In the post Adidas Thunder Run come-down I literally had to sit on my hands to stop myself from signing up to MORE MORE MORE team trail races. It seemed like there was a plethora out there, just calling out my name – Equinox 24, Helly Hansen Beauty and the Beast, Berghaus Trail Chase… Luckily I already had one in the diary – the inaugural Spitfire Scramble.
Rewind a few months ago and I had seen a competition to win a VIP entry to Spitfire Scramble on facebook. I encouraged the Team Naturally Run girls to enter for a place with me, and then promptly forgot about it. It wasn’t until I was sunning myself by a pool in Greece when an email pinged into my inbox from the organiser Danny saying “you’ve won!” that I remembered. It looked like Team Naturally Run was going to the ball (errr…24 hour trail run) after all!
Team Naturally Run – ready to boss the Spitfire Scramble
With Spitfire being held in Essex, it means that the venue was easily accessible via the tube – so bright and early on Saturday morning I rode the district line end-to-end (and now I can tick that off the list and NEVER do it again). I met up with my fellow team mates – Emma, Becs, Katy and Jen had been part of the stellar Adidas Team 2 at Thunder Run, and we had newbies Beki, Nikki and Charlie joining us.
My Purple tent from Mountain Warehouse – it’s fab!
With our tents up, fab Crewroom kit on, we started to talk strategy and made a vague roster of who would run and when. After a quick race briefing, the horn went – and the race kicked off! While Becs sped around the course – the rest of us proceeded to lie around the campsite, eat, catch up, and foam roll. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday afternoon!
Becs, Nikki, Charlie, Katy, and Beki all completed their laps and we were doing well. With the course coming in at 5.8miles (9.4kms), and the course being reasonably flat – it meant that we were well under our 1hr-per-lap target. Beki passed the baton to me and I headed off across the grass, interested to check out the course that the girls had described to me.
Speedy Becs taking on lap 1
Hornchurch Country Park is just lovely! I ran across wide open fields, along tarmac paths, past a pond with geese, and along gravely trails. There was zig-zag hill (where you could have easily cheated and taken a short cut – but by the time I registered the short cut was there I had passed it anyway!) which gave you wonderful views back towards the London skyline.
Nikki coming through on her first lap
A steady rise kept your legs awake for the rest of the course, as did a few gates and bridges that you had to cross or step over. The final 1.5kms had you running across a wide open ridge where you could look down and see the campsite briefly, before (hurrah!) you popped in to the trees for a short downhill blat (too short!)…and suddenly you were back in civilisation, catching sight of the portaloos before turning on to the home straight.
Charlie smiled the entire weekend!
As I mentioned – the course was a LOT flatter than Thunder Run, but I kind of found it a bit more boring too. There was plenty to look at – but I did really miss the dodging and ducking of the technical trails. There were only just over 200 runners taking part in the event this year, so you could go for miles without seeing another person in front of you or behind you. The marshals were GREAT, but sparse, and there were plenty of places that you could have gone the wrong way – it was like a treasure hunt trying to spy the next faint arrow on the ground, or a bit of tape flying from a tree. I hope for next year that a few more marshals stations are put in place – especially at night.
Me finishing off my first lap
I handed the baton off to Jen and raced straight to the one thing I had been dreaming of the entire 9.4ks – Lissy’s dark chocolate banana bread (recipe on her blog here). It was AMAZING. With Horchurch Park being a reasonable distance to central London – we were so lucky to have supporters come out to visit us (and bring foodie treats) – thanks Lucy and Glen, Lissy, and Laura! You guys are superstars and we really appreciated it!
Lucy with her fab sign!
As darkness fell we all kitted up with our new super dooper headlamps (thanks LED Lenser). Having run one lap in the daylight, I was a little nervous about taking on the course on my own – so we refined our strategy to double up. Beki and Nikki headed off together, Katy ran one alone and then a lap with me, and then Jen and Emma doubled up together too.
