The Grizzly

The Dash To Delirium – 20 Miles Of Grime And Punishment – Sunday 1st March, 2015

SmallBogOften runs have a sting in the tail. This one pokes you in the eyes right from the start. For no reason other than pure spite on the part of the organisers, we start off by running the first km along the shingle beach IN THE WRONG DIRECTION. It’s so easy to set off too fast, but setting off too fast along here will sap the strength from your legs whilst taking you further from your destination. I heed the warning signs and take it easy. I find myself running alongside Rachael from EHH. We had already travelled alongside each other from Weymouth to Seaton.

Then we head back through town and off to Beer. Sadly Beer refers to the next town and not the next activity. And up the first hill of the day. I learned on the cub run last year that there will be plenty of (and that there is no shame in) walking. We walk uphill and then run downhill. This event is amazingly supported. I guess it is East Devon’s London Marathon. The support as we drop down into Beer is brilliant. And I’m feeling good. As we reach the sea we turn right and uphill through the carpark and caravan site to the top of the cliff. This is glorious, nice and flat with great views. I’m overtaken by Barbara (self styled Old Bat On A Bike) from EHH. I quickly determine that attempting to match her pace would be futile.

But soon this lovely flat section finishes and we start to descend towards the beach at the end of Branscombe, England’s longest village. It is starting to get muddy and I take it easy. Near the bottom, Rachael stops to take some nutrition on board and I push on ahead. At the beach, the cub run heads off back toweards Seaton. But this year I’m striking westwards. WHY DO THEY DO IT TO US! There’s a perfectly good pedestrian bridge at Branscombe, yet they make us wade through the b$%&&y river. It’s cold. What lays ahead? My assumption is that the full Grizzly would be like two cubsworth with a boggy bit thrown in. WRONG!

We head uphill and inland. As we move away from coast, the terrain is different. There is a lot of running on tracks rather than out in the open. And there is plenty of mud. And what’s more there is very little of this course that is even. But there are the many inspirational messages posted alongside the course that are characteristic of this run. And the lesson that I learned last year is repeated (seven out of every five people do not understand fractions!). One of the marshals claims there is a flat bit ahead. Clearly his and my idea of flat do not coincide. The marshalling is brilliant. The Grizzly spirit is clearly contagious. There is consensus that none of us have ever eaten so many jelly babies. And then Rachael has caught me up again.

And so it continues. We come to a stretch where we have runners on the same path in the opposite direction. Then we head off for a loop around another steep hill before heading back to the shared path. By this time there are still runners in the other direction, but not many. But where is the infamous Grizzly bog? That is the bit that has been spooking me this last week. Not so much the bog itself. I’m just terrified of losing one (or more) shoes. After all this is only the second time I’ve worn these trail shoes. And they were b$%&&y expensive. But also the logistics of carrying on with no shoes. I toyed with the idea of carrying a spare pair around. We chat with a lady from Newbury. She is not a Grizzly virgin. She is reassuring about the bog, noting that there is a rope there!

GrizzlyAnd eventually the bog is upon us. Maybe we were lucky with the conditions. We take it one at a time. Although there is muddy water well above your knees, there is really no chance of losing even one shoe. I stop to take some photos, but, with a scientific background, Rachael’s understanding of Newtonian physics decrees that conservation of momentum is more important and she pushes on. It is then very steep and muddy uphill (the lady from Newbury did warn us of this) but again there is a rope at hand, and I need it. Then at the top we turn onto a steep road back downhill. It is covered in mud and this is, for me, just about the scariest bit of the course. Rachael waits for me to catch up at the bottom.

We push on and are starting to count off the kms. We sense we must be approaching Branscombe again. Down a hill, live music playing, and we have reached the pub (the Fountain Head). We get a great reception from the revellers. Not a bad place to spend Grizzly day, but, on balance, I’m happy to be part of the entertainment. And then we are into the woods, back on the coast path. I’ve got something in my shoe (actually I had lots of things in my shoes but one thing that was particularly annoying). I stop and take my shoe off which makes things worse. Rachael is keen to push on (she had her reasons!). After a further shoe stop, things have improved. I’m catching Rachael, who then disappears into the woods! I use this opportunity to send a text message to my running nemesis, Mrs Kim Fudge.

SmallStairwayWe carry on, out into the open, and down to Branscombe Beach and again they make us wade through the b$%&&y river. And then we have to run along another b$%&&y shingle beach. We run half and walk half and a couple from the Bedford Harriers AC are having a bit of a domestic. We have visions of him clubbing her over the head and dragging her around the rest of the course to ensure they break 4:30! We head up the undercliff path. There is no choice here but to walk. And as we near the summit a sign telling us we are on the Stairway To Heaven. I can’t help myself. I start to sing (very quietly). “There’s a lady who’s sure all that glitters is gold”. We reach the top of the cliff and there is one hell of a wind blowing off the sea. It is almost blowing us off our feet. Rachaels’s hat is at serious risk. Back along the cliff top, through the car-park and back down the hill to Beer.

GrizzlyShirtWe have now reached that wonderful point. LESS THAN A PARKRUN TO GO. This time we take the coast path from Beer, and back onto a road. I remember this well from last year. Just one more hill to go. We turn right, through a wood and up a (short) steep incline. And now downhill. Through a little park and at the end the finish is in sight. Straight and downhill. It is a brilliant finish. We are now running strongly. Great support. We overtake a couple of Tamar Runners (I’ve heard of walking on water, but running on a river?). And as we cross the finish line together we are just pipped by the Bedford caveman and his lady.

Then we queue to be hosed down by the local fire brigade. The lady behind me is sporting Chippenham RC colours. Do you know (realbuzz blogger) Libby Laird I ask? I ran a marathon with her last week she replies (a check on the results confirms it is Sarah). Nice moment 🙂 And last of all the Grizzly Survivor shirts. Was ever a technical T shirt received with such gladness?!? Huge thanks to the Axe Valley Runners and the people of East Devon for a brilliantly organised and supported event. Days like this you really know you’re living.

“Life Long And Prosper”.

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