'The Spitfire Scramble is a 24-hour multi-terrain relay or solo race. Held at Hornchurch Country Park, Havering. 

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. 

You can run on your own 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'

Supply tent and for some shut eye

This shall be year two for myself and Helen. We are participating as mixed pair aka 'Hare and the Tortoise'

Last year we completed the most laps in this team category coming in first position. With a few more teams and popularity, this year will be a tough act to follow to reclaim the trophy!

After we erect the tent to keep all our supplies in, Helen moves the car to the car park. I spot my 'crew mum' Alma who is running as part of a team this weekend. It is always good to see a friendly face and makes a change that we see each other at an event other than a Centurion Running one...


I take a walk around the last section of the route as this year it has been moved to the field around the camp site, rather than using the footpath. It is rather lumpy in places but it looks a much better idea as to keep us away from the crossing to the food bar and toilets. 

It all looks much neater this year. 

Runners assemble for the midday start

Team Hare & Tortoise

After the race briefing we go back to the tent to get my kit ready and change, as I will be doing the starting lap first. Helen prefers this as she gets to nervous and excited...

Big turn out for the starting lap

As the clock reaches midday the mass of runners start and head on up to the pathway then back on down onto the grass towards the first pond. Solo, pairs, mixed team, male, female, young and older all charge at full pelt for the first mile. 

I enjoy listening to the conversation and get settled into my pace enjoying the sunshine. It's not overly warm, just right. 

Already a young girl nearby trips and twist her ankle. Other runners nearby stop to see she is ok. She is limping but in good hands. 

We have only just reached the first mile marker further along and I can't help but think... is everyone prepared for this kind of event? 

Hopefully she is part of a bigger team so someone can make up the laps later...

View after first mile

I find a comfortable pace and keep my distance between other runners. It won't be long before the groups dissperce along the way...

After the winding climb up to the highest point of the route I am reminded of the view out across to London. It is just about clear enough to see Canary Wharf in the distance.

Helen having way too much fun!

My favourite section has always been the last few miles. It is more sheltered and trail paths then onto fields and through wooded areas before emerging back at the playground and to the starting campsite. 

This year we run around the field and all the campers so get a good cheer and support from all the other teams!

Helen is already at the ready in anticipation waiting for me. I slap the yellow strap on her wrist so she has her turn for a lap now.

She can't wait to get going...

Lap Two finished 

I take the time whilst Helen is out on her lap to have some water and chat to other teams and Alma who is running later with her team. As Helen is pacing slower, I have more time than she does between each lap that we do. 

Like last year I may do a few doubles if she needs longer to rest or eat. 

This is just the start of the event so come tonight who knows how things will go...

This is the highest point on the route

Plenty of gravel paths by the second mile

Helen off for another lap

Grassy tracks by the third mile

View into the fourth mile

The best part through the woods and the last mile

By now we have managed a fair few laps between us as the evening gets closer. 

It is much cooler but the sun is getting low and is quite bright still. Plenty of daylight left before we need head torches 

Helen finishing her lap in the evening sunshine

Sun setting over Hornchurch Country Park

Looking to London before the night section

Trying to play catch up with the other mixed pair team

After 12 hours of the event and nine laps in total between us, we are still feeling focused and strong. As Helen leaves for her next lap, I change into another layer and refuel before getting settled in the sleeping bag to relax. Not so tired to sleep yet but will be taking power naps probably after my next lap...


Sunday morning has arrived

Warming up again but cloud coverage as some shade

The last lap before midday

One of the many teams finishing there last lap

Reached a total of 17 laps

A new medal design this year

The finishing tee and medal

Spitfire display at 12:00 Sunday


'Events organised by Runners for Runners. We want all of our races to be the kind of event we would like to enter ourselves. Low key, affordable and most importantly enjoyable.
Sussex Trail Events are Chris, Danny and Jay we are all triathletes and runners and between us have run races from 5k to 250 miles and everything in between'

I parked nearby on Lancing Green and took the short walk along the prom to the start at the Coast Cafe Bar on the seafront.

The evening is muggy with dark skies and already drizzle has made the ground damp. Not the best summer conditions for mid August...

Numbers are collected in alphabetical order, so I am lucky number three. Jay gives me my bib and tells me we shall catch up later after the run.

Bosh Runners

I drop my bag which has a change of shoes and jacket for afters. 

I do not often run 10k races, but as this is a local event from organisers I have got to know through the ultra scene and past events, it is a good way to experience the other side of running.

The race filled up just last week to the maximum of 300 in total. Impressive for a first race of this kind. I think that is the attraction for everyone. 

The race will begin shortly after high tide at 7pm and all we need to do is run along the shoreline as fast as possible, making it back in time, before the high tide! 

I catch up with local running friends and the Bosh runners, I also chat with a few ultra runners who decided to give this a go too! 

The time passes quickly and soon enough we have a quick brief of the race and then head down the pebbles to the sea...

Blowy and Cloudy

After a slight delay waiting on the tide to go out, the stronger winds seemed to be the problem here. We set off as fast as possible, sprinting along the wet sand, dodging puddles and stones the best we can...

266 Runners attend the start

The front pack runners tear off at lightning speed. Most are elite club runners from the South East and South Coast.

Lots of spectators are cheering us along on the beach and really enjoying the display of sprinting runners, fast approaching...

Eye spy Supergirl Sarah Sawyer behind me...

I get carried away with the fast group and forget that I am running 6:20min/mile, so ease off on the gas to keep my energy for the return leg.

Dark Skies and Dark Sands

After keeping an eye on my footing and reaching the marshals, which guide us back up the pebbles and onto the promenade. Its just over 1.40 mile on the route, then smooth and flat cycle path along Lancing Green and the beach huts.  

