy stomachs and the odd muscle twinge to complete 27 laps and cover 270km in total. Out of 129 teams, LFR’s team of eight finished a respectable 13th position. Matt and Mairi finished an incredible 3rd place out of 19 teams, having completed 20 laps and 200km!

Teamwork makes the dream work

The real winner from the weekend was teamwork. Running is seldom a team sport and, despite running our laps solo, the sense of comaradery throughout the weekend was incredible. I’ll definitely be back in 2023. A special mention has to go to the cheer squad and support crew:

  • Barbara Addison for the bottomless plates of chilli and nachos as well as recovery bacon butties (now a thing…)
  • Sam Booth for the limitless energy, positivity and volume (just after the 8km marker you could hear Sam cheering your name from across the lake at the 9K marker!)
  • The youth from Team Booth and Team Stenner for the constant entertainment and buffoonery.

By Dan Lovelock