August 15, 2016
I have been toying with the idea of doing an ultra marathon for some time now…I know…I know its a little crazy when I barely make it to parkrun most weeks due to my busy lifestyle, but I always like to take on new challenges and there is something about the concept of travelling as far as you can in a given time…not a race, just a real test of your mental grit and determination…to see what your body is capable of.
So when some fellow fitness bloggers from a facebook group I am part of (UK Fitness Bloggers) were looking for runners to join a 24 hour relay team I thought what a perfect opportunity to test how ridiculous this notion was.
The Spitfire Scramble is a 24-hour multi-terrain relay or solo race. You can run on your own (and many crazy folk did) or in teams of two to eight runners. As you run through the night, the event will put your speed, endurance, torch batteries and teamwork to the test in the only event of its kind in the London area.
So who was is my team
Helen Tamblyn-Saville founder of UK Fitness Bloggers and the brains behind Helsbels. I have known Helen for a couple of years now, we often bump into each other at blogger events and have daughters of a similar age with the same name which is always quite funny.
I have known originally from America Mollie Middleton, better known as PT Mollie for a similar time spotting her at races and helping me out from time to time with how to videos for my Clubhouse Ladies, and she recently moved to my neck of the woods so I see her occasionally at parkrun too.
The other members of the team I only knew virtually…which was a little stressful…did they know how slow I run? Would they like me? Would they think I was a fitness blogging fraud?
Corey Melke Hinz writes the blog Learning Patience adventures in cooking, running, travelling and everything expat…originally from Houston living in London with her husband…who was on hand over the weekend helping in camp. Corey describes herself on her blog as Outgoing, Silly, Determined, Caring and FUN…she forgot to mention LOUD…she was an absolute blast!!!
Sabine Noebel is originally from Frankfurt, Germany, but living in London since 2009. She writes the blog My Life My Challenges She says her first love was dancing, from Jazz to Hip Hop and R&B whenever she listens to music she just wants to move her body…but she’s quite partial to the odd marathon too.
And then the final member of the team was
Kat Miller who was also pacing her partner Jools who was attempting 100 miles…yep you read that right 100 MILES in 24 hours!!! Now these two were unbelievable…proper ultra running pros…one look inside their tent (I mean base camp) showed me they meant business, check out her blog Tailfish where she writes about snowboarding, running and gadgets.
And then there was ME of course…and I haven’t run more than 10K since May…so had no idea how I was going to get on.
So there you have it a team of 6 ladies…but here is where it got tricky…only 4 of the team were staying over night…I for one could not quite face the camping element so would be travelling in each morning. I have been a bit run down lately, and am due to have a long weekend away with my daughter and didn’t want to make myself ill through lack of sleep or coldness (I always get far too cold when I camp) and I am not too confident running in the dark either…I might need to work up to that.
So we had 24 hours to cover as many 6 mile laps as possible.
I arrived on site at about 10am on the Saturday, the camp was already fully functional with most teams pitching up the previous day. I didn’t really need to do anything as our camp was all set up…I just plonked my coolbox down and opened up two foldup chairs and I was sorted.
I was first up to run when the race started at midday. It was good really because it didn’t give me too much time to stress. The claxon sounded and we were off. I started at the back and decided I would just run as steadily as possible for as long as possible. It was a beautiful day…but very sunny and I didn’t take any water with me, knowing there would be a water stop at 3 miles.
The route was lovely, very traily…with a short section on tarmac but most on a dirt track, or through fields, or grassed areas. On lap 1 I decided not to take photos and I ran consistently until about mile 4, including all of the hills of which there were many…one which just went on for an age.
By mile 4 I was overheating…for a moment I considered taking of my vest and running in my bra…but nobody needed to see that and I just walked for a while to cool down…but there was little shade. I normally take just short of an hour for a road based 5 miler…but this was 6 miles and I realised my estimate of 1.10 was very ambitious…so I set my sights on finishing in an hour and twenty…as I didn’t want our carefully planned schedule to be thrown out too much by me.
