Spitfire Scramble – 1st in our category!

15 August 2016 - By Marc Underdown

I’ve given the result away in the title as I suspect the vast majority already know how we got on from social media. A lot happened in the 24 hours preceding our result so there is a lot to relive in this report, but I’ll try not to bore your too much!

For those who aren’t aware, the Spitfire Scramble is a 24 hour race which you can compete in as either a solo runner, a pair, a team of 3-5,  or a team of 6-8. Myself, Paul Cole, James Crisp, Bill Smythe and Lee Pembroke made up our team of 5 so we knew we would be in for a challenge.

The story starts at 3 o’clock on Friday when some of us arrived to pitch our base camp. I don’t know whether we were taking the event too seriously, but it seems a lot of teams treated the Friday as a bit of a party, which certainly made getting to sleep tricky!. With the race not underway until midday, there was a lot of hanging around in the morning, and we were all itching to get our first laps underway.

I led the team off, followed by the order which I listed the names above. The first lap felt like the restraints had been removed and we all exceeded our planned times to get us 8 minutes up on our schedule. What was more surprising was the fact that we carried on gaining on our schedule for pretty much all of Saturday.

Just before 4pm we were greeted by a spitfire flying over the course. The race was held at Hornchurch country park which until the 1960’s was an RAF Base and spitfires were based there during the second world war.

Our performance meant that we were slowly pulling away from our nearest male 3-5 category competitors which were a team from Dagenham 88. At this stage though we were behind the leading 3-5 mixed team.

It was great to be joined on Saturday by some of our families and that gave us a bit of a lift as we approached the night runs. We had put extended breaks into our schedule to try to allow each team member to get around 3 hours of sleep. Only Lee and Paul really got any sleep but we still all had to do 2 laps with a much shorter recovery during the night to allow the longer sleep zone. Fair to say this is where it got really tough.

The experience of running at night was better than expected. Glow sticks had been left on the course which helped you follow the route and perhaps the biggest challenge was spotting your teammate coming in when all you can see are lights coming towards you!

We knew beforehand that getting nutrition and hydration right was going to be crucial, and upon reflection this was the case and we all learnt a lot. Several of us had difficulties caused by making poor choices which is reflected in some of the Sunday laps.

It was a relief as the first remnants of light appeared around 5am but that meant we were all starting to tackle our 5th and 6th runs. Each lap is 5.9 miles so you can work out the cumulative mileage! Our plans had allowed for us slowing, which we did, but remarkably some of the team were still exceeding our schedule.

The cumulative effect of the impact was causing problems for my right knee which will always be grateful to Paul Cole as he agreed to take lap 31 (his 7th lap) which I was due to run. This lap started at just after 11am and James very graciously ran the first half of the lap with Paul to give him support. As Paul approached the final part of the lap which runs around the edge of the campsite, we all joined him to cross the line together.

Although we finished at 11:50 we already knew we were two laps clear in our category so there was no need for anyone else to run another lap. The Prosecco was opened and we toasted an incredible achievement. Not only had we blitzed our category, we eeked ahead of the mixed 3-5 team during the night and never looked back, and overall we were 7th which is quite remarkable when you consider that around 60 of the teams had 8 people in.

We thought it would be a challenge and it was. Everyone in the team put in a superb performance and I am immensely proud of what our team achieved and how we all supported each other when it got tough. We are all thinking of coming back, but we all quite like the idea of a team of eight!!!

Base camp for the next 24 hours

Ready to race!

Team Spitfire photo before the race

The home straight

Winners trophies! Best in class

Winner’s scoop – Tshirt, Medal & Trophy

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