Race report: Spitfire Scramble

  
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…?  

Race report: Geneva marathon relay 2014

I think a marathon relay is a great idea. You get to experience the occasion and atmosphere of the marathon event, without the effort or pressure of training for the whole distance. But, after running in a marathon relay, I also think they might be quite a lot of faff that isn’t worth the effort.

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I’ve got quite into lists on here of late, so here’s some not so great parts of the Geneva marathon relay:

The buses

The half marathon, marathon and relay marathon all start at the same place in Chêne-Bourg, a 15 minute tram ride out of the centre of Geneva. The relayers, then head to a park and ride site a further 10-15 min walk along the main road. Our bus for the second leg was supposed to leave at 8:15, it eventually left over half an hour later. It was all a bit boring and I don’t love spending my Sunday hanging out next to a multi-story car park. It didn’t help that the half marathon started at 8:30 so I was sat on the bus (not moving) thinking ‘I could’ve just been running by now’.

The ‘start’

The start of leg two was at FC Choulex, a small football club in a rural town outside of Geneva. There was one toilet, no cover and it was ruddy freezing. We had over an hour wait. I was happy to run off out of there.

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The atmosphere

We didn’t get the start line atmosphere or finish line glory. There were around 300 people starting our leg together, but all at different times. The ‘finish’/swap over at leg four was even more sparse. We just got to a sort-of ‘lay by’ set up in the middle of nowhere… then just stopped.

The relay

I entered the relay as a team, but in reality I saw less of the three girls in my team than I would’ve done if we’d all just ran one of the other distances as a ‘regular’ race. Leah handed over to me, then I handed over to Kiera, but the few scrambled seconds in between legs was all I saw of them. (I was then a rubbish team mate and missed Beki doing the finishing leg as I was desperate for a shower.)

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The good stuff

The good thing about this race was running my leg with Billie, from the second Team Naturally, Run team. We had leg 2, which was 10k-21k of the marathon course. If I was running on my own I probably would have hated it. The route was through fields, woodland, vineyards and small villages. The only supporters were families out at the end of their drives. The scenery was stunning in parts – mountains and little castles flying Swiss flags off in the distance. There were some points with slightly soul destroying 90 degree turns, where you were running out along one side of a field and then turning and running along the other.

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The actual running part I enjoyed. 7 miles was a pretty perfect distance, and exactly 4 weeks after the marathon, it was the first time my legs didn’t feel absolutely and completely mashed up. The actual race was fairly well organised (other than the super late running shuttle bus at the start, and having to wait a while to get one back to the finish in the city centre after our leg), with the usual stuff such as expo, aid stations and medals all being top notch.

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I don’t think I’d run a race as a relay again, for me it meant I lost all the parts I enjoy about racing – the city centre location, the crowds, the atmosphere. But it meant that I got to run through some of the Swiss countryside that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise and it was a different racing experience. I don’t think I would’ve enjoying running the half marathon distance so soon after the marathon anyway. This was just a very small part of a brilliant running weekend away with friends.