Trek and Run were supported during this event by;
First of all, hereâ€™s a film made by Dave W whilst taking part in the solo event to give you an idea of the course and atmosphere.
Part 1 by Dave Wise
Hopefully the film – and my team members reports, below – offer a good idea of what to expect from the Spitfire Scramble event so I’ll just add a few observations that might help future solo runners.
Firstly, camping. Solo runners could pitch their tents alongside the course either side of the start/finish line. This stretch of the course was perhaps 200 metres in total. It meant that we could leave the course after we’d crossed the timing mat and then do whatever we had to do (sleep, eat, drink, change clothes) before we’d embark on another lap. I personally didn’t bring a tent – I couldn’t get to the course before the day of the event and I planned to run all night with no breaks so didn’t feel I needed one – so I left my food, drink and spare kit bag under a gazebo right next to the timing mats and water station.
Other solo runners had friends who were doing the team events and whom had pitched their tents near the boundary rope of the course at other areas of the field. The course ran around the camping field on 3 sides so the solo runners would duck under the boundary rope when they reached their friends encampment and then rejoin the course at the same point after they’d done whatever they needed to do. Now, the rule was that you could only leave the course at the timing mat area, but nobody was going to object to something like this. There were around 40 solo runners taking part and there wasn’t room along the home straight for all of their tents, so this was something that had to go on, as no solo runner is going to leave the course at the timing mat and walk across the campsite to get to their tent, and then back again to the timing mat to begin another lap. This might seem unreasonable of me to say this, but after 40 or 50 miles every little bit of ground covered matters! So, bottom line, it’s ok to pitch your tent anywhere you want along the boundary rope at this event, just get there early enough in the day to secure a prime spot. This was the second year of the event and entry numbers had more than doubled since 2014, and having experienced how well organised and friendly it is I’m sure they’ll see a similar increase in competitors in 2016.
Another handy thing was having the live timing update system in the tent next to the start line. I popped in there a few times between laps to see how I was doing. The screen told me what position I was in and how many laps the people in front of me, and behind me, had done, and in what time.
Second, security. There was somebody on the camping field entrance at all times, and there were a few security guards scattered around the darker reaches of the country park from around 7pm until 7am. Also, as I’ve said, I left my belongings outside, under a gazebo, and they were perfectly safe.
Thirdly, the course. I’ve only done one other 24 hour race (Endure 24, which I did twice) so I can’t talk with any great authority about the possibilities of running a personal best here. But, for what it’s worth I can make the following comparison. I did 120 miles at Endure 24 – which has a couple of lively hills and some tricky forest paths – 2 months ago when I was fully fit. In contrast, I came into this Spitfire Scramble a broken man having run a 7 marathons in 7 days challenge and a 130 mile ultra in the previous 3 weeks and yet I still managed 96 miles so this, I think, says something about the course. There are a couple of hills but they’re not steep, signage was fluorescent yellow and clear, the paths were mostly hard packed and there’s only a couple of short stretches where the route gets really tricky – when you go downhill through a forest at the 5 mile mark and then shortly after that where the path is rutted. It’s true to say that the stiles might slow you down but at the same time an experienced runner would used these as opportunities to reset and catch a breath. So I think that if you’re fit you can really put some long miles down on this course and I’d be surprised if people aren’t notching up between 120 and 140 0n a regular basis as from next year.
Finally, I’d like to mention the friendliness of the whole occasion. Almost every runner who passed me on the course offered their support, as did the campers who clapped and shouted encouragement when I ran around the campground boundary. And the organisers, staff and marshals were superb, especially the guys who manned the water station halfway round the course. They were always ready to chat and on more than one occasion happily gave up their comfy seat for me when I wanted to sit and empty the debris out of my shoes.
All runners got a well designed t-shirt and medal and the Spitfire flyover at midday on Sunday was great. Just seeing that elegant plane fly – and hearing it’s purr as it passed low over the campsite – topped off the event perfectly for me.
