Grizzly 2001

Tom Woodman

When you send your Grizzly entry off, you address the envelope to "The Lean Mean Runner Bean". Three miles into the 2001 race, and there it was - a 10-foot-high Lean Mean Runner Bean in effigy, standing at the top of one of the early ascents. At the time I thought it might be the framework for burning a Wicker Bean, East Devon being a funny old place.

But then again, this is the race that was titled "2001, a Race Oddity".

A race where the mile markers are in descending order, so that after half a mile of stumbling with 2,000 others across half a mile of the shingliest shingle beach, you see the sign saying 18 miles to go.

Where the usual "sub-1:30, sub 1:45" signboards at the start have been replaced by "sub-normal", "sub-marine", and possibly even "sub-liminal".

And where far more of the course is up than down (the bits that were going to be down having been approached from the other direction).

On the way round, I couldn't help but notice:

The Bog. I'm used to queuing for "the bogs" at the beginning of races, but queueing for the bog halfway round? Usually with boggy bits I'll plough on ahead, not be prissy, and pick up a few places. This bog was special though. A long narrowish trough, on the right hand side it was two feet deep, and on the left hand side it was over three feet deep. I found this out when I ran on the left to pass the people shuffling along on the right.

The Beach. After crossing the river for the second time (height just reaching male-flinch-point on me), and on to the beach again, I pocketed a pebble as a souvenir. "What?" you cry "if everyone did that there wouldn't be any beach left". Yes. That's the point. The beach is No Fun. At least not at the time.

The Pub. The atmosphere running through the yard of the Fountainhead is the most uplifting of any race I've been in, including London.

The Sweets. Around the course, there were lots of nice children handing sweets to disreputable-looking men, which is a good bit of role-reversal.

The Shrine. Halfway up the hill after the bog there was the ringing of a bell, and the smell of incense, and the glow of candles on a fully-staffed wayside shrine.

The Drums. Three miles to go, coming over the cliffs at Beer Head with Seaton in the distance, you hear the steady beating from the drum-band at the finish, and you know you're on the way back home. Amazing.

The Steps. After 17 miles you run up a flight of steps, and my cramp reached a new level. I accidentally said some Very Bad Words right next to some Very Small Children. Still, at least the day was a learning experience for them.

The Signs. Well, you have to be there for those. I think it depends on your mood at the time, some meant less to me and some meant more. Some referred to the Tao of Grizzly, when clearly they meant the "ow". Some hit the spot big-time ("be all you can be"). Some of the signs are probably best read on your third lap.

What a brilliant race.

© Tom Woodman, 2001