It was the return of Spitfire Scramble, its fourth year at Hornchurch Country Park and the fourth year the club had a presence there. It was also my second year in attendance and my husband’s third. This should indicate before anything else how great this event is.
Last years review can be found here and my first take on this event can be found here.
2017 heralded a slight change to the previous years, keeping it fresh but also reflecting on how much the event had grown in the four years.
Firstly, the event was a month early, normally this was halfway through August but due to school summer holidays it always meant getting volunteers to marshal and set up was difficult. This meant for me that I was reliant on others to set up the tent on the Friday and my recovery would have to take place when back at work on the Monday, not having the luxury of being able to book time off work.
Camping was in a new field that was on the route before but was very overgrown and could be quite soggy. This was initially a worry for me but as the weather had been fairly dry and hot and the grass recently cut I thought it should be ok. The field is large and this was picked due to the sheer number of people wanting to take part last year and could not get a place with plenty of room for future expansion. The next field along was used for vehicle parking and again this took the pressure of the country parks own cark parks and therefore ensuing locals and other park users could park without issues.
This camping base change meant that although the route itself did not change the start and finish changed. The start and finish was always in the same place as the camp. This now meant that the dreaded Ingrebourne Hill part of the course was now towards the end of the route instead or part way through. This change resulted in me feeling happier about the parts I dreaded last year eg the two farmers fields that were such a long drag last year were actually ok this time round and Ingrebourne Hill, always my nemesis was almost a joy now as it indicated final part of the route.
Camp set up opened for us lucky people lunchtime Friday and hubby was able to pitch our tent as he had the day off work. We set up with the rest of the club on a corner of the field by a path that was the 4 mile point of the course. We would use this as base and a cheer point to not only cheer on our own club runners but all those taking part.
T-shirt and runners pack was collected once registration was open late on the Friday and then it was time to go home, do last minute preparations before a much needed early night, knowing there will be little sleep once spitfire starts.
Packing is always difficult for this type of event. You need enough clean clothes to ensure that you have something dry to put on after a run especially if you sweat a lot or if it had been raining but, space is at a premium in a tent. For me I always like to have a change of shoes, recovery shoes to walk about the camp when not running and a choice of road or trail to meet the conditions of the route. Some people pack food and that creates more packing as you then have to take plates, cups etc. I had decided to go for the food wristband option as I remembered not eating healthily last year and I felt jacket potato or pasta would be more benefit for me therefore I didn’t need much in the way of food but packed up a cool box of various drinks and fruit. Head torch or hand torch is a must have for this event, you could not go out on the night run without one. I always pack up a mini first aid kit that contain pain killers, tape, chafing balm, plasters and other bits that are not always used but the one time you don’t pack them is the one time they are needed, lessons learned from the previous years. The nights get chilly so my dry robe and a woolly hat was also packed up (and used believe it or not).
Saturday I was woken early by the cats but nerves had also kicked in. We packed up the car and made our way over.
Time flew very quickly and although we had left early we run out of prep time before the runners briefing. Many did not get team photos done and our whole club photo was taken once the race was underway.
The briefing completed and then it was time for the race to start. Those going out first lined up at the start line, those cheering them on to the sides. So much pressure on the first lap so many people watching but such a great atmosphere and lovely way to start.
Once the race started I went back to the tent and unpacked the rest of our stuff and started to prep for my lap.
The walk back and forth from our camp to the start was quite a distance and as a result we did not walk team members to the start to send them off. For me this wasn’t really an issue as I like to go out quietly but I felt bad for the others.
My first lap started, I had decided to wear my “this girl can” Essex ambassador shirt, my decathlon skort, CEP compression socks and my road Hokas. It didn’t look pretty but it was all about feeling comfortable and making sure nothing went wrong on the first lap. The Hokas held up well but after running Ranscombe the weekend before I realised that they were near the end of their life and had actually started to rub my feet. The Hokas did not make reappearance during this event, thank goodness I had a spare pair.
Handover went smoothly and it was back to camp for something to eat, rest and support others.
My next lap was in the dark, so with headtorch on and a change of clothes I was back out there, it was fantastic running the lap with the darkness around me. No music on (I didn’t have music for any of the laps) I could hear the sounds of the wildlife in the park mixed with the sounds of the runners around me. At the top of Ingrebourne Hill I once again looked over London lit up. Feeling proud of what I had completed so far I made my way back down the hill and back to base. Handover done I went back to bed.
Lap 3 was difficult. I was woken from a not so restful sleep. Disorientated, not eaten and not hydrated enough I went out again. I was just getting my head down and getting on with it. Don’t get me wrong I enjoyed this lap, it was right on sunrise and it was wonderful seeing the park come back to life with the light but I found it difficult to keep motivated. Legs felt fine it was my mind that was the problem. I was relieved to get to mile 4 alert my team mate who was out next to start getting ready. I came in handed over the baton and gingerly made my way back to the tent and tried to sleep. Not being able to sleep I just laid there and listened to the club cheer on runners as they went past, lovely to hear.
I was ready to do a fourth lap if needs be, all the team lap times were quicker than last year so I dressed in my running gear just in case. Team mate went out and it became obvious that the forth lap was not going to happen. Therefore as my team mate got to the cheer point I run the last 2 miles with her, met with the rest of the team at the corner of the field after the hill and we ran in together. All done!
Medals collected, tropies given to worthy winners and camp packed up it was time to head home. Tiredness was all consuming, it felt like jet lag and once home I realised that I had not eaten much since the last lap. A quick unpack, bath and dinner and it was time to catch up with the sleep.
Spitfire 2017 was all done. Would I do it again? Oh yes! Once again lessons learnt from this year and I will be back.