Each year everyone at Ordnance Survey has the chance to nominate, and vote for the corporate charity to support and put all of our fund-raising efforts into. This year we are supporting Southampton Women’s Aid a charity which provides help and assistance to families affected by domestic abuse. We carry out a range of fund-raising activities each year – from cake sales to football tournaments and much more in between.
On the weekend of 26–27 July a team of five, which included four Ordnance Survey runners – Matt White, Viv Alexander, Matt Pillinger and James Clarke – plus James’ wife Vicki, took part in the Adidas Thunder Run 24-hour relay race to raise money for Southampton Women’s Aid. Also with us was ‘team manager’ Dennis Alexander who was to play an invaluable role in keeping us organised and healthy in mind and body over the weekend! The race starts at 12 noon on Saturday and continues through the night with each of the team running 10km laps in turn for 24 hours or until we dropped!
We arrived on the Friday night in searing heat to set up camp for the weekend. Nothing could have prepared us for the sheer number of tents and runners there. At 4 pm when we arrived the campsite was already pretty full – it was like a music festival – only for runners!
We had worked out the running order, however, having never done an event like this before none of us knew just how long we could keep going, and we were all very nervous!
Having registered and got our numbers, timing chips and baton and attending the pre-race briefing, 12 noon on Saturday soon arrived and James was ready on the start line to get us going to a cracking start! The course was described as technical trail which meant that it was hilly (149 metres of ascent on each lap) over grassland, tree routes and track. It started with a hard 2km climb up through woodland and then undulated through grassland and more sections of woodland. There was one water station between 5 and 6km and then a further climb followed by the ‘technical section’ which meant a narrow trail with switchbacks and tree roots galore for about 1km. This was followed by a further climb to a ridge (with views for miles) and then down back through the campsite through grass and trail. It was no easy course and deserved some respect!
It was baking hot and most of us suffered in the heat of the day but on and on we went in turn, settling into a run, eat, rest, run pattern, with day turning to night and unbearably hot turning to showers overnight. During the day we were happily being blasted by super-soakers to get cool but getting wet at night was not so much fun when there was no way to dry off!
It was such an amazing experience to run at night through the countryside with a head torch and to see the continuous stream of head torch lights all night as teams continued to run non-stop. The campsite became a different quiet place with people trying to catch a few hours sleep between runs. It was challenging due to the tree roots and I tried to stick with a group in these sections for maximum light but some periods I was completely alone and that was pretty fabulous too!
However, after getting rained on at one in the morning, going back to the tent to refuel, clean up and get some sleep, I reached a low point at 3.40 am when getting up after an hours sleep with still wet hair to get ready for the next lap – I really did think ‘What am I doing? This is mad!’
But the highlights more than made up for this. For instance, being out running just after sun rise and climbing the final ridge to see the amazing view as everything was just waking up – awesome!
Other highlights included the fabulous support from spectators, having chats with other runners on course and hearing their stories, seeing the amazing solo runners who just kept going and going and our team which was amazingly supportive of each other. Every member of the team pushed themselves way beyond anything they had previously done.
In the end we ran 250km (25 laps) in 24 hours and 9 minutes and team Ordnance Survey came 22nd out of 69 teams in our particular category which was brilliant!
One thing that that kept us going during the challenge was the amount of money we want to raise to help Southampton Women’s Aid in the work they do to support families affected by domestic abuse and it was fantastic to be able to raise money to support them.