A Brief Experiment in Human Cruelty

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 Thunder Run 2017 can be summed in one 3 letter word.


Mud is a simple word. It is a word we all think we know the meaning of. A word that holds few mysteries for anyone over the age of 6 months who has been allowed to explore the bottom of Auntie Edith's back garden, after a summer down pour whilst at Cousin Dawn's Christening, wearing a new Sunday best outfit that is posh, unisex and very, very white. All under the watchful eye of a responsible adult, who has found themselves in an in-depth conversation will Uncle Allan about City's chances next season, over a bottle or three of brown ale.

There is however more to mud than meets the eye. Or the torso as your left foot sticks in said mud at exactly the same moment as your right foot glides effortless backwards in same.

There have been, I'm sure, a great many ground breaking PhDs written on the subject and I'm sure there are many words of wisdom to be found elsewhere about mud. In that vein and in the hope of furthering human understanding of the predicament we find ourselves in, allow me to share my observations on the subject after 24 hours as part of that human experiment called Thunder Run 2017.

Firstly a bit of background science for those of you not up to speed with the behaviour of mud and other sediments.

The behaviour of a sediment is largely due to the size of the particles, the amount of water and the weight placed on top of it. Interestingly, and despite advertising campaigns to the contrary, it has nothing much to do with the tread pattern on the sole of your £250 running shoe.

You will sort of know that even if you don't know you know it. It is the kind of thing that goes through any reasonably attentive mind whenever you find yourself going beyond the tipping point, the brownish porridge is coming rapidly towards you and you try to remember what they said next in Kung Fu, the 1970's T. V. show, after .. "you must learn how to fall Grasshopper."

Large particles, sand, don't stick together. They are too big for the meniscus to work on each particle. Small particles, clay, do. They form mud.

With small amounts of water, the particles of clay stick. They will stick to anything from the most expensive, brightly coloured lycra running shorts to peanut butter sandwiches, if you are lucky enough to have the ingredients to make such a sandwich.

Two thing can be gleaned from these facts.

One when you fall over, everyone will know exactly on which part of you anatomy you fell and will take the piss accordingly.

Two, great care must be taken protect the peanut butter sandwich and of course other food. Mud has a mind of it's own and will get everywhere. If you want to avoid having a knob of mud with everything, a very strict regime of food hygiene needs to employed. This warning is usually greeted with the same response that the official response to the unusual Thunder Run conditions, "be careful out there", was . It is ignored.

Large amounts of water and the particles simply slide over each other. They become a slurry. If it is deep enough and you want to be melodramatic about it, it becomes quicksand. Yes the sort of stuff that maidens never die in Hollywood adventure films because the grumpy bloke, who drinks too much and you thought was the real baddy, saves her at the cost of his own life ... last shot usually his eyes peeking through the gloopy mess straight at the camera before he sinks, leaving just his hand that grabs at nothingness as it finally sinks into the abyss.

And so on with our experiment.

Take some soil, about 1m wide and 10k long, with a large amount of small particles in it, that has not been rained on for several weeks. Chuck a couple of weeks worth of rainfall on it overnight. Allow it to puddle in various places. It isn't going to soak in anywhere. Then at about 12 noon, send off 600 eager runner with very expensive running shoes on.

At first nothing will happen. There will just be a bit of splashing in puddles and everyone will return with tales of just how easy it all was and the expectations, caused by the last week of doom-ladened weather reports, evaporates with the unexpected and it has to be said, brief, sunshine.

Continue the experiment. Approximately every hour, send out another 600 pairs of eager feet to help pound the surface lying water into the first layer of the soil. It does start to get a bit muddy in places but nothing much to worry about.

Turn on the water again and leave it on for the next 16 hours.

Keep applying the feet at approximately the same rate.

Now it starts to get interesting.

The top layer of the soil on the first climb up to the woods, is now a slurry. The layer underneath is merely a bit slippy. The up shot of this is your very expensive running shoe easily copes with the first layer, only to start playing at silly buggers with the second layer of the mud, like it wants to have a go at ice dancing but doesn't really know the moves and hasn't finished negotiations with your left foot or indeed, you, on the matter.

Keep the water going and the feet pounding.

The feet may not be an efficient means of mixing water and soil but given time it will be effective.

Now, just for good measure, turn off all the lights and continue the experiment in the dark. This doesn't actually do anything to the soil/water mixing process but it adds a large chunk of nervous apprehension to the competitors, which in turn increases the amusement levels for those observing the experiment.

By now, what was the easier second half of the course, is as bad as the first half. Actually much worse because of the exposed tree roots everywhere, and the first half has become strangely easy. It seems the second layer of gloop has now become slurry as well and once again the running shoes are performing up to the claims of the manufactures as they slide through 2 layers of water logged slurry to the as yet still firm layer beneath.

At about 7 a.m. turn off the water and bring out a large heat source to start drying everything out.

You will be surprised just how quickly mud will dry out.

Slurry quickly turns back to gloop, gloop to sticky glop and glop to clagging slime.

By the last lap you should have the final result of the experiment.

An entire 10k course that is almost completely unrunable. Any attempt to do so would be to open up, with free will and malice afore thought, negotiations with your boss around you having extended sick leave or at least working from home for the next 3 months in traction.

They refer to the Tunder Run course as a technical trail run. This is probably what they mean

Thunder Run 2017

 Thunder Run is a 24 hour trail relay race consisting of 10k laps around Catton Park, on the Derbyshire/Staffordshire border.

Guy will be running this gruelling race to raise funds for Hothouse Theatre's 2017-18 theatre season.

Guy will be running in a team of 8. The aim is to do 3 laps each over the 24 hours of the race.

"Last year I got 1.5k into my second lap at 1:30 a.m. before 'finding' a pot hole, doing my ankle in, and hobbling the rest of the lap. Before settling down by the campfire and 'red wining' with the emphasis on 'whining' my way through the rest of the event.

This year I have a date with the 1:30 shift!" - Guy

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Oh My Nottz is a HotHouse Theatre production. Co. No. 6505843 Charity No. 1154523. Tel 07963020259 email website