Spitfire Scramble: A guest Race Blog

There’s nothing better than accomplishing something as a team.

This blog comes from a friend of mine who recently completed a 24 hour endurance running raced, titled the Spitfire Scramble. Here's his take on the event and valuable lessons learnt.

I’ve no idea how it happened, but somehow I had joined a team and entered the Spitfire Scramble 2018.  The Spitfire scramble is a 24 hour relay event, where teams of 2, 5 or 8 complete as many 10k loops of Hornchurch country park as they can in a 24 hour period.  There’s also a solo category reserved for the clinically insane, more about that later.  

I arrived to a large camping area with a festival feel, everyone pitching tents, erecting gazebos to avoid the sun and a general buzz of pre-race energy.  Some of the more prominent running clubs had reserved areas, had flags, massage tables, event t-shirts and looked very organised. As a team of 4 we all pitched together and formulated a rough plan -  Aim to complete each lap in an hour, meaning we’ll run 6 each in total.  In hindsight, planning is the key to an event like this and our hastily assembled “plan” was not much more than following the rules of the event and could have been improved on by a bunch of 5 year-olds. 

At midday the race began and our first man headed off out the field and towards the lake.  The 5.8 mile lap is a figure of 8 loop, following mantled paths, gravel tracks and footpaths.  At just over ½ way it passes back through the campsite, before heading up to Ingrebourne hill and the final decent to the finish.   The section back though the campsite was an alteration from last year’s route and gives those running a huge boost as they are cheered by everyone on the site, it also gave a good gauge of how fast your teammate was running, allowing us to predict when to be waiting at the finish line for the next runner to start.   For the first few hours the event falls into a steady rhythm,  there is plenty of time to cheer through the runners, chat to fellow competitors and enjoy the sunshine, but don’t be fooled, the “lovely sunshine” is an energy zapping killer, this is an endurance event. 

As the evening draws in, the tempo slows, the few hours between runs, which previously seemed so long, are now just enough time to eat, re-hydrate, stretch and change into fresh kit.   My first 2 runs in the heat of the day had been pretty much solo efforts with the odd words of encouragement exchanged between runners as we passed.  By evening the fatigue had started to set in,  passing words of encouragement also implied a sense of achievement and admiration, as the sun dropped out the sky the temperature dropped - I finally felt able to complete my first lap without resorting to walking.  The night runs are quite, except for the noise of tipsy local teenagers hanging out on a Saturday night.   A head torch is a must for any runner leaving for a lap after 8pm and the route is littered with glow sticks to show the way.  It’s worth slowing down at night as the tree root and even the odd large stone can trip up tired legs as you shuffle along.   As a team we evolved a strategy; finish a lap, hand over to the next runner, return to our camp, change and refuel then wake up the next guy ready for his run before trying to get a couple of hours sleep ourselves. 

Sunrise on Sunday lifted energy levels, I jogged round my early morning lap with a fellow competitor, chatting events, training runs and multi sport. We weren’t fast, but the time seemed to pass quickly.  Others had taken to pairing up as well, spurring each other on.  By this point, for those preparing to run a lap, the short walk from tent, to portaloo, to start line was now a long hobble.  Runners gingerly stretching their tight muscles, slowly preparing to run again. 

We had calculated as a team that as we were averaging under 60 mins for a lap we could get in one more lap as a team.  10 seconds is all it took for us all to politely decline the golden opportunity, although some responses were less polite than others!  I crossed the finish line in 23:56:47 and was met the rest of the team.  Together, exhausted, dusty and smelly from the last 24 hours we picked up our medals, had an obligatory team photo taken, then limped back to the tents to dismantle the camp and drive home for a well needed shower. 

Hind sight is a wonderful thing, here’s what I learnt from this endurance event.

  • Clean kit every run is a must.
  • Stay in the shade where possible and rest.
  • 2 hours isn’t enough sleep!
  • Planning needs to include logistics like food and shared kit, not just who will run in which order.

There’s nothing better than accomplishing something as a team, and If you are looking for a challenge - sign up for the 2019 spitfire scramble. Thanks to the Spitfire team for putting on a great event.

 

Just one final word about the “clinically insane” solo runners. The top solo clocked up over 120 miles.  Whatever their strategy, however they divided their 24 hours up; that’s an amazing achievement. Kudos to them and all the other solos out there!