The Spitfire Scramble has become an event that I keep returning to year after year. The first two events I visited as a spectator and for the past two years I’ve taken part as a runner. It’s grown from small-scale race to a much larger event, but still retains that friendly, personal atmosphere that it had in 2014. I train at Hornchurch Country Park regularly as it is only 10 minutes from my house. Runners now come from all over the country for the Spitfire Scramble, so it’s great to have this park right here on my doorstep.
For those not aware, the Spitfire Scramble is a 24 hour multi-terrain race which can be run solo or in teams of up to eight. It begins at midday on Saturday and continues until midday on Sunday with each team completing as many of the 9.1km laps as possible. In between laps, participants camp on site where you can rest, relax and support the other runners.
I was part of a eight-person team made up of ladies from my triathlon club. We called ourselves the ‘Havering Tri n Scramble Babes’ and the running order would be Lydia, Angela, Nicola, myself, Laura, Amy, Kay and Lisa. My triathlon club also entered another two teams of eight, plus three solo runners, so once again we had a great presence at the event. We were visited throughout the weekend by family, friends and other club members so our campsite was always buzzing.
The campsite was in a different location this year to provide more space for the increased numbers of participants. Although the run route was the same, the start and finish points were different. This actually worked much better as the toughest hill was towards the end, meaning the final kilometre was all downhill back to the campsite. My club organised a few reece runs of the course leading up to the Spitfire Scramble, so I was very familiar with the route.
Glen and I had invested in a much larger tent with a queen size air bed. It was much more comfortable and the envy of our clubmates!
The terrain varies from tarmac, grassy trails, gravel, tractor tracks and rough stony paths. There are also a few bridges and stiles to negotiate, so the course certainly keeps you guessing especially during the night. Being the former site of RAF Hornchurch, there are several original World War II pillboxes alongside the course. The Hornchurch Aerodrome Historical Society were on site giving out information including the origin of the name of the street which I live on. Many of the surrounding streets were named after notable pilots. I think many participants overlooked this aspect of the Spitfire Scramble, but I personally loved getting a history lesson alongside my running! I also really appreciate how the race organisers have kept the history alive from the design of the medal to the air-raid siren which started the race.
My laps were at 2.15pm, 9.35pm and then 5.35am. The cooler weather and lack of fancy dress (thankfully) meant that running felt easier. Unlike last year, I managed to not get lost which was a result! I started off feeling really strong and completed my first two laps much quicker than last year, but by my final lap the exhaustion caught up with me and I walked a lot more. I’m not really cut out for endurance, as I’ve been focused on sprint/olympic distance triathlon this year.
In the evening, I arranged pizza to be delivered to the campsite for the team. It was quite a struggle convincing the local branch of Dominoes to deliver to the park, but we managed it in the end. It was worth it to see the look on the faces of the other teams and we walked through the site carrying boxes of delicious pizza!
There was a gorgeous sunset over camp as I prepared for my second lap.
I find it really difficult to sleep at the Spitfire Scramble as I’m so conscious about missing my turn. I was unsure about when I was due to run, so I wandered over to the transition area at 3.30am to wait for the hand-over, but it turned out I was about 2 hours early! Heading back to my tent, I tried to get some sleep for a few hours. Embarrassingly, I did almost miss my turn as Nicola came in sooner than expected and was waiting to hand over the baton! I sprinted over to meet her and started my run feeling a bit flustered.
After my third and final lap, I could finally relax. I was so exhausted that I slept on our deflated air bed which wasn’t particularly comfortable!
We ran into the finish line as a team just before 12pm carrying our club flag. Rounding off our weekend with 25 laps in 24 hours, we placed 7th out of 13th in our category. Between everyone in Havering Tri, we completed 149 laps!
The Spitfire Scramble was once again a brilliant weekend. A chance to hang out with friends from the club and enjoy running off-road. It’s something a little different from triathlon, but still brings the club together. I’m proud of having such a great event in the local area. The marshalls were all amazing, sitting out on the course throughout the night.
Have you ever taken part in a 24 hour relay run?