In one of his final acts for his former club Dacorum & Tring back in July 2016, Rich Brawn went over to Hornchurch Country Park to compete in the Spitfire Scramble 24-hour event. That was a month or so before he relocated to Bournemouth.
It was a great way to sign off for Rich, by spending some quality time with his clubmates and doing what they all loved doing most… Socialising and running.
Three years down the line, Rich was back again, reunited with his former clubmates for another 24-hour extravaganza. It was only in the days leading up to the event though that Rich learned of his inclusion.
The Dacorum & Tring men’s team captain Jamie Marlow had contacted him to find out if he was available. His team had had a member drop out so they needed to find a replacement.
Since he didn’t actually have anything planned for that weekend, other than a marathon training run on the Sunday, it was the perfect opportunity for Rich to catch up with his old running buddies so he agreed to join the team.
Of course, there was the small matter of running quite a lot over the 24 hours but that was something to worry about later down the line. At that moment he was just excited that he was going to see his D&T friends again.
Back in 2016, Rich competed as part of a men’s team of eight. As it panned out, each member of the team completed four 5.9 mile laps, which equated to almost 24 miles per person. That was by far the furthest Rich had ever run at that point in time and the team finished 2nd in their category.
This time they were doing it a mixed team of five, which would inevitably mean more running, more miles, more fatigue and a far more challenging experience. Rich’s running had improved a lot over the three years since he was last there though so he was up for the challenge.
The only problem he did have was that he seemed to have developed a soar heel over recent times which noticeably flared up when he was running and after he’d finished a run. That was a bit of a worry, as he knew, in a 24-hour relay event, he would finish a lap and would then soon be back out there doing another lap, so he couldn’t afford to be in pain when heading out for his next run.
On the way to Hornchurch Country Park the traffic was quite bad so it took Rich a bit longer than anticipated to get there. He arrived just in time to see Jamie Marlow set off on the first lap.
Rich got his stuff out of the car and put it in his tent. He was going to be on the fourth leg, so had a bit of time to catch up with his D&T friends before he had to get read to run.
Jamie Marlow ran a blisteringly quick first lap, finishing in 35 minutes which set a precedence and left Rich and the other members of the team wondering how on earth they were going to follow that up.
Jamie Saunders then took over for the second leg before handing over to Chris Marriott for the third leg. Rich then took up the reigns and set off the fourth leg.
Rich wanted to go at a reasonable pace but he wanted to conserve his energy, knowing there would be many laps and many more miles to come.
It was quite a testing course in places, with quite a few mild inclines and one tough gravel section on the fourth mile that Rich found really energy sapping.
Once he was over that though, it was a nice drive down the hill and back toward the field where everyone was camping and where the changeover would take place.
Completing the lap in 37 minutes and 23 seconds, Rich then passed the baton onto Ania Gabb who was running the fifth leg for the team. After she’d ran, it would then be back to Jamie Marlow and the process would be repeated.
Rich and Ania had ran together in a couple of 20-mile races in the lead up to their Spring marathons so it was nice that they could team up in this event.
The next time round Jamie Marlow took it a little more conservatively before handing over to Jamie Saunders who set off on his second lap. It was a gap of around 2-and-a-half hours from the time Rich finished his last lap to the time he had to start his next one.
That made it quite tricky as it wasn’t really enough time to eat any proper food or get a decent amount of rest. He was feeling okay for the time being though and was soon back out there on his second lap.
This time Rich took it easier over the first couple of miles and saved his energy for the mid to latter part of the route. That seemed to work better and he felt like he had a much better run, coming in in a time of 37:27, which was almost exactly the same time he’d run the first lap in.
By the time they’d all finished their second laps, the team were way out in front in the mixed teams of five category. They were already a lap or two ahead of the team that was currently in second place.
That was good as it afforded them a bit of breathing space and meant to pressure to keep banging out fast laps was off, to some extent. None of them wanted to let the team down though so they kept going at a relatively fast pace.
Rich and Ania had heard them say over tanoy that there was a prize for the most consistent laps and for that you just had to get three laps in in as closer time as possible.
Since Ania had somehow managed to run exactly the same time for her first two laps and Rich had only a four second difference between his, they both fancied their chances for that prize. All they had to do was run one more lap of a similar time.
Unfortunately though they both slowed down a touch on their third lap. Rich came in around about 50 seconds slower, which he was a bit disappointed with.
It had started to get dark by the time Ania got her run underway which made it a bit more difficult. Randomly she also got a nose bleed on the way round as well which had never happened to her before.
She came in a minute down on her times for the first two laps, which left both her and Rich thinking they’d probably missed out on the consistency prize.
The next time they went out, they were all going to be running in the dark and knew they’d be needing their head torches to help guide them on the right path and navigate safely through the wooded sections. This was where things started to go wrong for the team.
When Rich set off on his lap, he soon realised that the head-torch he had didn’t give off much light. That made it very difficult for him to see where he was going.
It would have been too much of a risk to attempt running at a fast pace in the pitch black, so he slowed right down. He was also finding it difficult to see the arrows telling him which direction to go in and it wasn’t long before he took a wrong turn.
