We woke a little before six to rain, left at seven in rain and arrived in Seaton a little before nine in rain. A familiar story for race mornings. We went to race HQ and I got a Grizzly beanie which has an embroidered Bear's Claw (the emblem of the race) on the front, and by the time we met our friends in a cafe the rain had stopped. We sat and ate toast and drank tea, chatted over race strategy and watched Seaton fill up with people in lycra and running shoes.
By ten I was back at the car changing, putting on the race number, filling my pocket with jelly babies and stretching. By 10.20 everyone had gathered around the start and the Town Crier was giving his traditional address. M did a fab job of the video, but I haven't uploaded it because it's quite long and I can't work out how to edit it!
Here are some photos of the start instead...
|Over 2000 runners waiting to go|
|everyone running along the beach before coming back through the start|
|the lead runners coming off the beach and through the start for the second time|
I thought the beach would be horribly hard work, but actually it was fine, a little unsteady beneath the feet but as long as you adjusted for this you weren't in danger of turning an ankle and I came off it back onto the road feeling strong.
We ran through Seaton town front and up on the road to Beer where the first big hill had everyone walking. Then we came down into Beer town where the crowds were fab, cheering, waving, yelling encouragement, offering the runners sweets. There's another hill out of Beer which I ran about 2/3 of the way up before taking M's advice and walking to save energy. The hills are just too steep for any but the fittest to run all the way up, and even they would struggle with some of them.
We turned left off the road at the top of the hill and ran down through the Caravan Park and then up another enormous hill (more walking and a drink of water here for me) before we breached the top and were out onto green fields above the cliffs and the most beautiful views of the sea. Here I ran some of the way with a man dressed as a Mexican who was mourning the loss his false moustache and who may, or may not, have come with Donald Trump and his wall, both of whom were also running :o)
At this point my precise recollection of the race falters slightly. I think we ran some distance across the cliffs before coming down off them into Branscombe beach- the path was steep, muddy, slippery, rocky, full of roots and narrow. I had my beloved Fell shoes on and as a consequence had no problem at all navigating the path at a steady trot, but many other runners were slipping, sliding, squeaking and squealing their way down.
We eventually came out onto Branscombe beach and here the Grizzly runners separated from the Cubs. We headed left over more pebbles but luckily, the tide was out so I headed down to the water and ran along wet sand. On the whole preferable to pebbles.
By now I was into my stride and running well. I had started to over take rather than be overtaken at around km7 and I continued to go past people on the beach. My energy suddenly surged and I was flying along and really enjoying it. I knew, however, that the Stairway To Heaven was waiting for me at the end of the beach, so I pulled back to conserve some energy for that.
My goodness, that is one steep path. It starts out OK and then it grabs you by the wotsits and doesn't let up for ages. It just gets steeper, and steeper, and steeper. There was a man in a wig wearing long flowing robes half way up declaiming questionable wisdom from a book while taking a slug every now and then from a hip flask, and then further on one of the Wise Signs the Grizzly is known for, which alternately inspire and make you ponder. I think this one read: "attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference." It is a bit of a Cult Race and I can really see why so many people love it.
Halfway up the Stairway to Heaven I asked a marshal who was a coastguard where the next water station was and he replied that he had some water if I wanted some. I declined but there then ensued a conversation between me and the chaps behind me about whether or not the marshal had anything stronger in his bag. We all agreed an ice cold G&T would have worked wonders at that point!
Finally we reached the summit and all my energy came rushing back and I found myself flying down the hill back towards Beer. I could see Seaton in the distance and realised we'd only got about 3 miles to go and I felt a pang that the race was nearly over, I was having such a good time.
Beer however sobered us up (sorry about that) with another hill which nearly did for me. Here I ate one of the jelly baby family and the sugar pick-me-up really worked as I was able to run on again.
The path meandered along here, flat, uphill, downhill, until eventually we came out back on the road to Seaton. I was more or less on my own now and really enjoying the rhythm of running. I was feeling fresh and in control. Then they turned us off the road across country and back up another hill! Only a short one this time and then we were off again, turning right onto the main road back to Seaton. I knew from my GPS it was less than a mile to go to the finish and also that I was on target to significantly beat my estimated time so I picked up the pace, stretched my legs out and went for it. I overtook the man in front but couldn't reach the three ahead of me. I flew across the gardens and down the road to the finish where I could see M with the video yelling and waving. I sprinted to the end, past the crowds and the clock that told me I'd shaved 20 minutes of my estimated time, a ridiculously huge grin on my face and was met by my two boys who were also grinning and waving.
Honestly, what a brilliant race! I buzzed for about an hour afterwards and just wish it had gone on longer. I will definitely be back next year.