I wasn’t planning on doing the Spitfire Scramble this year but a friend of mine, Helena, signed up forgetting she was busy. Luckily I’m always keen to race and therefore jumped at the chance to join the UKRunChat Team Blue! I ran in the Advent Running team for the Adidas Thunder Run 24 hour team relay so kind of knew what to expect to a certain degree. However this time I was in a team of 8, most of them being strangers apart from knowing some of their Twitter handles.
I packed up basically the same kit I took to TR24 (including tent, Thanks Dave!) and headed for Hornchurch Country Park on Friday evening. I didn’t time it well; I turned up at the campsite/race village around 7ish just as it started to tip it down. The first people I saw were Natasha, Helen, Emma, Laurence (Team Red boo!) and Paul. We had a good chat about our running and how we thought the weekend would go. Once the rain had eased we headed to the UKRunChat area to set up our tents, at this point pretty much everyone had arrived. We all helped each other to get the gazebo (luckily it actually was a gazebo, those of you that read my TR24 post will understand) and tents up, complete with UKRunChat #TeamBlue sign and bunting which me and Ben (@RunnARGHHH) put up with precision. Just a tip for any of you camping and doing a 24 hour team relay in the future, don’t trip up your own team mate with your tents guide ropes! Sarah (@SezSaysStuff) had a stylish fall that Ben (cause of the trip) rated 8.8, it was impressive. We decided to head to Tesco (other supermarkets are available) to get some energy boosting treats before ordering and collecting Domino’s (other pizza manufacturers are available) pizza. We enjoyed the food and had a good chat about running and various other things, some things you don’t want to know about (mainly runners/Jeffs @UKRunCat crusty & moist feet). I would attach a picture but I don’t want to lose readers!
We decided to hit the hay relatively early given the fact we would only sleep for a couple of hours between 12pm Saturday and 12pm Sunday. On Saturday morning we all chilled out and got food and before you knew it, it was 12pm and Natasha (@NElsdon) was off on the first #TeamBlue lap alongside Laurence for #TeamRed. Having discussed the running order (literally) the previous night Jeff our leader decided on: Natasha, Steve (that’s me), Helen, Paul, Ben, Emma, Sarah, Jeff.
Running order (literally)
Natasha sped round the first lap; it was 12:49 and time for my first lap. I was glad to get going, its weird waiting around for half a day before a race. It was good to get round a lap and learn the ups and downs of the course. Feeling pretty fresh I managed a time of 34:53 even though it was pretty hot. I was happy with the time considering my 10k PB is 35:31 albeit the Spitfire Scramble route was 5.8 miles. A massive motivation to run faster was the fact the sooner you get your lap done the quicker you get to eat and rest up. Also knowing I would only have to do 4 or 5 laps as opposed to the 6 at TR24 I knew I could push the pace and the route had already been described to me as relatively flat.
Setting off on my first lap
The route was a nice cross country route. The first mile was flat so I could get up to speed; the second mile there was a hill to zig-zag up so my pace dropped between miles 2 and 4. The last 1.8 miles were pretty flat and there was a nice section through the trees with a mile to go. The last few hundred metres you got to run around the outside of the campsite which is cool as you get lots of support from various runners and then I was onto the home straight to spot my teammate (Helen @Helen_Ridgway) to hand over the snap band for her to speed off into the distance. I learnt from TR24 that it’s good to keep moving after each lap to loosen up. Between laps one and two Emma’s (@emmah1506) family were on site with a football so we had a kickabout. This was a good way to keep moving and it was fun to mess about with a football for a change. I also prioritised getting in food as soon as possible after each lap, making sure to choose a “meal” high in protein. The catering was good, I opted for a bacon, sausage & egg sarnie for breakfast, pasta and chicken for dinner, tuna jacket potato after my second lap. I felt really well fuelled throughout the whole 24 hours.
I completed my second lap by 8 o’clock. Having warmed up I managed to get round the course in 34:46 knocking a whole 7 seconds off my first lap. I knew I would feel good on the second lap as the same thing happened at TR24, and recently I have done some double and triple run days and always felt better on the last run. I got food, loosened up by walking around a bit and then relaxed in my tent and got an hour or so sleep. This sleep was broken up a bit due to other runners out on the course shouting for their teammates to get ready to be tagged in. It was a bit over the top in some cases as I could hear a runner that had just entered the camp site and shouted at the top of his lungs “Graham!!!!!” I think all the Grahams in Hornchurch would have pricked their ears up. The time between laps went really quickly because by the time you’ve eaten, caught up with team mates and other teams you’re back out tackling the course. My third lap was at 01:40 and for me the laps in darkness are what the 24 hour events are all about. It makes you feel somewhat hardcore to be shuffling out of your sleeping bag in the early hours of Sunday with your head torch on to get your miles in. My legs were starting to feel heavier but I wanted to get as close to my two previous times. I clocked 36:36, which I thought was pretty good pacing but there were certain sections of the route I had to take steady, for example over small stiles. It also took me a mile or so to loosen up, that much so that when Natasha was handing over to me I took a little longer putting the snap band on as if to say “Do I really have to do this, can’t someone else do this lap!”
After my third lap I wrapped up warm including hat, gloves and compression socks. By this point I was also wearing 2xu calf sleeves on my laps which I find good to aid recovery and stop my muscles from oscillating when on the uneven trails. I got another hour or so of sleep and before I knew it it was 7:15am and time for what I thought was my fourth and final lap. My legs were still feeling really heavy but I managed to beat my lap 3 time. This lap was really nice as it was still cool and the sun was beaming. I pushed the pace and gave it everything presuming I didn’t have another lap to do.
4 laps done, thought that was it!
I handed over to Helen again and she went out and smashed her 4th lap, some seriously good pacing was carried out by Team Blue. Consistency is key in the game of 24 hour relays and because we were all clocking consistent laps we were around 7th/8th in the table out of 42 teams. This featured some really strong teams, lots of them consisting of serious club runners. Natasha, Helen, Paul, Ben, Emma and Jeff all clocked great times on their fourth laps. Emma did her lap in a speedy 48 minutes leaving Jeff with a window of an hour to get round to get me out on the course again. He smashed it getting in around 11:55ish so I headed out again. It was great to know this was definitely the last lap so I pushed the pace again to try and finish in style. I managed my 3rd fastest lap time, 36:15. It was a great lap to do because the organisers had sorted for a spitfire to fly over at 12, I only caught a glimpse of it over the hedges but still got goose-bumps, it was cool. I enjoyed the lap for the last time; I sped down through the trees at around 5 miles appreciating how much fun the whole weekend had been. We all ran into the finish line together mimicking a spitfire. That was the only way to finish the event.
Jeff, Natasha, Helen, Sarah, Emma, Paul, Ben and me aka the awesome Team Blue!
To the teams surprise we finished in 6th place completing 31 laps. It was a great performance by the whole team. It was such an awesome weekend with part of the UKRunChat family and hopefully there will be many more in the not too distant future. Well done to Team red also who finished in a great 17th place. Also happy birthday Jenni (@_jen_mo) what a way to spend your birthday.
I hope those of you that were at the Spitfire Scramble enjoyed it and those of you training or racing elsewhere had a great weekend.
P.s. The photos are courtesy of Jenni and Jeff mostly! However here’s one of mine: