Now in its 3rd year, this race came about by chance as the race director, Bill Valentine, was taking the 157 bus back from Exmouth to Sidmouth one day and decided to jump off at Otterton and run the last few miles back over the cliffs. As he descended into Sidmouth he was surprised to see the very same bus that he had got off just pulling in. A light bulb moment! If he could beat it there without really trying, maybe with a bit more effort he could also beat it back again... He contacted the bus company, Stagecoach, to see if they would be willing to sponsor a race that required runners to do just that: race the 157 from Otterton to Sidmouth and back again. They agreed and so 'Beat the Bus' was born!
The No. 157 bus appears in the mist in Otterton - now to race it to Sidmouth and back!
Last year saw the race run on a lovely sunny evening following a dry spell of weather and so although the race goes across fields and muddy farm tracks, all of these were totally dry, dusty and compacted, making the going easy, even in road trainers. Fast-forward one year and what a contrast! A few weeks of heavy main meant that the fields were muddy and the farm tracks were totally flooded with muddy puddles that were over knee-height in places, making the going much tougher and requiring the use of some off-road shoes with good grip! The weather on the night began by being a little misty but by the time we had ascended Peak Hill this gentle mist had morphed into a thick cloud cover and you could barely see where to go, let alone the runner in front of you!
However, the Harriers are nothing if not a hardy bunch, as evidenced by the fact that of the 8 of them that took part in this 9k (5.75m) race, 7 had already competed in races of half-marathon distance or more just 4 days before and so they were racing for the second time in a week!
The start of the race and the first hill of many. Ellie has Scott on her heels and Hannah is in pursuit close behind!
Next was myself, Ellie Sutcliffe, who also raced at Torbay. I won this event and placed 12th overall last year but this year, despite knocking over half a minute off last year's time in tougher conditions, I had to settle for 2nd placed female and 15th overall in 43:43. I was just 11 seconds behind the winning female, Lucy Owen of the host club, Sidmouth, but her descending skills and speed proved too much for me to hang onto in the last downhill section!
Not far behind Ellie and having a superb run was Scott Jordan. Scott was really fired up for this one and wanted a good quality run to put to bed the demons that plagued him after he was forced to withdraw from the Torbay half at the 7 mile mark on Sunday. A rest between then and Wednesday clearly did wonders for our 2 Trigs as he blasted his way up and down the steep hills and also bagged one of those missing trig points (Peak Hill) in the process, thereby really putting to bed any lingering doubts from the 4 Trigs race... but sorry Scott, the nickname stays!! Scott placed 18th overall in a fantastic time of 46:20.
A mere 28 seconds later saw Hannah Bown cross the finish line. Her and Scott had been tussling for position throughout the race, with Hannah often gaining the advantage on the uphill sections but with Scott's fearless approach to downhill running allowing him to get ahead again on the descents. However, she had a fantastic run that saw her clock 46:48 for 21st place and a well-earned 3rd female spot and trohpey, beating some very fine runners that included the very experienced SWRR veteran, Karen Cook.
Terry Oldham was running on marathon weary legs, having taken part in the gruelling Trail Marathon Wales just 5 days before. You would never guess it though to see him attacking the climbs and flinging himself down the descents and this was evidenced by his strong time of 50:39 and his placing welling up the field, 33rd overall and 6th MV50.
Terry's partner Lorraine Gilson was hot on his heels and also having a good run, following on from her fine performance in the trail half-marathon in North Wales. She stopped the clock at 56:26 to claim 50th place overall and a very commendable 2nd place in the female over 50 category.
Next up was Martin Richards, gaining in fitness and in confidence with every race, Martin posted a time of 57:20 which gave him 56th place overall.
Last Harrier in but by no means last overall as she finished in the top two thirds of finishers, was Dawn Teed. Again, Dawn had produced a fine sub-1h50 run at the Torbay half at the weekend but did not let that hold her back here as she stormed home under the hour in 58:11 for 58th place overall and 6th FV40.
Dawn finishing strongly on Otterton village green
The bus takes about 55 minutes to make the return journey and so most of the Harriers managed to beat it with the others being very close.
Harriers with their certificates for beating the bus!
A muddy Scott has a scrub down in the stream after the race! (A.K.A. his annual bath!)
"Darn it. I dropped the soap"...
Whilst we were all off over the cliffs to Sidmouth there was action back in Otterton in the form of 2 fun runs for children. An under 10s race saw a bunch of enthusiastic youngsters running one lap of the field above the village green, whilst the over 10s completed 2 laps. Most of the competitors across the 2 races were made up with families from Lympstone who are part of the running club started in the local primary school there by the Harriers' own Mike Musgrove. Sporting their club colours (pink!) on the night, the energetic band of mini-Harriers gave their all as they tore around the steep and uneven field. The under 10s race produced a victory for one of Mike's runners as he took top spot in the boy's 1 lap race. The running club has seen the children's running come on in leaps and bounds and many of the members are now excelling at their school cross-country races. If only more schools had an enthusiastic Musgrove to get the kids active and enjoying exercise! Well done to all the runners who took part!
Already competitive! Mike's running club youngsters (in their pink club vests!) make easy work of the hill