That is the one word I would use to describe Saturdays race, the Grim Original 2012. This was my third Grim, having done the (delayed) 2010 and 2011 events and comparing those vs. 2012 I have to say that this was the ‘Grimmest’.
Unchanged from the previous years the course so a good opportunity to try to improve on last years time (Update: Had a tweet from the organisers saying that this years route was tweaked slightly and that they do this every year), the course consists of an 8 mileish route around an army vehicle testing track so the terrain is pretty extreme in places.
With a 10:30 race start it I managed to get a reasonable lay in, getting up at 07:30 to be picked up by Kev at 08:00. Having received the updated driving instructions from the race organises we went off and had a pretty painless journey there, arriving at about 09:00. We parked up in what I believe was the overflow car park, which meant a reasonable walk to the actual race start and getting out of the car, even in my fleece I was struck by how chilly it was, which didn’t bode well for the actual race.
We headed to the race start line to see if we could spot Gareth and Matt, who had ended up parking in the main car park. Finding them sitting in Gareth’s car keeping warm, we sat joined them briefly before heading out to grab a couple toasties from one of the on-site vendors to warm us up and fuel our race. We then had to head back to Kev’s car to get changed, donned our bin liners to keep warm(ish) and headed back to wait for the race start.
Standing around waiting for the off, the bin liner doing a reasonable job keeping the worse of the chill off, I was contemplating how it all started at this event two years ago. A random suggestion by Gareth suggestion that the Grim “would be a laugh” and two years later I have run three marathons, one ultra and have signed up for one marathon and two ultras in 2013 already, funny how things go. The Grim Original will always hold a special place in my heart because of this, however standing in the cold I couldn’t help thinking “I would rather be in bed”.
The atmosphere helped lift me away from those thoughts, with a group (2922 participants) warm up to get the blood flowing and spirits lifted when the countdown finally ended and the bugle signalled to go I was back in the mind-set of trying to beat last years’ time. We had managed to get ourselves towards the front for the start, as last year we were at the back and it took a lot of effort and time to overtake people and while I am not a contender for a high placing finish, I was sure that I would be in the top 3rd at least.
The route hadn’t changed from last year so in my mind I had a fair idea of what lay ahead, but hitting the first ‘puddle’ (I will call them puddles, but imagine something the size of a large pond) was like a sledgehammer, my lower body didn’t know what hit it. The cold was something else, my muscles just seized up and my feet went completely numb, if this was a sign of things to come it was going to be hard going.
I was pacing well despite the fact I couldn’t feel my feet, however every time I started to get some feeling back I would run through another ‘puddle’ and lose all sensation again. Although I was happy with my pace after the first puddle I also started to get a niggle in my right Achilles tendon, a feeling if tightness with each and every stride. This pain didn’t subside and continued for the whole race, with a brief respite when crossing the ‘puddles’ as the cold numbed everything again.
There are several places on the course where the crowds gather, several particularly large ‘puddles’ and muddy sections, but the main place to get a real view of the Grim is the section where you have to traverse a mud pit and go under a cargo net.
Having to slow right down for the cargo net, with the thick mud sucking at my feet was a welcome break, it helped me stretch out my Achilles a bit but also the mud was a lot warmer than the water so my legs were getting some heat back into them, albeit briefly.
After getting covered in mud, it wasn’t long before I was covered in water again and clean (to a degree). I carried on, pushing past the pain in my ankle driven my the fact that I was looking good to hit a PB and beat last years time, by mile 7 I was just over the hour mark and knowing the last section I maintained the effort.
Crossing the line, as in any race, is always a mix of emotions. I had beaten my time and was very pleased, but I was so cold the focus was on getting out of the wet gear and getting warm. I met up with Kev who had finished about a minute and a half before me and we waited for Matt and Gareth to cross the line. Once they were back Kev and I headed to the car to get changed and get warm.
Again next year?
Initially I was thinking no, not because I don’t rate the event, being my third time I think you could say that it’s a firm favourite, but I was considering what other races are during the same period.
Sitting here now though, how could I not partake in the race that started it all, I am building up a nice collection of Grim race numbers now, that and the fact that my wife is going to run in next years race has cemented the fact that I will be doing this again next December, sun, rain or snow.
Is it for me?
If you are reading this, thinking about entering a running event you cannot go wrong with the Grim, be it in Aldershot or the one up north. They are great events and all abilities enter, it is very much a “have a go, have a laugh” event and a great one at that.
Head over to http://www.grimchallenge.co.uk like them on Facebook or follow on Twitter to get a heads up when you can sign up, I will see you there.