At the end the organisers were eager to listen to runner’s suggestions on how they could make the event better in 2016, I admired that they were so open to possible improvements. The only comments I can offer here is thatÂ it’d be good to mention in the pre race publicity that the feed station has only water and sometimes some jelly babies, so solo runners should bring all their own food, and also I’d say that a portaloo at that feed station might be a good idea. I know I’m a trail runner but as a rule I generally don’t like pooping outdoors within a 20 mile radius of central London…
Part 2 by Dave S, Stu, Vijay and Rich
The Spitfire Scramble 24 hour endurance race took place on the weekend of the 22nd and 23rd August 2015, and team Trek and Run decided to enter a solo runner (Dave Wise) and a team of 5 (Dave Sherman, Vijay Algoo, Stuart Obbard, Richard Stevens and Leanne Aston). While Dave W would continue running throughout the 24 hours, our team of 5 would work as a relay taking turns completing laps of the 5.9 mile trail course with an aim to see how many miles we could complete within the time allowed.
Camping was offered onsite (vital when your team will be running through the night) with solo runners allowed to set up their tents alongside the course while the main camping area for pairs and relay teams was located a short walk from the start line / changeover point. Two catering vans offered a selection of healthy and not-so-healthy foods including pasta, jacket potatoes, burgers, chips and bacon rolls, and a â€˜shower-shuttleâ€™ operated at certain times offering participants a chance to use the showers in a local school to freshen up.
The route itself began within Hornchurch Country Park, the historic base of RAF Hornchurch, and offered a range of surfaces including gravel, grass, mud and concrete throughout the 5.9 miles. From the start we headed out into the country park towards Rainham and Ingrebourne Hill past a huge pond and after following a long (and often lonely) gravel path through Ingrborne Valley, we reached the sign for Mile 2 marking the beginning of Ingreborne Hill where we zigzagged to the top and a spot offering amazing views of the financial district of Canary Wharf in one direction and the QE2 bridge and Kent in the other, before looping back down and heading back towards the Country Park. At 2.8 miles a refreshment station offered water and jelly babies, and as we passed the 3 mile marker we re-entered the country park on the other side of the pond weâ€™d passed earlier and into the second half of the course.
Items from the country parkâ€™s history could be seen throughout this section of the course as we passed a number of concrete turrets, pill boxes and gun emplacements still standing today as a reminder of Hornchurchâ€™s past as an important military airfield used during the First World War.
After climbing a short sharp hill we headed into mile 4 and one of the toughest parts of the course as we passed through a number of farmers fields with a long gradual uphill climb over challenging uneven pathways with loose stones and rocks, however one final stile took us out of the fields and into woodland into mile 5. Within the first half mile of this section you encountered dirt, grass, mud, gravel, wooden bridges and concrete paths so you were constantly changing from one running surface to another or jumping onto bridges and over hidden tree roots, however after the climbs in the previous two sections, most of this part was downhill and at 5.5 miles we left the trails to join a path which passed the event car-park and a children’s play area and then looped back towards the event village. Then it was just a short jog around the outside of the campsite and over the finish line â€“ 1 lap complete!
To find out how our team members found the route and the event as a whole, we decided to ask them six simple questions about their experience. Hereâ€™s what they had to sayâ€¦
What were your best bits of the entire weekend?
Dave Sherman: Great route (tough but fun), great event organisation, friendly marshalls (so much love for them for covering long shifts to ensure the route was covered throughout the entire 24 hours!), excellent buzz and festival feel throughout the night and awesome medal – the event as a whole went brilliantly!
Richard Stevens: Very well organised event with great feedback from the timing chips onto the computer and screen. Really enjoyed the route, a bit of everything to keep the interest.
Vijay Algoo: For me the best thing of the event is the atmosphere. Parts can be tough but people are always chatty and supportive everywhere at the event including on the course. At this event the staff were particularly good, even the staff working on the food stalls were chatty and entertaining even in the middle of the night.
Stuart Obbard: From the moment I signed up I received regular updates about what to expect and what was happening. When I arrived at the event I was greeted by smiling friendly faces, the best bits was definitely the fellow running community there, everyone was friendly, supportive and encouraging, this was shown from the organizers right through the runners and even to the catering staff. To me this is vital and helps make a race excel that little bit more than others.