The path he was running on took him back to the path that all the other runners were on. The only problem was, they were running in a different direction to him. This really confused Rich but he thought, he best turn and run in the same direction as everyone else.
Then, just after he’d gone through 2-miles on his watch, much to his dismay, he saw the 1-mile marker. He realised then that he must have taken a detour of about a mile when he went off piste. It was very demoralising, as the last thing you want to be doing in a 24-hour race is running additional miles.
He had no choice but to carry on and bang out the rest of the lap so that was what he did, eventually reaching the changeover point after having been out there for just over 50 minutes.
It was frustrating for Rich as he knew it would mess up his average lap time as but what was done was done. He couldn’t change it now. What made matters worse was that when he finally arrived to hand over the batten he couldn’t find Ania and because it was dark and he had his head torch on, she couldn’t tell that it was Rich either.
He trundled up towards camp to ask if anyone had seen Ania and they said she’d gone down to the changeover point. Rich went back down and it was then that they managed to find each other and Ania set off on her way.
After that mishap at the start of her leg, Ania was thinking things could only get better from there. She was wrong about that though. She too ended up veering off course and getting lost for a while. Luckily she was with another runner when it happened.
She also fell over a couple of times as well whilst she was out there so she was relieved to get back to the changeover point in one piece and put the disastrous lap behind her.
After his leg Rich had retired to his tent to have something to eat and try to get some rest before he was due to head out for his next one. He’d found fueling to be a bit of a problem as there wasn’t really enough time to eat anything substantial and every time he did have something it gave him a stomach ache during his next run.
After his last experience he was praying he wouldn’t have to do another lap in the dark. By the time he took over for his next lap it was 3:45 am. It was still dark when he started running but over the course of the lap, it gradually began to get lighter, which was a huge relief.
Feeling a little more energised after the rest that he’d had, Rich managed to get round his next lap without any hitches. Finishing in 43 minutes, he was pleased with the run. That meant he’d now covered 29.5 miles in total, having completed five laps.
He immediately retired to his bed, knowing it would be a while till he’d have to be back out there again. After a good two hours of sleep he felt much better and almost felt ready to go again when it was time to head down to the changeover area.
It was a bonus to be running in broad daylight again as well and that spurred Rich on to put in a good shift, getting round in 42 minutes this time, which was an average pace of 7:23.
It was certainly not as quick as his earlier laps the previous day, where his average pace was around 6:30, but it was still a decent effort considering it took him up to a total of 35 miles.
What was most relieving was that the end was in sight as well. He now knew there was only time to do one more lap each. On his sixth lap, Chris Marriott had really struggled with an ankle injury and he’d been forced to slow down dramatically and even walk some sections.
Ania was also injured by the time she embarked on her sixth lap and she ended up having to walk the majority of it. Plus she was completely exhausted from doing so many miles and her body was telling her enough is enough.
That left just the two Jamies and Rich still going for the seventh and final lap. Both Jamie Marlow and Jamie Saunders got through their last laps okay which left Rich to head out on the course for the last time.
Knowing it was his final lap was a real boost for Rich and, although it was tough, he felt relieved knowing he could rest afterwards and it would essentially be mission completed.
With that in mind he found the strength for one final push and ended up completing the lap in 41 minutes which was a minute quicker than his previous lap.
As he approached the finish he sprinted towards the line, elated to have finally made it to the end. In fact, he finished so strongly that he got 10th overall for the Spitfire Scramble home straight segment on Strava.
In total the team had completed 33 laps over the course of the 24 hours. That equated to 137 miles in total. It was a quite staggering effort from each of them. Their average lap time was 42 minutes 14 seconds, which was pretty impressive given how difficult it got towards the end.
They finished 7 laps ahead of the team that finished 2nd in the Mixed Teams of 3 to 5 category, so it was a very comfortable victory in the end. They even finished fourth in the overall team competition which was a considerable achievement considering that included teams of eight, where each member would have needed to run a lot less often.
After the event had finished, Rich and his teammates stayed behind to be presented with their trophies for 1st place in the Mixed Teams of 3 to 5 category. It was a great way to end a fantastic weekend for Rich and his Dacorum & Tring friends.
Individually, Rich had covered 42 miles over the course of the 24 hours which he was really pleased with. He felt it would be good marathon training as well to do such a laborious endurance event.
The best thing about the weekend for Rich though wasn’t even the running part. It was actually seeing and catching up with all his friends and former clubmates from Dacorum & Tring. They always hold a special place in his heart so to be back with them again was a great experience.
Along with the team Rich was in, Dacorum & Tring had several other teams competing across the various different categories including a mixed team of seven. They all gave it everything over the duration of the event and there was a great spirit and togetherness around the camp.
Some other members even turned up to man the marshalling posts as well doing some long shifts out in the woods helping to ensure the smooth running of the event.
Overall it was a terrific weekend for Rich and he was grateful to be a part of it. Not only did he return to Bournemouth with a gleaming trophy, he also came back with some fabulous memories to cherish.