I have had a rather good weekend at the Spitfire Scramble, the latest addition to the ever-growing list of 24-hour relay races. I could give you a blow-by-blow description of the course*, I could give you a detailed summary of my race**, and I could give you a well-considered review of the event and its organisation***. But instead, I want to thank some people.
Lieutenant General of the Centurion Army, Nici helped me put my tent up on Friday night, when I arrived in fading light after spending two and a half hours stuck in traffic on the M25. She then introduced me to 5 other mad fools also running solo, and then, on Saturday, said that she’d be happy to share her crew with the six of us, if they were happy to be shared.
Liz and Simon
Nici’s crew. No words are adequate. They sat by the finishing straight for the whole race, feeding and watering seven solo runners, refilling bottles, chopping watermelon, and offering smiles, encouragement and words of wisdom as required. When the light faded, they festooned their little patch with fairy lights, a welcome sight at the end of a lap.
Drove me back to my car at the end of the day. If not for that, I might still be hobbling my way across Hornchurch Country Park.
A mere two runs behind me on the tourist table, Vanessa opted to repeat Harrow Lodge parkrun so that she could pop across to the Spitfire Scramble to say “hi”. Now *that* is the mark of a true friend.
The Purple People
Aka Dacorum & Tring AC. With three teams of eight people, they were out in force, offering cheers and hollers to runners as they came in at the end of each lap. If there had been a prize for loveliest running club, they would have won it hands down.
The Write this Run team
I volunteered at Harrow Lodge parkrun in the morning and got chatting to Liz, one of the run directors at Hanley parkrun. Back at the scramble, it turned out that she was a member of the Write this Run team, including Hannah (from Race to the Stones) and Josie (who I’d met at an interval session in Battersea Park). Five more friendly faces and a whole bucket load of encouragement (including during my awful 4th lap, when it was hugely appreciated).
@shellmoby, Sarah from Serpentine, Luke and Paul
A tweeter, a soloist and two halves of two different pairs. Friendly faces before the race and on the course, which calmed my nerves and lifted my flagging spirits.
The Anonymous Hordes
The marshals (some of whom were also running), the faster runners who said “Good Job” and other such things as they passed, the passers-by who smiled, and the two extremely buff, shirtless runners who passed me at the start of mile 4 on my final lap. It’s the little things which make a race, and this one had them in spades.
*Just shy of 6 miles. Mile 1: Start to Hanborough Tavern. Flat, with rough grassy sections, taking in ankle-twist corner, tree root central, the pot-hole slalom and a large and unruly flock of geese (not swans) who migrated across the path a couple of times but mostly kept to themselves. Mile 2: Interminable. Flat, mainly on tarmac and hard paths. Either bribe the marshals and skip straight to mile 4, or hang a right, take a tight left turn after the gate, a right turn through the next gate, run along Dog Poo Bin Alley, past the Free Bicycle Registration post and keep on going (and going, and going) until you reach the T-junction. Mile 3: Zig Zag Hill. Turn right at the T-Junction (or left if you feel like taking a short-cut) and then swing sharp left up Zig Zag Hill and down the other side. A sharp right hand turn at the bottom and then it’s eyes peeled for the Water Station. Grab a drink, have a chat and then duck under the bar or leap over the stile into the field. Mile 4. Short, sharp shock. Run around the field until you get to the gate and then turn right, keeping your eyes peeled for any runners who’ve successfully bribed the marshals. Up a bit, down a bit, short sharp hill, wave to the marshal, mind the step and mind the puddles. Mile 5. Up, down, up. Up the hill, past the horses, down the hill, hurdle on and off the bridge, up the grassy track, over the broken tiles, along the field. Mile 6: Trees and trail. Squeeze through the gap and leap the hurdle. Along the single-file trail, through the nettles, mind the hole, down through the trees, mind the steps, along the wall, right, left, right, left, right, spot the Bunker of Benevolence, cheer at the Motor-Home of Joy, left past the playground and right onto the finishing straight.
**Back to back long runs. 7 laps on Saturday (Good, good, ok, awful, ok, ok, ok). 10 hour break. 4 laps on Sunday (ok, ok, ok, slow).
***The Spitfire Scramble: like Thunder Run only smaller, flatter, closer to London and with better 3G signal. Organised by experienced parkrun volunteers and club runners, so low key, friendly and low-frills. I loved it.