05
Feb
12

dark and cold – a grim night terror review

I set off in the car for this race with a little trepidation. For a week or so people had been warning of heavy snow and all reliable sources pointed to it arriving in Aldershot by 6pm. As I left the motorway at the Aldershot exit around 4.30pm, the first few tentative, tiny flakes began to fall. I met up with Hauling My Carcass and we agreed that this was, without a doubt, the most ridiculous thing we have agreed to do to date… and there have been a few ridiculous things. Some very ridiculous.
Once we had collected our timing chips from the happy and efficient people in charge of timing chip dispensing, we sat in the car with the heater going and sighed and shook our collective heads at the absurdity of it all. It was minus something or other on the thermometer and we were about to run around an Army Vehicle Testing Track in the dark. Ironically, on the drive through Aldershot to the event, I saw a lone soldier pounding the streets in boots, combats and a khaki t-shirt… “poor bastard”, I thought, “he’s probably annoyed a superior and this is his punishment”. And yet I was about to undertake something similar, for fun. What is wrong with me???
When we could not sit in the warm (and in denial) for any longer we ventured out and joined the other be-headtorched runners for the start. We were told that the route had been amended as the large puddles were covered in four inch thick ice that, even if it were broken with a sledgehammer would be impassable because it “would cut you to ribbons”. And on that cheery note we were sent running off into the night.
Anyone who has run the Grim Original would recognise parts of the course although it takes on a very different appearance in the dark and covered with a dusting of snow. Everyone seemed in good spirits as we picked our way round 2 laps of the course. Personally I had a couple of (self inflicted) issues – namely, the day before the race, my new superbright headtorch went “pop” whilst on a final pre-race charge. Never one to miss an opportunity to bastardise something when just buying a replacement would be far more sensible, I took a high power hand torch and gaffer taped it to the existing headtorch’s head band. Obviously, during the race it rattled around on top of my head, dimmed sporadically and gave intermittent light as the contacts inside made and broke the circuit in time with my feet pounding the icy surface. Secondly, I dug out an old pair of running shoes in which to tackle the frozen ground…Another schoolboy error as I have been doing almost all my running in VFF’s and, without wishing to sound like this, I now find it really hard work to run in regular running shoes both because of the additional weight and the way they contort my feet whilst running.
Those minor niggles aside, the event itself was great – plenty of parking, friendly and efficient staff looking after bags, timing chips etc. Plenty of good natured marshalls who stood in the freezing cold to make sure we were all safe and who offered well needed words of encouragement all evening. The route was just challenging enough and the organisers decision to shorten the route for safety reasons (it ended up as just over 10.6kms) was a sound one. The course is a good mixture of forest path, technical and rutted tracks and sandy climbs and descents. Add in the odd strobe light and loudspeakers around the course intermittently blasting out heavy breathing and blood curdling screams and you have a fun and challenging evenings running.
Apparently, there was an after race party, but the ever deepening snow meant that many, like myself, chose to forego post-race festivities and aim to get home before the roads became a slushy, icy mess.
I would definitely do it again… a Spring/Summer one would be great. It could start later, go the full distance and incorporate some of the mud an puddles we all love.


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