I came across the line in 1.23 which is not bad considering the hot conditions.
Next up was Corey who I handed my wristband over to, and I went off to desperately take on some water and collapse on the floor by our camp in an attempt to cool off…I took off my vest for it to dry off and gave my feet time to air out.
I had brought food with me but not enough, and not enough variety. I had made up a huge batch of sandwiches, and also a container full of chicken and rice (but I couldn’t quite face that) so I just scoffed all the sandwiches one after another….and they did the job. I knew I would need to refuel as my next lap was only in 2 peoples time.
In between my two runs I was lucky enough to experience the spitfire flyover. The event is held in Hornchurch Country Park in the London Borough of Havering and during World War II it was Home of RAF Hornchurch, an airfield crucial to the RAF’s Battle of Britain campaign and the launch site of many a Spitfire mission.
It was a fantastic addition to the day. (Clearly this is not my picture and is taken of SpitfireScrambles website ha ha)
This was my attempt…with a bird competing for our attention!!!!
The second lap was of course more difficult and I didn’t run as much of it, but I was still pretty impressed with my effort levels. Carrying water helped for sure, and I managed to get my bottle topped up at 3 points along the route. The stewards were incredible…like seriously, friendly, helpful, concerned…ha ha…it must have been a real effort on their part too.
I was aware that we were on a schedule, so I continued to push…especially the last mile which was downhill through a lovely cool forest section, and then through a busy part of the park filled with families and then ending with a run around the camp area with fellow teams cheering you on…if thats not enough to keep my legs moving I don’t know what is…I did my second lap in 1.32.11…10 minutes slower than my first which I thought was incredible.
I handed over to Sabine and then I was out of that place…I was off to celebrate a friends 50th back in London…I felt a bit sad to be leaving my team, but I knew they had things under control. Sabine, Mollie and Corey were each down to do some double laps over night, and Kat would be pacing Jools too…
I would be back in the morning with Helen to round things up.
The following morning, after going to bed at 2pm (I stayed up to watch Mo Farah win gold) I was up at 7am…not feeling too bad actually. I grabbed some breakfast (McDonalds…sorry folks) and headed back to Hornchurch.
Literally within 2 minutes of me finding my ladies, Helen was finishing her first lap and asking if I was ready to go…an hour earlier than I had expected…so I quickly put my trainers on filled up my water bottle and I was off again.
My legs hurt.
I was tired.
And despite it being 9am in the morning and overcast…it was still hot.
It took me a long time to get round…1 hour 43 minutes to be precise…but I did it. I ran 3 laps of a 6 mile course in 24 hours….thats 18 miles in total…with hardly any training…and I helped our team notch up 20 miles…not bad for a team of 6 hey?
An average of 1 hour 20 per 6 miles if my maths serves me right?
I had a whale of a time at this event. I could kick myself for not camping and embracing the whole thing, I even wished I had braved a nighttime run…maybe the pitch black conditions would have made me run faster.
I loved the organisation, being family run it felt very low key and not too corporate. It was great to see lots of other runners and bloggers I know from around London, like Claire from East London Road Runners who did 40 miles to celebrate her 40th Birthday, and Lisa from Fat Girl Fit who’s team came 3rd.
I truly felt like I belonged at this event rather than sticking out which sometimes happens…I’ve heard it before that ultra runners are a different type or runner, and if this event is anything to go by I’m hooked.
I am determined to get a team of Too Fat to Run ladies taking part…and I am committing to doing the solo run in 2017 to see if I can do 50 miles in 24 hours…what do you think? Can I do it?
…and just look at this bling!!!
A massive thank you to my UK Fitness Blogger team mates…it was a brilliant effort…and a huge congratulations to Jools who did indeed do his 100 miles…Jess wasn’t far off clocking up 54 miles…thats 7 laps!!!
This is Jools after 100 miles…looks pretty good to me