Yes, it was that time of year again. As I dragged myself out of bed at 6:30am I kept thinking "why?" It had seemed a good idea when we entered back in November, but less so now. "What sort of idiots are runners?" I asked myself. "It's Mothers' Day, I should be lying in bed waiting for my sweet children to bring breakfast to me." No, I couldn't wait until midday before my first meal so I might as well get up and run!
The sun was shining, the birds were singing - what a glorious day for a jog along the cliffs. Suzanne and Martin were ready with a deluxe mini-bus (very easy to break speed limits in). They loaded their kit bag followed by their picnic bags. That's what we like about Suzanne, she gets her priorities right. And on to Stur to pick up the rest of the crew. We missed some of the familiar faces - Keith, Gerard and Sheila - but we had three "virgins" with us (bet you never knew the Doddlers had any of this breed!) Yes, Peter was doing his first Grizzly and Jane and Anne were doing their first Cub Run. "You know, it's very flat (when there aren't any hills) ha ha." Linda, Chris and John reminiscing about skiing and the lovely food they had. Isn't it funny how, whenever you have a few Doddlers together, the conversation veers onto food. And of course we all had our excuses for why we might not run so well that day.
Martin managed to access the sea front again. I'm sure they only put out the road-closed sign for him to drive through. The sea was lovely, as flat as a millpond, blue sky, no wind and a warm sun shining through. It was going to be a great day!
We mosey on down to the holiday camp and nose round the running shop, sampling various energy drinks and bars and purchase those vital pieces of equipment we've always wanted. Then back to the minibus. En route we bump into Andy and Helen and Arnie and Joan (who are tippling from their respective bottles of gin and whisky - retirement - phah!) And then we finally meet up with Joan R.
Andy promises that the Grizzly won't finish on the beach this year, the tide will be too high. This reminds me of Andy's "I know a shortcut!" Never trust a Goodman.
The Cubs started a few minutes after the Grizzly runners, straight down the slope and onto the shingle. The Grizzly runners had a much better start than previous years. Along the road to begin with and then off onto the shingle, but this time right down by the shoreline, so no one can cheat by running along the promenade. (Quote from Andy: "If you come up higher you'll find it's much harder!") The band is playing, the crowd in Beer gives us a rousing cheer and we're off onto the cliffs, through the caravan park. The lone piper greets us at the top of the rise. And so we proceed. Over the hills, through the woods, onto the shingle, through the streams, up the hills, onto the shingle! Over the hills, through the mud, through the slurry, through the streams, through the mud, through the mud, oh, and through the mud and then along the stream.
(Joan claims she ended up at one stage on her hands and knees in the mud and I daren't think what happened to Andy, but his legs were covered in mud from ankles to ...) There's a drinks station ahead, more commonly known as a pub, but we only partake of water. The steel band plays on, the crowds cheer (yes, I mean crowds). The words of wisdom are always put by an obstacle, it adds to the excitement to see if you can read the quote without falling over. The only ones I remember are "Never, ever give up, ever" and then several classic lines from Dylan and Cohen songs Knockin' on Heaven's Door, Forever Young and Where are the Sisters of Mercy? (Yes, unfortunately I can remember the original versions.)
Marshal: "Careful of the stumps as you go round the corner"
Marshal: "Yes, you've found them, those were the ones I meant!"
As you're running through the woods you can hear a distant roar of voices and you know you're approaching another obstacle, probably a wet or muddy one.
Hey, guess what, onto the shingle then up the "Stairway to Heaven". Your legs ache, your back aches, your gluteus maximus is more like jellyious maximus but still you carry on. As you stagger to the top of the hill and start running down I'm amazed at what wonderful people runners are. We're exhausted, our legs no longer belong to us and yet we can still run on after all those miles. We're not super athletes, we're normal(ish) people doing normal jobs and yet we show this sort of tenacity or is it insanity? There's blood on the stile, blood pouring from a runner's head. "It's OK, only a surface scratch. I'll have it checked at the end of the race."
And so down into Beer. Andy, you gave us duff info, we're on the shingle again. Out of Beer, over the cliff and down into Seaton. "Only 1 measly mile left, why don't you sprint it?" asks the sign. The next one says "Welcome to Seaton" and the next marshal directs us onto ... the shingle again ... Andy! Then off the beach and onto the home stretch. We've done it!
Runners are gathered in the centre of the holiday camp, wobbling along on filthy legs that no longer belong. Still, clean legs can be achieved in two ways. You can stand in a half-barrel of dirty water with your toes squidging in mud washed off previous runners or you can stand under the cold hose. If your name is Joan Royal you can make up a third alternative and sit on the edge of the hose puddle and paddle.
The sauna is bliss, we all sit there discussing if it was the hardest Grizzly yet, the most hills, the most mud. But basically we're delighted to have participated in such a wonderful event. As we leave there are still runners coming along the shingle beach, some five and a half hours since we started. And they are still smiling, the marshals are still smiling, the sun is still shining.
The best Grizzly yet!
© Sue Rix, 2000