Exe-rated runners!

Exe-rated runners!
The successful Harriers team, en masse, at the Erme Valley Relays, July 2013

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Another great Grizzly for the Harriers!

If, as a runner, you talk to any none-running friends about your sport, they often don't fully understand what it is you do. 'Been out jogging today?' 'I don't jog, I RUN'. 'Have you done a marathon yet?' 'No, not yet'. 'So how do you call yourself a runner then?' 'Oh, you did a marathon? How far was your marathon?' '26.2 miles, just like every other marathon anyone's ever run'. Any of these exchanges sound familiar? If these friends happen to be local, then you can add another little gem to this collection. 'So, have you done the Grizzly?' In Devon, it would seem that no runner can claim to be a real runner unless they have completed this iconic event; it's practically a right of passage, in the same way as hitting a hole in one is for golfers, or scoring a century for cricketers: you cannot possibly be a bonefide participant in the sport without it. It would seem that, around these 'ere parts, the Grizzly is the one race that everyone has heard of: it even makes the local ITV news for Gawd's sakes, it's that famous!! This year, a total of 15 Exmouth Harriers earned their Grizzly (or Grizzly Cub) paws and their associated respect!

The event, organised in its own very distinct and superb style, by Axe Valley Runners, is the highlight of many runner's yearly calendars. Many begin their training as far back as summer the previous year so that, on the day, they are ready to tackle all that the tough local terrain has to throw at them. And, believe me, it has a lot to throw at them: mud, pebbles, hills, more mud, bogs, styles, more pebbles, streams, mud again, a giant jacobs ladder, bogs (did I mention those?), pebbles etc. etc, repeat repeat repeat for 20 miles. You get the idea!

This year the weather conditions were as near to perfect as you will likely ever find them in early March on the exposed cliffs of Devon; some competitors might have said it was even too hot (spectators basking in the sun at Branscombe would strongly disagree!). The paths had dried out well, making the going a little easier in parts, but the bogs were still as boggy and the pebbles still as pebbly as ever, creating their own unique little challenges. 

There were over 1500 finishers of which about a third were female. Incidentally one of those females, Lucy McAllister from Bristol & West A.C, was an astounding 6th overall! The first Exmouth Harrier home, having a very fine run indeed, was our in-form Tony Hatchard. Tony hit the race hard from the get go, an ambitious strategy that saw him up as high as 2nd place in the standings after 15 miles, but the early pace took its toll in the latter stages and Tony lost a bit of ground on the 1 mile long energy-sapping beach section at mile 16 and conceded a few places, eventually finishing a fine 12th in a time of 2 hours 36 minutes to finish 12th. Very well done to him.

Hot work, Tony Hatchard?!

Next in, and taking it all in his usual long, loping stride, was Grizzly aficionado, Dave Stone. Dave's effortless display of scampering over pebbles even featured in the ITV local news footage that evening: no doubt chosen as an example of how to make the Grizzly look easy! Whilst it may look easy, his shuffling stride is rather deceptive and hides a cheeky turn of speed as he finished 22nd over all and 6th in his age category (MV40) in 2h43. 

Jon Croome is most definitely back with a bang after his injury lay-off of Autumn 2013 and he really comes to the fore in tough, off- road races. Here he was in the top 10%, finishing 148th in 3:08 and claiming a hard earned and highly respectable 2nd place in the MV45 section.

Jon Croome, still looking relaxed and full of running after 16 miles.

Scott-2-Trigs-Jordan, despite originally hailing from the Midlands - not an area renowned for its fell running scene - has taken to this sort of terrain like the proverbial duck to water. He absolutely relishes this type of long, off-road, hilly event and is beginning to show a remarkable amount of talent at pacing these events to perfection. Looking as fresh faced and smiley at the end as he did at the start, a cheerful, chirpy 2 Trigs crossed the line just outside the top 10% in 173rd overall (31st man over 40) in 3h.12: his fastest Grizzly time to date by a long way.

Scott-2 Trigs-Jordan, making a splash at Branscombe.

Ben White deserves a special mention as he had an absolute stormer of a run, making it look easy and effortless from start to finish, he added to his recent string of impressive performances with 221st placing in time of 3h14, grinning away like a Cheshire cat as he crossed the line with a sparkling new Grizzly PB.

Amazing run from Ben White who still looked fresh faced and full of running in the final 1/2 mile down into Seaton.

Emma White had to concede victory to her husband on this occasion, but still had a very fine run herself. Emma looked stronger and stronger as the race went on and she timed her run to perfection, picking off many other flagging runners over the final few miles and working her way through the field to finish in a superb 332nd place and 35th female. She was unfortunate to just miss out on a sub 3h30 finish, with 3:30:21.
Emma White, enjoying one of the Grizzly water features, at Branscombe.

Nicholas Brown goes in for quality rather than quantity when it comes to racing and on this occasion he placed a fine 433rd in a solid time of 3h39. 

Terry Oldham, a.k.a. 'The Dark Destroyer' conceded a defeat to his sparring partner, Emma, on this occasion, stating afterwards that he had a sneaky suspicion at the 4 Trigs race that Emma was in excellent form and on for a good time. He ran his own solid race, as ever, though and relished in the spirit of the event as he cantered around to a time of 3h46 and 527th spot (23rd in the MV55 category). 

Grizzly virgins, Susan Hill and Jane MacDonld both loved their first experience of this unique race. With big beaming grins of their faces, they all completed the race well up the overall pecking order, with Susan and Jane running in together in a time of 3:50, giving them 615th and 616th spots overall but top 100 female place of 92nd and 93rd (Susan was an impressive 5th in her Over 55 category and Jane a not-too-shabby 14th in the women’s Over 45 group). Not far behind these two was Lorraine Gilson, 636th overall in 3:52, who finished 6th FV55 and, hot on her heels, was Amanda McCann, also a Grizzly virgin enjoying her first experience of the race, placing a fine 714th in a fine sub 4 hour time of 3h57 (20th FV40).

Just over 400 completed the associated but shorter 9 mile Grizzly “Cub Run”. There were more female than male finishers here, and they included three women from Exmouth Harriers. Hannah Bown, dropping down to this distance from the full Grizzly event after having been forced to miss a few weeks training with a winter virus, was 12th and an impressive 2nd female in 76:23. Lorraine Croome was timed at 87:36 for 39th overall, 10th woman and 2nd woman over 45. New member, Sarah Jackman, made a fine debut in the event and placed an impressive 47th (just outside the top 10%) and was 13th woman in 91:27: the full Grizzly for Sarah next year, perhaps?!

Well done to all the Harriers in what is, without question, a superb yet extremely tough event.

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