Otherwise known as, “I spent 24 hours in a field in Essex”.
I LOVE the Spitfire Scramble. I ran in 2015 and 2016 as part of UK Fitness Bloggers. This year, I ran with my friend Corey as a female pairs team. It’s a wonderful race and is the only 24 hour relay race for runners in London. Held in Hornchurch Country Park, the off-road route takes in a 5.7 mile loop of the park. Participants camp on site and the entry fee includes two nights of camping (Friday and Saturday).
Corey and I made the decision a few months back to run as a pairs team. Initially, we thought we wouldn’t be able to do the event at all but plans changed and we decided to “go big or go home”. We’d both set goals of running an ultra each and secretly hoped that we might even finish on the podium. Unfortunately, things don’t always go to plan and I picked up pneumonia in Malta and subsequently fractured my rib from coughing so much. Not the best race prep, I’m sure you’d agree. After much thought, I decided to go anyway and walk a lap. Spitfire is a friendly race and the nature of the event means that there are plenty of walkers out on the course, so I knew this would be perfectly okay. It meant that I could take part, albeit not the way I had planned, plus I could support Corey.
Corey and her amazing husband, Glen, set up camp the night before. I joined them at about 11am. Shalena had also joined the party at this point, and was an incredible support over the weekend, especially with her efforts crewing Corey. We listened to the briefing, went over our plans and then it was time for Corey to begin!
The race starts at midday Saturday and officially ends at midday on Sunday. As long as you start your final lap before midday on Sunday, the lap will count. So you could go out at 11:59am and that would be okay.
Corey was an absolute rock star. Words cannot express enough how proud I am of her. She had planned to finish 4 laps by 5:45pm. Each lap is 5.7 miles and is off-road. At 5:45pm exactly, she crossed the line of her 5th lap.
That’s right, my fabulous friend ticked off her first ultra less than a quarter of the way through the event!
I planned to go out and walk my lap which would give Corey a chance to eat and get a massage. I was going to be accompanied for my lap by Jimmy as I was apprehensive about going out alone after illness, but he got caught in bad traffic. I texted him to let him know I would go it alone and he could jump in at the 3.5 mile mark to escort me to the end. At 6:30pm, I decided to go out.
Now, I know I was supposed to walk. But I get carried away sometimes. I knew that to attempt to run the whole lap would make me really ill, but I couldn’t resist some jogging. So I decided to “jeff” it. I would jog for 2 minutes, walk for 2 minutes and walk up any hill. At least this way, I felt I was running. The tactic worked pretty well and Jimmy jumped in at 3 miles where he told me to ease off the jogging segments.
The course was almost identical to previous years – the difference was that the campsite had moved. This meant that there was more space and had the added bonus of crew and team mates being able to meet runners just past 3 miles when we ran the glorious loop around the lake. Those who have run Spitfire before will be aware of the famous hill that was previously at around 2 miles. This time, it was at around 5 which meant a tough climb, but the view at the top over London makes it worthwhile. It also makes the stretch back to the finish really enjoyable with a fast downhill before it being flat all the way back. Despite the hill, that segment is still one of my favourite parts of the course. The other part I love is the downhill section through the woods, which is now around 2 miles in. Just be sure to watch your footing.
My jog/walk approach worked well and I got back home in 1:17, much faster than the anticipated 1:45-1:50 I thought it would take to walk it. We sat about chatting for a bit. Poor Corey felt really sick, but made the decision to go out again, reasoning that she might as well feel sick out on the course instead.
I took myself off to bed for the night, planning to go out and do a second lap. Thanks to Decathlon for providing us with camp beds, I think I had the best night sleep I’ve ever had in a tent and it definitely helped to keep my rib off the ground. At £19.99, these are comfortable and double as a couch during the day! I woke up at around 6ish and had a chat with Corey who had done laps 6 & 7 over night and had decided to go out for 8. I got myself dressed and told her that I’d go out and do a second lap when she was back.
Truthfully, jogging some of the first lap wasn’t a great idea as I’d woken up feeling a bit wheezy. I was more conservative on my second lap, jogging a minute and walking 2, but soon the sun was out and the heat was beating down and I wasn’t feeling it. I started walking with a lovely girl called Sadie and we chatted our way around the last couple of miles interspersed with jogging, running to the finish together. Lap time for me was 1:27. I briefly pondered a third lap with my competitive face on, but knew that doing 2 had been pushing it, so I surrendered my timing chip for my gorgeous medal.
Between us, we ran 10 laps and took second place. My first running trophy…
Corey was the real star of the show and I am so proud of her. I am honoured to be part of Team Ultra Decathlon Divas and next year, fully fit, I hope we can go again and challenge the top spot.
Thank you so much Jimmy, Glen and the incredible Shalena for supporting. Thank you Decathlon for your support and providing us with our shirts, hoodies, beds and this wonderful tent. It self-inflates which is really handy for assembly, and is really, really dark inside which made for a good sleep!
A bigger thank you to my incredible friend, Corey. I am so proud of you.
I cannot wait for the 2018 event. Having now done it as a pair, I want to repeat the experience. The dates have already been announced as 14th-15th July for next year and entries will soon be open on their website.
Thanks once again to the team at Spitfire Scramble for another great event. There is a reason that we all keep going back and that’s because of the great organisation and the wonderful community feel. My only small criticism of the event was that there was only one food van this year. The ladies staffing it were absolutely wonderful, but there were some very long queues, including waiting half an hour for a coffee. Other than that, everything was top-notch. The FREE shower shuttle was back, toilets were maintained, the Flying Physios were offering massages and loved the DJ and his choice of music.
I’ll be back…