Because we had made up so much time, my 2am lap crept up and at 11.30pm I was waiting in the cold for Katy to come through and join her for a lap. Thank you to those who were up on twitter and kept me from going to sleep! Our campsite was dead quiet as everyone was trying to catch some sleep, and I felt terrible having to wake Jen up to let her know she needed to be prepared for the next lap. Katy crossed the timing mat, I joined her by her side, and we headed off in to the darkness together.
I’d been having a bit of a problem with my right knee for a few weeks prior to this event – I thought I had just bruised it at the River Rat Race (I knew it wasn’t ITB as I had had that before, this was different) but as soon as I started running on this lap I knew something wasn’t right. Katy and I took it slowly together – our conversation distracting me from the pain in my knee. We power walked up zig zag hill, but it was actually easier to just keep going than to stop-start with running and walking. I really wanted the lap to be done, and with the last few km’s I was doing a weird limp-shuffle-run. The stillness of the night was just stunning though – I tried to take it all in. You really do feel invincible when you are out on the course, all alone (apart from Katy huffing and puffing beside me!) and you can see the stars, the lights of the city, and there is only the beam of your headtorch in front of you.
Jen passing the baton to Emma
I limped back in to the campsite, handed off the baton to Jen and Emma, and hobbled my way straight over to The Flying Physio tent. Jason was amazing – he had been at work all day, and was still up at 1am! He prodded my knee a bit, confirmed it was patella tendonitis (inflammation of the tendon which runs over the kneecap) and taped me up. He said we should reassess in the morning as to whether I could do my third lap (he was reasonably positive!) but I knew I was 100% out.
Whomp whomp. Patella probs
I told the girls that were awake that we were going to have to rejiggle our roster as I wouldn’t be able to do another lap. Around that time, Jen and Emma returned – Jen also was in bad shape and didn’t think she could do any more laps. It was in the dead of the night that our teamwork really shone. Becs (who was nearly delirious from no sleep) headed out on her third lap at 2am. Charlie was woken up early, hours before she thought she was needed and told to get out there and run – and she did, no questions asked. Beki ran a lap, and then Charlie turned around and went out on the course again, and then again – completing an epic 5 laps with barely any sleep!
Katy finishing her lap in style
Beki coming home feeling strong
As the sun rose, and our weary and (in my case) broken bodies emerged from our tents, we realised we were well ahead of achieving our goal of 24 laps in 24 hours. We were now at a point that we could continue running if we wanted to, but we could also just stop, we didn’t have to continue, we had nothing to prove to ourselves any more.
Emma flying across the finishing mat
But the determination and strength of these ladies shone through – one by one they stepped back out on the course, with Nikki and Emma walking the last lap together. As the clock clicked over the 24 hours there was no epic nail biting emotional finish – instead, as Nikki and Emma came around the final corner on to the home straight we gathered as a team and limped, hobbled, jogged, (and in Charlie’s case) strutted our way across the finish line together!
The icing on the cake was that we won our division – first team of 8 women – which meant we got trophy’s!
There’s the teeny tiny detail that we were the only team of 8 women that competed, so we kind of won by default, BUT laps & time wise we still ranked in the top 50% of all competitors – something we were pretty damn proud of.
With tents and sweaty kit packed up, we jumped on the tube and celebrated the way all champions do – by drinking prosecco out of our trophies. Winners.
Spitfire Scramble will be back in 2015 so make sure you register your interest – it was a fab event this year, and will only get bigger and better!
Thanks so much to Danny and the team at Spitfire Scramble for choosing Team Naturally Run as your VIP winners, and making our weekend so wonderful. Thanks to Run Active for the shoes, LED Lenser for the headtorches, and Crewroom for our fab kit. Thanks to Mountain Warehouse for my tent (second use this year!). Thanks to Julie and the team at Freestak for looking after us. And a BIG thanks to the girls in Team Naturally Run who were total superstars – I had such a fun weekend with you all!