August 2015 and Mr JAEG had completed Spitfire Scramble, you can read about the 2015 event here
August 2016 and it was now also my turn. A 24 hour endurance race that I thought I would never even be able to take part in when I went to watch last year but booked just after last years event in the vain hope that I could put a team together and do at least one lap.
After many months of gathering a team of like minded crazy ladies for my team (whilst other teams were also being put together) and planning Spitfire weekend was upon us.
Friday dawned and tents could be pitched in the afternoon, as it was school holiday I was off anyway and hubby took the day off. A morning of pottering was followed by an afternoon of pitching tents over Hornchurch Country Park. I have never camped before, never pitched a tent but I went for it with gusto and followed instructions from fellow club members myself and my team (now know as team RIOT) pitched a 16 person tent which would be team RIOTs base for the weekend. Friday meant the last sleep for the weekend and therefore needed to be a good one.
Saturday dawned, it was going to be a hot one! After a leisurely breakfast we packed up the cars and headed to Hornchurch.
Tents were filled with food, belongings and people, briefings of the team and race kind were made and midday signalled the start along with a bell.
The lap measured just shy of 6 miles and circumnavigated the country park including Ingrebourne Hill and surrounding farmers fields, a mix of trail, forest and path.
The afternoon runs were hot, the sun beat down and it was like running abroad, the heat was pounding down and my first lap was like running with Satan breathing on me. I had my music playlist sorted and just got on with it, taking in what delights I could see including the view at the top of Ingrebourne Hill. Some parts I took slow and steady, especially across the farmers fields where it was uneven and very very narrow. The paths through the forrest towards the end were also uneven and a bit spooky but gave plenty of respite from the sun.
The race ends up back in the start field which is also the camping field so you run past all the tents which means you could be cheered in by other clubs as well as your own depending on where tents are pitched. I felt good, hot but good and was smiling. I was told after that it was the happiest I had looked finishing a race but I did enjoy my lap.
A few hours off from running but seeing others in the team go out meant not much time to relax, I was due back out in the middle of the night, the first time I have ever run in the black of night, I was nervous.
At 1:30am I watched Mo win the gold at the 10,000 metres, got myself ready and set off for my night run. Head torch on bite stuff on I was ready to go, it was so cold as I waited on the start line for the team mate who was out to return, as it is a relay they had to hand over the baton to me. My teeth were chattering, I was shivering and also so tired I wasn’t sure I was making sense when talking to people.
Team mate in, baton passed and I went off, I was following a chap down the trail path, the only things I could see was his torch and my head lamp lighting a few feet ahead of us. Suddenly he spun round and announced we were going the wrong way, I was blinded by his light and also spun round, disorientated I started back up the path, the guy in front shot off so quick, I couldn’t catch him up, I was slightly scared I felt lost. I stopped for a moment and looked around, all I could see were the outline of trees and bushes on if I shone my head lamp in that direction. I was contemplating heading back to the start and starting over, although I was scared I wasn’t scared witless though, I was out of my comfort zone but I remembered why I was doing this and why I needed to do this and run in total darkness, I needed to prove I could do it to myself and those who doubted me. I knuckled down and walked back to where I thought myself and the guy has gone wrong, ok here we go, instinct took over and I started running again. After a moment I knew I was now on the right path, no idea how or why as all I could see was grass, bushes and trees lit by my lamp but it felt good, it felt right. I thanked those who may have been watching over me as I came to the lake and knew I was ok and on the right part of the course.
I made my way over the course that looked so different in the depths of night compared to a few hours before. As I got up to the top of Ingrebourne Hill I took a look over London, all in darkness with lights twinkling away so beautiful so peaceful and I was so happy to have seen that, I looked towards the other direction and could see the fingers of dawn slowly making their way over the sky, it would be light soon and I wanted to make the most of the quiet darkness so I started back down the other side of the hill, down the paths and onto the fields again. The forest was beautiful and I knew I was on the home stretch, I approached the campsite and the finish line, the campsite was still quiet, emotion caught me and I knew I had done something I thought I would never be able to do. I gave myself a pat on the back and carried on around the camp to the finish. Big breaths and handing a hug and the baton over to my next team mate I knew I would never have that experience in that same way again, I felt good I was thankful.
The race was due to finish at midday, after this point teams were running in together. We decided that once our final teammate comes onto the field we would join her and whilst flying the club flag we would all run in together. Team work, team RIOT ran in together, smiling, tired but together, it felt great.
Camp bits packed away quickly, hugs given out, some of us were tearful due to tiredness and probably due to the fact we all experienced Spitfire and some (me) faced personal demons during that weekend.
Would I do it again? Oh yes, team RIOT have said they will be back for RIOT the reunion in 2017, fabulous.
As for the rest of the club, all in all we had about 50 members out running, and many more just over to support, very grateful for the support as always. This weekend the club felt so much like family. Again many have said since the end of Spitfire that they will be back, so blue and yellow army will be out in force in 2017!
Team RIOT, a special name standing for “Running Is Our Therapy” so so true.