The Spitfire 20 is held at Dunsfold Aerodrome in Surrey and is famous for being the race test track for the popular British TV programme Top Gear. The Aerodrome is a vast open area and made for a totally new experience in running for me. The course consists of 2 laps of 10 miles, 3 miles of which are running around the Airfield, so it gives you a feel for just how large this area is.
I was running the race with friends Tim and Brian, the race was fairly local to us. It was an early start though, race registration opened at 7:30am with the race start at 9:30am. We arrived at 8am which meant we had plenty of time to relax. It was great because we had a chance to meet up with a couple of other runners from Twitter, suddenly conversation had to be longer than 140 characters!!!
As well as meeting Jo and her boyfriend, I also got to meet the remarkable Kevin Betts, a runner attempting to run 52 Marathons in a year, one a week and all must be completed in under 4 hours. Today the organisers had marked out an additional 6 miles for Kevin to complete this weeks Marathon. You can follow and support Kevin on Twitter or his Website 52marathons .
The vast Airfield
The weather conditions were perfect, (to begin with!) overcast and cool. With my first Marathon just 2 weeks away this was my last planned long run and I set myself the target of 9 - 9:30 minute miles. As per usual I went off quicker than planned (as I always do at races) with the first few miles at around 8:20 minute pace. I ran with Tim the whole race, Brian had pushed on after the first few miles which was as expected as he is running strong at the moment. Tim normally the strongest runner out of us all, was coming back from a serious mountain bike injury, and had done little running in the last couple of months, so was happy to 'plod' with me. It was great because we kept the conversation going for the full 20 miles! I'm sure at times though Tim knew when to talk me through some difficult moments of the race (hills and the last couple of miles).
As I said earlier the course consists of two laps, the first 3 miles around the flat open airfield before moving onto country lanes to the village of Dunsfold and the surrounding area before returning to the aerodrome. The country lanes can be described as undulating, some short sharp hills and a longer hill heading up to mile 8 (and 18). The roads are not shut but very quiet and the any cars made their way past slowly. There were plenty of water stops with each stop supplying water, Powerbar energy gels and Jelly Babies. The course was very well marshaled. I didn't stop as I was practising my Marathon fuelling which consisted of Sports drink in my Camelback, mini flapjacks and Jelly Beans.
The dark sky that was threatening most of the race finally decided to down pour around mile 16, by the time we reached mile 18 we were soaked to the bone and my trainers were squelching with every step. After the final hill at mile 18, I was really tired but Tim managed to spur me on to the finish.
I came in at 2:54:52 an average of 8:45 minute miles which would make for a sub 4 hour Marathon, so I was really pleased. I will take this on board when I run the London Marathon next April but my Marathon in 2 weeks time is a different kettle of fish. The Marathon is extremely hilly so I will be happy with sub 5 hours in 2 weeks time.
To sum up this was a great event, a little disappointing that there was no goodie bag at the end, but a great medal made up for that. The course was different and interesting and was a great distance for anyone doing an Autumn Marathon. There was the option of running a single 10 mile lap also. Great company with friends old and new, now for the 2 week taper!