And what do you think couldâ€™ve gone a bit better?
DS: There were only about 10 toilets and with so many people they were in a pretty nasty state by the early hours of Sunday, but thankfully they were emptied and freshened up Sunday morning so we only had to suffer the stench for a few hours (thankfully they were far enough away from the campsite!).
RS: Toilets away from the food area, however great to have the urinals for the gents.
VA: Obviously, anything like this and the toilet situation wonâ€™t be great. Although at scramble they did empty the toilets and have a shuttle service to some showers near by. But shortly before the toilets were emptied it was pretty grim (I wonâ€™t go into detail) and possibly some portable showers on site would have been good.
SO: On a personal note I would say holding the medals back until the entire team have crossed would be the right thing to do rather than allow team members to collect their medal before the last runner is back in.
What was your favourite part of the course?
DS: As someone who loves a good trail run I loved the variety of surfaces we were running on, however the best part of the course had to be Ingrebourne Hill where a long but gentle zig-zag climb was rewarded with awesome views (you really could see for miles in all directions at the top) and was especially beautiful at night with the lights of London in the distance.
RS: Favourite part of the run was the last mile as it was through the woods and of course the finish line lol.
VA: The course was a great route, really nice scenery for a lot of it. The best bit for me was the highest point of the route next to a viewing platform at the top of a hill. From there you could see the great 360 views including the London skyline from Canary wharf to the Shard. As Iâ€™m sure you can imagine this looked particularly stunning in the night time laps.
SO: Having got to the run the last lap before darkness, seeing the sun set over London from the top of the hill was a special moment for me. Then heading into the woods at darkness was also a special moment. The change in the day light changed the course dynamics and after this lap I was buzzing and wanting to run again.
Were there any sections you didn’t enjoy as much?
DS: I found the first mile of each lap especially tough â€“ partly because it usually takes me 1 or 2 miles to really get into a run, but also because the long run along the gravel path towards Ingrebourne Hill was incredibly flat and boring, however the rest of the course more than made up for it with the varying terrain on offer.
RS: No, I thought the whole course was really good, lots of different aspects to the course from little challenging hills to woodland runs.
VA: Even though it was a necessary evil to get to my favourite part of the run, the worst part was the climb to the top of the hill. Not the longest climb Iâ€™ve ever done and certainly not the steepest, but it was a winding path that went back and forth all the way up the hill that seemed to go on for an age.
SO: The toughest part of the course was the 2nd hill, although it wasn’t long it was enough of a hill to feel it. I was happily running and in my stride when it appeared on the first lap and for the first time ever I felt as though someone had put a brick wall up in front of me.
What were your personal lessons learnt from the event (i.e. what would you do differently next time)?
DS: Wrap up warm during the night-time hours! At Endure 24 Iâ€™d suffered just as bad so I shouldâ€™ve been more prepared, but it really does get bloody freezing in the wee small hours so if youâ€™re planning to stay up all night, make sure youâ€™ve got plenty of blankets and hot drinks!
RS: Lessons learnt would be to be better prepared for sleeping arrangements, take better food for fuelling up especially in the evening, and the nights were cold so maybe a duvet rather than a sleeping bag as lack of sleep was an issue as the night went on.
VA: A lesson I thought I had learned before but seemingly didnâ€™t was making sure you are wrapped up when not running in the night. Between laps your body temperature will drop and around 3am it gets really cold pretty quick. This can play havoc with the muscles and is just horrible to try and rest through.
SO: Our race order allowed for nearly 4 hours between laps and in the middle off the night it was tough not to get your head down for a bit and after a nap for an hour or so I found it tough to get going again for my lap at 6:30 am. This was my slowest lap and once complete I was back out running again with only two runners going between my laps. This quicker turnaround was better for me as I felt fresher and ran the lap quicker than the two before so next year maybe back to back laps or a quicker turn around would suit me better.
Finally, sum up your experience of this event in 5 words…
DS: Tough trails but excellent event!
RS: Great experience would do again.
VA: Nice route and great atmosphere
SO: Awesome, a must do event!
To discover more about the Spitfire Scramble, please visit www.spitfirescramble.co.uk