Spitfire Scramble is a 24hr Running event that takes place in July each year, I’ve taken part for the last 2 years as part of a team of 8.
This year I had planned on running as a team of 4 with my sisters, but last minute changes to plans left me running solo!
I am super lucky to have supportive friends and family, so whilst I would be running solo I was able to camp with the lovely ladies from the team I had run with for the last 2 years and also Havering Triathlon Club. Solo runners can have designated camping close to the start, but I wanted to be sociable and camp with my friends.
My preparation for this event was non-existent, I hadn’t planned to run solo so my weekly mileage had been a maximum of 11 miles per week, not great… The Friday before the event was my work summer party, so my long suffering boyfriend Adam had to assemble my tent (which Lisa had kindly taken to site and reserved a spot for) and he had to set up my camp for me… Thanks Adam!
Saturday morning arrived and I was feeling decidedly docile, this is odd for me, I’m usually quite lively, but I had had a cold all week and really wasn’t ready for this. I ate a bagel, packed an array of clothing and headed to the park. Luckily this event is run from Hornchurch Country Park which is super close to home for me so it wasn’t far to go.
I registered, picked up my number and timing chip and sat around for a while drinking a large bottle of water, it was already over 25degrees and with very little shade the park was crazy hot.
There was a briefing for solo runners about 50minutes before the start, the organisers let us know the route and areas to look out for, they also told us that due to the heat they had added a 2nd water station to the course.
The course is laps of 5.7miles, varied terrain with some paths, some trails, some areas of woodland etc. and one rather long hill towards the end of each lap. My initial plan had been to run 2 laps, rest for a bit, run another 2, repeat for a few hours, have a little nap around midnight and repeat in the morning.
I should know better than to plan… my first lap was ok… 6 minutes slower than my average lap in 2017 but I was aware that I had a long way to go, 2nd lap was less ok, very hot, and the dry heat made my throat constantly dry, the water I was carrying was the temperature of a cup of tea after a few km and rather unpleasant… I walked a few times, this wasn’t going well…
After my first 2 laps I had a break, drank some water with added electrolytes and watched the Spitfire flyover! Amazing!
Time for lap 3, this was not fun, more walking than running, too hot, couldn’t regulate my breathing, and really just generally felt rough. I’d had a cold during the week and this was catching up with me. Instead of adding a 4th lap immediately I finished the 3rd lap and went back to camp to have a rest, I literally laid facedown in the sunshine and napped! My family came to visit whilst I was having a break and bought me a jacket potato so I ate this and prepared for my next lap.
My friend Joel had kindly volunteered to come and run some laps with me, so at this point he arrived and got ready to run, saying he would carry my water etc so I only had to concentrate on running. I was so grateful for the support and he really did make the lap pass a lot quicker, but I was struggling still, after making an effort to run as much as I could on the first half of the lap the 2nd half descended into more walking than running… we had planned to do 2 laps but after 1 I decided I needed to go for a shower and try to reset myself a bit.
I headed home (on Adam’s mountain bike) to shower as I don’t live far away, showered, changed and sat down for half an hour before heading back to walk lap 5, my mum and sister Katie came to walk this lap with me just as the sun was setting. Again, the company was much appreciated. After this lap I decided to go to sleep and try again in the morning, day 1 had not gone to plan.
I managed a few hours sleep, woke up about 3am and at 3.45 headed out for laps 6&7, it was cooler now as the sun was only just starting to rise and these laps passed quite pleasantly, on lap 7 my friend Brett caught me up, as did Clive from a local running club and we walked together for a while.
By now I was hungry and it was almost 7am so when I got back to camp I asked Adam to go and get me some coco pops and milk, and this felt like the most amazing breakfast ever. By 8am though it was already really hot, with temps of 30 degrees predicted for the day. My knees were hurting and I decided I had no desire to push myself too far.
After relaxing in camp for a while I headed out for lap 8 with a friend from Havering Tri – Paul Smailes, who was also solo and this was his 14th lap!!!! During this lap we passed the course winner who was on his 22nd lap, an amazing achievement especially considering the added challenge from the heat!
After this lap Paul went on to complete a 15th lap and tempted as I was to carry on for one more, I decided to call it a day and stop, one more lap would prove nothing and I had nothing to gain, so my first solo ultra came to a very flat and non-satisfying finish…
I covered approximately 45miles over this event which is an incredible distance but sadly I was left feeling like I hadn’t achieved anything.
As Iv mentioned before, sometimes events don’t go to plan and this was one of them.
Will I do it again? Maybe… I love the event, it has such a great family atmosphere to it and all the runners and spectators are so supportive. It’s also great to see the sheer volumes of people from local clubs camped out and taking part.
I’m pretty sure when the disappointment of my performance fades il be signing up for next year… Not sure which category though… Solo? Team? Pair maybe? Any volunteers to join me?