Bedford Harriers A.C.
Mad dogs and Englishmen
The Grizzly as the name suggests is not for the faint hearted. I put my entry in last year with the comfort that as it was so far off I would have plenty of time to train and be ready. Of course, as the time got nearer I found myself completely out of time , and had missed all The Grizzly weekend training as I was either working, going to football matches or simply couldn't be bothered to get out of bed. More fool me , anyway , myself, Alistair and Tom travelled down to Sidmouth on the Saturday. A long boring journey was broken up with a game of Trivial Pursuit 1980`s edition, which Al` managed to balance the board on his lap, and me rolling the dice in the back seat , whilst Tom constantly fiddled with his blackberry. We arrived late afternoon and strolled into sleepy Sidmouth past the antique shops and `closed` signs down to the front. Alistair regaled us with his local knowledge and 15 seconds later we found a local pub to shelter in. In the evening we met up with the bulk of The Harriers who were staying in Sidmouth and went out for a meal. I am not sure if 4 pints of IPA was a good nutritional prep` but it took my mind off what was to come. Steve Gaunt had to pull out due to his knee problem, and Bill Khinda somehow hurt himself the day before whilst walking on the beach and dropped out. On the day of the race it was cold and very windy….but hey , no snow. We lined up at the start just eager to get going. The race started &away the masses ran along the shingle beach and looped around up the hill through a caravan park towards one of the many cliff tops. Annoyingly, I had to take my shoe off as I had got some stones in from the beach. I lost Gareth after about 2 miles as we all plodded up, up and up. I can not recall the exact route or course, suffice to say, that a great deal of it was impossible to actually run. Runners in front who stopped and walked up the inclines were difficult to pass as the tracks were narrow and muddy. I struggled with the steep downhill sections and my left calf muscle really tightened at 4 miles. It seemed that the majority of the course was either climbing up very steep inclines or struggling down very steep declines. There was a stretch at about the 8 mile point where you could actually run for a couple of miles. I passed Cliff at about 13 miles, but other than him I did`nt see any other Harrier on route. The last 3 miles were very tough as we came off the shingle beach and yet again had to more or less climb a very large hill. The marshalls were very supportive all the way round, and I took water at every water station. The run ended coming off the beach and back towards where we started. I saw David Holt in the crowd by the finish line, then Paul Harris who came in just after me. I managed to meet up with Gareth who had been back and showered as we watched the other Harriers finish. Tom Lamb was suffering at the finish and required medical attention. He was very dizzy and was taken away to medical centre where he was put on oxygen to raise his low blood pressure. Special thanks should be given to Dave and Viv , who stayed with him and made sure he was okay whilst I tried to get hold of his car key etc. Tom was ok after about 30 minutes or so, and we were able to return to the Hotel to wash off all that mud. The day before Tom said he was looking forward to the 11 pints of lager he was going to enjoy after the race……he had 5 lemonades and a game of darts and just about had the energy to read the paper. We returned on Monday, slightly stiffer but more wisened men , we had survived The Grizzly….just !
Can you bear the Grizzly?
So, I’ve ‘run’ the Grizzly. It’s easy to say that in a little sentence, but it’s very difficult to sum up the whole experience, which started with hilly, icy and snowy cross country runs on Saturday mornings in January, and culminated in an over-loading of the senses on Sunday morning. I can’t really compare the Grizzly with any experience that I‘ve had before, and that was part of the difficulty in preparing for the race. Folk who’d done in previous years said ‘you’ll love it’ and folk who don’t run said ‘you’re mad’. But we train for these things don’t we? (or most do: it was obvious that the occasion was too much for some poor souls).
So standing on the Seaton promenade on the chilly Sunday morning with a host of other nervous people was an odd experience. There was a large number of Bedford Harriers doing it, so that made it a bit more familiar, and the main advantage was having Rob Bishop next to me; both of us saying ‘let’s not go off it too fast, but go ahead if you want to’. Ah ha, if only we had had the opportunity to go off fast: perhaps for the first 100 yards, but once we on the energy sapping shingle, that was it, no chance of an early burst. But we came off the shingle after a mile and thought, wow, proper surface, let’s run, only to be confronted shortly afterwards with a great meandering hill which made it difficult in places to do anything other than walk.
After a while I think we started judging the points on the hills where we had to walk and where we could start running again, and I think we did each other some good in that respect. Rob was better at going downhill than I was; I didn’t quite have that madcap fearlessness as we plummeted down muddy slopes. But I was really pleased that I never had any problems in the lung department when going up hills. OK it started hurting the leg muscles, but I don’t think either of us got to that lung bursting stage. And we did genuinely have a bit of energy left when we did a ‘sprint finish’ along the prom.
David Prior and Ian Kingstone kept popping up during the journey, and we exchanged pleasantries and entered into intellectual debates about the meaning of life on the way.
That bog. Let a child imagine what a bog would be like, create it and shove it on a hill in a wood. Dark brown gurpy sometimes waist-deep porridge. I think that 200m (20 minutes?) was the most enjoyable bit, and in some perverse way, a bit of a rest!
Running a mile and a half on the beach (again) and then ascending the cliff on a zig zag path, before going up even further on the Stairway to Heaven…followed by more hill!
Slip-sliding along slurry –filled lanes.
Going past a pub with folk supping ale…sadists!
The marshals were terrific and friendly. Loads said, lord, Bedford must be empty today, there’s so many yellow shirted Harriers! I said, look at Bedford and you’ll see why we left!
Waiting at least half a hour for Rob to answer a call of nature. I’m sure we could have won it if he hadn’t stopped.
Slipping and burying my nose in the mud. That Devon soil smells good!
Wading through a freezing cold stream
There were so many other things that will come back, I’m sure. But it was a great day, except that I got my socks dirty.
Finally I must thank Rob for staying with me and Steve Gaunt for persuading me and many others into embarking on this adventure. It was truly a memorable experience. I must also thank Steve, Viv and Lesley for arranging the training runs on Saturday mornings; without them we would probably have ended up as exhausted hulks in the bog.