I can feel myself getting quite warm in the humid and look forward to some breeze for the way back!

Just before the switch back (photo by Jon Lavis)

I try my best to pick up the pace and start to feel better on the flat. I catch up with some of the front pack runners and gradually over take a few.

At 3 miles and approaching the switch back I can see running friends Steve, Tina and Nik at the water stop. They are doing a grand job handing out water cups and cheering us all on...

It's hard to stop and turn at the same time running this pace, but I manage a smile and thank you to Steve as I grab a water cup, before spilling it all down my chin. I hand the cup to Jay who is further along...

Once heading back the way we came along the cycle path. I see the other runners fast approaching in the other direction. I thumbs up and say well done to Sarah, Nuala, Helen, Leonie, Lisa, Marina, Nick and Michelle as I pass them...

25th Place 43:32

Once back at Lancing and passing the beach huts, back onto the pebbles and beach. Then along the wet sand for the final leg to the finish.

I dodge puddle pools, seaweed and stones the best I can, but its not that easy. 

I cannot remember the last time I trained or raced a 10k tempo run. It's not my speciality and I just feel like I am warming up. 

The sand feels inclined running back and the headwind has slowed me to a 7:20min/mile pace...

Once the Cafe is in view again and the cheers can be heard, we follow markers back up the rolling pebbles and to the finish. 

My slowest mile was the last back to the finish...

After collecting my medal, cooling down and drinking some water. I watch the other runners coming into the finish and catch up with everyone. 

We had a really good run and everyone loved the idea of beating the tide! 

I stay for a drink at the bar, catching up with Steve, Tina, Nick and Michelle.

Lisa tells me her exciting news that she will be training for her first 100 miler at South Downs way next year. I put her mind at ease about running long and look forward to seeing her out on the route come next June!

It is good to chat with Chris and Jay after the event and thanking them for a successful and enjoyable evening. 

I look forward to the next Sussex Trail event the Downs Link Ultra

Ultra Luke


The race begins in Farnham at the Western end of the North Downs. The course works its way through some of the best of the English countryside before traveling through the small village of Puttenham and on to Guildford. It then continues on to Ranmore Common before the steepest climb of the race up to the top of Box Hill. The trail then drops down the other side and back up to Reigate Hill, on through Merstham to Oxted and a further 8 miles to Knockholt Pound and the 50 mile point at the outermost edge of Greater London. The course then travels on through Wrotham and Holly Hill before crossing the Medway Bridge. The final 25 miles see runners travel South East towards Dover running the majority on trails, paying brief visits to the villages of Detling, Hollingbourne, Harrietsham and Charing before dropping down into Wye and the finish. A total climb of 9,930ft and overall elevation change of 20,000ft, making this one of the toughest 100 mile events in the South East.

-Centurion Running

Like last year I stayed over in Horsham at the parents as it is about 50 minutes drive to Farnham from theirs. 

A very early 03:00 start with my usual race choice breakfast of avocado, then strong coffee with butter, coconut oil and cream. 

Everyone at the ready

The roads are clear and damp from a misty foggy night. The air feels thick and humid, just like the SDW100 in June. 

I am wearing a race vest again with my compression tights, Inov-08 Talon trail shoes and matching Ultra race pack. 

Shawn chilling

Like last time we stop by the Travelodge to collect ultra running friend Shawn. He is already in reception with all his drop bags and kit ready for us when we arrive. 

Just five minutes later by 05:00 and in good time we are at the race registration in Farnham. 

05:30 Race Briefing

Walk to the start

218 runners tow the start line today, in the hope of reaching the finish in Wye, Kent within the next 30 hours. I wish Shawn all the best and make my way down nearer the front of the trail for the beginning...

The Trail Head. Photo by Susie Chan

The actual route is diverted for the first half mile as road works are in use, so this will be extra miles to the 100 today! 

Misty Sunrise

Mile 14 finding my strong

Newlands Corner

St Martha's (photo Shawn Timmons)

Went slightly off track and added few more miles in the woods, trying to find the trail and markers again near Ranemore Common.

Getting too warm out in the sun and frustrated with my error of judgement going off route...

The Stepping Stones Box Hill

25 Miles. Looking to Surrey and Sussex from the top

Tripped and fell scraping my arm


Reigate climb with the cheerleader

31 Miles. The spread at Reigate Hill

Got to catch up with crew mum Alma and Sunday (who volunteered here) my folks and John.

Heading to Caterham

Getting too hot...

Cows on the track

Heading to Botley Hill


63 Miles. Sunset near Holy Hill

Long stretches of Field and Woodland

Mile 72. View from the Medway Bridge

The day ends...

76 Miles. The A Team at Bluebell Hill

I decided to call it a day once reaching Bluebell Hill. My ankles were done and I can feel the familiar tightness and strain from my tendons again. Same spot as when did the Thames Ring back in June, so I know the warning signs well. 

With overheating and feeling sick from the sun, going off route too many times then the ankles. It wasn't my day to finish and I wasn't in that mindset to be able to. I would risk further injuries if I continue and a slow death march of walking, which I see no point in putting myself through.

I have learnt with very long endurance events that if too many things are against you it is 50/50 if you will make it to the finish or not. I gave it a very good effort and pleased I did stick it out for so long, but even to get here was such a struggle and took much mental strength to fight onwards. 

I have had so many smooth and enjoyable races where everything pieces together nicely to the finish. Today was not one of those good days and I have another DNF, making that two this year. Always a blow and dissapointment, yet these bad days are an indicator how tough and hard running so long can be. My mind, body and soul feels depleted and burnt out.

Time to reflect and take some time out.

North Downs have beat me this year!