It’s Grim… Race Report

No Car Blues – Swampland – The Grin Challenge

Anyone who read my last post will now that I wasn’t particularly looking forward to tackling the Grim Challenge. This was solely because of the intensity of the last few weeks, starting a new job, doing a large amount of driving and not very much sleeping. So the thought of tackling a notoriously muddy, cold and wet 8 mile run on very little sleep and 2 weeks of no training did not fill me with joy.
Add to this the fact that the dealership that were supplying me with my company car (and my transport to the race) failed to get it sorted and I was, less than 12 hours before planning to leave for the race, still trying to organise (for the 3rd time!!!) delivery of the car that was to get me there. After a fairly abrupt phone call to the dealership during which I threw many toys out of the pram, they assured me that the car would be with me at 7a.m. on Saturday morning – 35 minutes before I was due to leave for the race!
True to their word, the car was delivered at 7a.m. and I quickly checked it over, signed all the paperwork and then threw all my bags in the back and headed off to Aldershot.
I arrived a little before 9a.m., met up with Hauling My Carcass and his LG and went about getting prepared, dumping my bag, visiting the Portaloo… the usual pre-race routine. The assembled competitors and the smell of Ralgex lifted my mood and I was by now very much looking forward to what lay ahead. There were many overheard conversations about the mud, the water, injuries obtained in previous years. Hauling My Carcass and I assembled at the Start and I felt it only right that we should celebrate this moment so I reached down, took some mud and smeared a little on each of our faces. We were ready.
We had been advised to avoid the puddles for as long as possible but once the race had begun, trying to stay dry and clean seemed futile so headed straight through the first puddles we could find. The first mile is fairly easy and we had decided to tackle the race at a steady, easy pace. Aiming to run at 10 minute miles, I quickly settled into a rhythm. A few big puddles and a hill in the first 20 minutes set the tone for the first half of the race and very soon I was really enjoying being there, amongst other runners, ploughing through mud and puddles, across scrubby fields and along rutted woodland paths. At the 4 mile mark, we were slightly off 40 mins so within our target time. This was the only time I checked the watch and things were about to get much more demanding.

It's all about to get very messy.

We could hear shrieks from a few hundred yards ahead and were soon about to find out why. A long puddle, thigh deep and stretching for about 75 metres in front. And the first sign of spectators. Loads of them, lined up with cameras and football rattles, gathered to watch us all, run, wade and slide our way through the mixture of dirty water, mud and clay that slowed us all to a sticky, trudging lurch. What makes these swampy obstacles more demanding is that you have no idea how deep it is going to get and every step becomes tentative. One minute you are up to your ankles, the next step takes you thigh deep and you emerge unable to feel your feet and a good portion of your lower limbs. But you cannot help but enjoy it. There is something hugely fun about disregarding any worries about your timing and just concentrating on staying upright and finishing. The remaining 4 miles are tougher than the first four, with a cargo net, more puddles, more swamp and a very technical final 2 miles that takes you up and down inclines, through a series of craters and finally through another long deep puddle just a few hundred yards before the finish. I was beginning to find it hard at about 6 and a half miles, weighed down with water and clay. I was regretting not being able to train for the past couple of weeks and also only tackling approximately 10kms in the runs I had managed. As I neared the finish, I was glad the end was in sight but also really enjoying myself. I must have looked absurd as I waded through the final “water feature” and crossed the line with a huge grin on my face. My time was 1:35:53 but that wasn’t important. I had finished the Grim Challenge and had a great time in the process. It is messy, and uncomfortable at times but that is the point. And the feeling of acheivement and the look on everyone’s mud spattered faces as they finished is second to none.

Soundtrack to this post: Police Truck – Dead Kennedys

1 Response to “It’s Grim… Race Report”

  1. December 7, 2009 at 12:44 pm

    Great post that sums up the experience really well! I’m an inexperienced runner, who likea a pie or two and is well into middle age, so it was a struggle…but I did it!

    Excellent day, though.


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