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…?  

Two Brilliant Banana Recipes

Along with Tough Mudder, races in silly hot countries and any kind of triathlon, taking part in a 24 hour relay race was firmly on my ‘hell no, I do not want to do that’ list (I’m making no comment as to whether or not it still is..!) However, some of my slightly more crazy friends were taking part in the Spitfire Scramble over the weekend, and as it was just one tube journey away, I said I’d ‘pop’ along to see them, cheer them, be in awe… and take them cake.

I don’t bake a lot, I’m a much better cook than a baker, which is partly why there’s never been a recipe post on here before now, but I do have a couple of recipes that I keep going back to, both of which were specifically requested for my trip over to the race.

Both are banana based, so brilliant for convincing yourself there’s something a little bit good about them, and both very good #runningfuel

Unfortunately neither of them are my recipes originally, but over time I have tweaked them a bit to make them the stuff of awesomeness that I keep going back to.

The most awesome dark chocolate banana bread

I was handed this recipe outside London Bridge station a couple of years ago – it was promoting Nigel Slater’s Kitchen Diaries II with the Observer. You can find the original recipe online on the Red magazine website, or in the photo of the recipe below.

I keep to the list and amount of ingredients pretty exactly, but I would suggest that you don’t follow the instructions in order (only in the photo below, they are okay on the link!) – it means you use about 24 bowls and make a ridiculous mess! Basically ignore the first instruction to ‘sift the flour and baking powder together’ as you don’t need to do it at the beginning and repeats the step again in the third paragraph. I hope that makes sense..!

Anyway, it’s pretty much a ‘bung it all in a bowl’ type recipe, which is why I love it. This recipe makes quite a lot, I doubled it to make three loaves for the weekend, but the week before I halved it to just make one large loaf for my team at work. Both times it went down really well – this is my absolute favourite thing to make as it has never gone wrong. The recipe calls for very overripe bananas, but the last few times I’ve made it, I’ve used pretty ‘normal’ bananas and cut them into chunky pieces which has worked just as well.

Easy peasy banana (and peanut butter) flapjacks

I originally saw this recipe on the Sainsbury’s recipe website, but I have adapted some of the weights over from cups to grams and, on this occasion, I even added some peanut butter in, because you can never have too much peanut butter, obviously.

Ingredients:

  • 170g butter
  • 3 tablespoons soft light brown sugar
  • 6 tablespoons golden syrup
  • 270g rolled oats
  • 1 mashed banana
  • 100g dark chocolate (optional – for melting on top)
  • 2 heaped tablespoons peanut butter (optional – for scruminess)

Method:

  1. Place butter, sugar and golden syrup in a microwave safe bowl or jug and put in microwave for 20 seconds at a time, until butter has melted, stirring in between each blast
  2. Once melted and mixed together, mix in the mashed banana, oats and peanut butter until there’s a thick mixture
  3. Spread out onto a tin (don’t make my mistake of spreading it out too thinly!) and bake at 180°c for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown on top
  4. Cool and drizzle with melted dark chocolate if desired
  5. Cut into squares and enjoy!

 

Let me know if you have a bash at either of them and how they turn out! Also feel free to leave any other easy bake recommendations – banana or otherwise – in the comments below!