Last year, I visited Spitfire Scramble in my unofficial role as chief-bringer-of-banana-bread to the Team Naturally Run and Run Dem Crew teams. This year, after what I can only assume was a bump on the head or a large glass of red (let’s be honest here, I’m going with the latter), I agreed to be on one of the three teams that RDC again took along to the race.
In an astonishing feat of organisation, I managed to retrieve my sleeping bag from my parents’ house and buy myself a new tent several weeks ahead of the race. All that was left was to fling ALL my running gear into my housemate’s borrowed rucksack (apparently you can’t turn up to a campsite with a suitcase, *cough* Alex *cough*) and trek on out to Hornchurch via an hour long stint on the District line.
The weather turned out to be wonderful – we had sun and clear skies for the entire weekend, which undoubtedly made the whole thing much more enjoyable. In fact, lolling around in a park in Essex was a lovely way to spend a couple of days. For me, it was a shame the running had to happen.
Spitfire Scramble is a 24 hour relay race in which teams of one to eight people aim to complete as many 6-ish mile loops as possible. We were three teams of eight, which due to illness, injury, parenthood and fatigue slowly dwindled to three teams of five as time wore on.
The course, which was largely gravelly, then a bit fieldy and ended by being a teeny bit foresty, was entirely within Hornchurch Country Park. I don’t really love running off road so this was a bit problematic. I did my first lap around four hours into the race, at 4pm when it was still pretty warm, but at least it was daylight. I sort-of enjoyed it, taking just over an hour to complete the lap.
By the time my second lap rolled around, it was past 11pm, dark (really dark) and there’d been reports of kids hanging around in the park and generally making a nuisance of themselves. Our teams agreed to run all their night laps together (so in mini teams of three), but I still wasn’t keen so decided to give up on my laps until it was light.
After this, I managed a broken 7 hours sleep (probably one of the only people in the park that night able to say that), only waking up to find myself more and more freezing and having to wrap myself in more and more layers. By the time 5am came, I was so cold I wasn’t getting out of that sleeping bag for love nor money. Running didn’t have a chance.
I finally ran (read: mostly walked) my second and final lap as the penultimate one for our team, around 10am on the Sunday. One of our teams had managed to keep going all through the night, and as a result were our highest placing team in the overall competition by quite some way. The rest of us were feeling a little less competitive and favoured sleep and mid-table obscurity.
This was a great event – it’s still small enough to feel inclusive and friendly, but had built on some of the feedback from last year with better catering and more and closer toilets. I had a great bunch of teammates, and for me hanging out with them, getting to know them better, chatting running and drinking beer was the best part.
It was interesting to also have some teams that were going for the win taking part too. Every so often, you’d here them talking tactics in the information tent, although I’ll ignore that they got a bit sexist by the end of the race, for fear of a full blown rant.
All in all, SS was a really sociable way to enjoy running, it was something different and it (and my new awesome little tent) made me remember I actually quite like camping. Where shall I take it next…?