It must have been late September when the summer was having its second wind that I thought the GRIM Challenge sounded like a bit of a giggle. It was billed as a cross country run along an army vehicle testing track with the odd water hazard, how hard could that be? But as the nights drew in, the mercury was falling and I was rapidly running out of willing companions that maybe I should think more about what I sign up for in future.
There was a small reprieve in December as the event was called off due to the weather. The lighteights thought the access roads were not deemed safe for those to enter the event. All my training the week before in the Unicorn PH in the Lake District had all been in vain. One guy on GRIM’s Facebook page went by himself around the course and reported that ‘it wasn’t much fun doing it on his own’…idiot!
The new date of January the 16th was announced, so potentially a colder time of year and a Christmas season’s worth of indulgence on the hips could scupper a record time on the course.
After a carb loading Saturday all that was required was a packed bag and a good nights sleep to ensure ultimate readiness. However, a dry mouth at 1.27 a.m. required attention, I fumbled for the glass of water on the bedside table and rather enthusiastically brought it to my mouth too quickly. On correcting this action, a huge gloop of water left the glass and covered my shoulder and pillow leaving some contorting to do to get comfortable. A GRIM start to the day
Getting to the start
After a near fatal bought of man flu, work colleague Steve Gardner’s place was bravely filled by Simon. The journey down to Aldershot involved discussing tactics, toilet arrangements and alternative means of transport for getting to work the next day. We arrived in good time, looked around the facilities, which included a licensed bar – strangely no-one was in attendance. We watched a rich myriad of individuals, put on their hi-tech running gear and go through their warming up rituals – even Elvis was cruising in the direction of the burger bar.
We entered the starting area, that wasn’t too similar to a holding pen for undipped sheep, to await our fate at the 10:30 start. It was comforting to be informed over the PA about water depth and previous days injuries (fortunately, no fatalities).
The race started off in quite a civilised fashion as the course gently snaked around the edge of a wood. The crowd spread out and we settled down into a leisurely pace. Up ahead, an opening in the bobbing heads revealed our first obstacle, a large puddle. My instant reaction was that we were going to get wet, so naively plodded through the middle. Jesus! It was cold, despite the mild temperatures that this day was providing. It took a while for the small lake in my trainers to disperse, just in time for the first long incline of the course.
The words from an earlier PA announcement were trying to re-assemble in my head as the first large water masses approached. Something like ‘if it looks to big to be a puddle, then it probably isn’t one’ was beginning to resonate. A puddle it was not, more like a bloody ravine, full of cold water of indeterminate depths. There was no by-passing these ones, so in people went with screams and yelps as icy water lapped nether regions.
There was nearly 5 miles of puddles, cargo nets and muddy tracks before a cheering crowd appeared on the horizon. What could this treat be up ahead of us? Well I will tell you, a large trench filled with clay coloured mud looking not to dissimilar to butterscotch Angel Delight in it’s more liquid state. It did not taste of said dessert and it did not fill one with happy childhood memories. It was waist high in places, with a gelatinous base making it troublesome even to wade through. Some poor wretches went under, only to re-appear with their butterscotch coating, missing only a handful of hundreds and thousands for the full affect.
Further aqua-hazards managed to wash the majority of this topping off before a long dry, dare I say ‘pleasant’ section of the course appeared. As the shoes dried out, it was becoming clear that a large amount of silt and sand was unable to escape one’s shoes. Would the feet be ground down to stumps over the final miles? On the positive side, a nicely exfoliated pair of plates could be on the cards or possibly a small deposit of gold could be panned from my size 12 Montrail trainers.
The last mile is the longest
A seven mile marker was greeted with a certain amount of glee, despite my GPS only recording 6.5. Not long to go now, 10 minutes at the most, could even pick up the pace. 10 minutes passed and no sign of the finish line, another 4 minutes and only the car park was in sight. The forest track had developed a 6 inch carpet of water. One after another of the galloping herd ahead, leapt over a small log and splashed in the shallow waters on the other side. Every one that is, except me, who managed to locate the ‘carry-on’ style waist high hole of doom. Simon admitted to almost laughing, very gallant of him to resist!
Another 3 minutes on and the path opened up and the finish line was in sight. On arrival, it became clear that there was another demoralising 500m loop and puddle to go. To add to the agony, a couple of hundred meters ahead, two smurf clad individuals were skipping to the finish line – where was Gargamel and a sniper when you need him?
With the final pond safely negotiated, Simon and I crossed the line only to hear the PA congratulate Steve Gardner for his efforts (swine wasn’t even there). But we did finish in front of Elvis.
It was just left to hand in our trackers, pick up our tee shirts and goody bags, get changed and drive home. Not before spitting out the foul tasting energy bars that were unsurprisingly being handed out at the finish line.
For the record
The last mile was just over 2 miles according to my GPS, the final race distance was 8.77 miles and I ‘ran’ it in 1 hour 33 minutes and 12 seconds.
The only other statistic is that at the time of publishing this, I am about £90 short of my target of £750 to go to the British Heart Foundation. I would like to thank everyone who has generously sponsored me.
Thank you all