The decision was probably made individually much earlier, but the team agreement was made on Facebook the Monday after Thunder Run 2014…we were going back and this time we meant business.
So it was that I once again found myself bleary eyed at midnight, confused by simultaneous alarms and hauling the laptop in to bed with me. The hopes (and cash) of a team of 7 rested with me, but ten minutes of inconvenience was a small price to pay for what we were looking forward to… The memory of the next 4 hours will live long, I just hope I can blot it out when we’re setting up camp in Catton Park next July and not let it taint what promises to be another excellent weekend.
I was expecting a bit of F5 fever, knowing the team places sell out in hours it was likely to take a few minutes to get my place in the booking queue. After twenty minutes of constant refreshing I started to get a little concerned, and turned to Facebook for solace. What I found was a Thunder Run page with over 200 comments already from people who had enjoyed better luck than me, only to be booted out of the booking process at various points. It seemed no one was successfully entering the event! Now the fear started to build, and it was twofold…not only was I not making any progress but I could see the numbers of people trying and new it was a straight shoot out for the limited team places available.
The next two hours saw frantic opening of new browser windows, across Google Chrome and IE and using both on my phone as well…that’s 4 portals each with numerous pages being refreshed regularly, I could have beaten the world record for contracting Repetitive Strain Injury! I had some luck, although I never got as far as the payment screen which had proved the final resting place of many entrants dreams I had been given the faint hope of inputting my team details several times. Sometimes it even let me get all the names in before it inexplicably kicked me out.
Meanwhile the Facebook comments multiplied, the crowd turned hostile, the vitriol poured out as everyone from Pat the organiser (one of the nicest men you will ever meet and definitely NOT to blame) and FR Systems (the booking agent, who very clearly should shoulder the blame) was made a scapegoat. There was mention of multiple card payments, simultaneous entries and still the ever present agony of being booted out before completing your booking.
And then, around 2:30am, someone somewhere flicked the “fix it” switch and suddenly the website worked. I flew through the pages in record time (admittedly by this point I’d given up entering team mates details, we all shared one birthday, one phone number, some of my oldest friends didn’t even have names spelt correctly) but finally I had made it to the payment page. My troubles were over…
There are obvious issues inherent with opening registration for a hugely popular event at midnight on a Tuesday. Put aside for a moment the obvious inconvenience of having to be up and online at that time, we can even put aside the wasted hours of IT issues from last night, but one unforeseen problem with the late start I didn’t expect? Mastercard don’t like accepting transactions for hundreds of pounds originating from a Dutch company at 3am. In fact they hate it, because it appears fraudulent, so they block your card to keep you safe. Payment denied.
I’m not a rich man. My team mates had been very good at getting the money to me early so I could make sure the balance was there on the card ready to go…so I was frantic when the card was declined and I think the chap I spoke to at Mastercard realised this the moment I actually screamed at him in frustration. They would lift the block, no problem, just wait up to 24 hours…
Waiting a day clearly wasn’t an option. With entries now flying in successfully our place was far from assured and so some money management Gordon Gecko would have been proud of followed. Balances were moved, phone calls to Barclays made, call centre operatives in Mumbai told exactly what I thought of their policies regarding my money…but eventually, at 3:14am, I had gathered enough cash together in one place to cover the transaction. We were in.
The number of flaws in this process is staggering, for an event of this size, using a booking agent of FR Systems experience and backed by a sporting giant like adidas the whole thing was a shambles, and as it stands at 11:32am the following morning, hours after their respective offices will have opened for business, there has been no comment or apology from anyone.
I’m sure the weekend in July 2015 will be brilliant, and for my team mates it will be just as sweet as last year. But for me there will always be a sour after taste associated with Thunder Run from this day forward.
One small fillip from last night is that, whilst I was experience a single sleepless night, my team mate was becoming father to a beautiful daughter and as a result may never sleep again. Guess I got off lightly! Congratulations to the Foster Four, big love. x