The Beast 10k
Sunday 5th February, 2017
Cwm Ogwr Running Club
It was a bitterly cold and crisp Sunday morning, and 187 shivering runners including 11 from Pencoed Triathlon Club were about to take on the ‘The Beast 10k’ – a challenging trail run with over 1300ft of ascent through the forests and the hills of Ogmore Vale.
Just before the 10 a.m. start, the briefing Marshal explained the usual safety instructions: tread carefully on the slippery sections, try to avoid the areas of uneven terrain, be mindful of other runners around you, oh and never stare the beast in the eyes – it upsets him. OK, so that last bit was made up but there was definitely a sense of foreboding among the line-up of runners with faint whisperings of nervous excitement about what lie ahead…..and then the whistle sounded and we were off.
There was no gentle introduction to this trail, no gradual build-up, no easing you into a false sense of security – nope this was straight into a 9% incline for ¾ of a mile over loose gravel, mud, grass, stone, and puddles. The front runners quickly set off at pace seemingly oblivious to the forces of gravity, while the rest of us adopted a more sensible approach of digging-deep, breathing heavily, and jostling for the straightest and least undulating path to the top.
Following this first hill was yet another hill of similar distance and lung-busting characteristics, which opened out to a fantastic view of the rolling hills, the fir tree forests, and the winding valley below. The sheep undeterred by the flurry of activity around them kept themselves busy trimming the green and luscious fields, and leaving the odd foot-squelching surprise along the paths.
After the hills, came a small flat section providing the legs with welcome relief and the marshals re-assured us there was nice down-hill to come. Thankfully, they were telling the truth.
A knee-crunching, arm-swinging, gazelle bouncing bliss of a descent lay before us. It was fantastic! The pitter-patter of shoe on gravel, the metronomic sound of less-laboured breathing, the sweet surround of birdsong, and the theme-tune of Disney’s Frozen – “Let It Go, Let It Go, Don’t Hold Me Back Anymore” ringing aloud (or maybe that was just me!).
At the bottom of the hill, the Marshalls clapped and cheered us on (they were awesome like that), but this time there was menace in their smile, a smugness in their voice, an evil glint in their eye, as if they knew what we were about to confront but dared not tell us…………and now I know why.
The next section aptly named ‘The Beast’ was an 11+% incline of 600ft ascent over just 1 mile. It was a torturous, quad-burning, lung-bursting, calf-tearing, hamstring howling nightmare of a hill and quite frankly it hurt to walk it let alone jog it. It was hill, with a second helping of hill, with a side of hill, and a hill dessert – come to think of it – it was just one big hurty hill!
Hilly McHill Face
It’s hard to recall a description of this part of the route since the mind was busy making excuses for the pain, but as the trees either side of the path funnelled you inevitably upwards, and the river below faded ever more into the distance, the eventual sight of a Marshall brought hope of an end to the enduring suffering. Handing out some energy in the form of Jelly Babies, the lovely Marshall reminded us that we were ‘nearly at the top’. Digging deep and pressing on, the mind wondered how far ‘nearly’ meant, until finally the sight of the water station marked the half-way-point and the end of the brutal beast.
After a quick thirst-quenching drink, we followed a route that eased into a flat and downward sloping section with tall fir trees to the left, and the whirring of giant wind turbines to the right.
By now the runners had spread thinly, and as I entered a dark and dense section of forestry the temperature dropped, the air was still and cold, and the trees were no longer tall and straight but twisted and contorted into impossible shapes. There was something eerily out of place at this section – had I taken a wrong turn? Then suddenly from deep within the darkness, two large eyes startled into view. Oh crap, was this an actual Beast? Had it been waiting all year for a chance to leap onto lone runner and devour him without trace? I knew I should have been running quicker! Was I to become part of Ogmore Vale myth and legend?…….. “Baaaaa”……….nope it was just a bloody sheep! Phew – panic over. It darted past faster than I was jogging and sped off in the direction of the grassy fields.
With the major hills of ‘The Beast’ behind us, and the threat of man-eating sheep gone, the following downhills gave chance of some heart-rate recovery and an opportunity to improve the average pace.
The descent was equally as fun as the previous ones, except this time with the finish getting closer there was an added sense of urgency, and my calves and shins took more of a punishment than they cared for as I hunted down prey from fellow running clubs. At the bottom, just one more short and up-hill section stood in our way, before reaching the final mile of madness to the finishing line.
Descending quickly into the valley, the sound of cheers and clapping for those who had finished echoed reassuringly in the distance below. At speed, the winding downward slopes were loose and treacherous and careful foot placing and quick route adjustments were a must. Then with one final burst of sprinting down the last steep and slippery section, the end of this brutal but thoroughly enjoyable run had finally come. Fellow team-mates, and other club runners abound gave rancorous applause and it was a relief to finally be in their welcoming company.
To Nigel Bungay, Joey Howland, Mike Edwards, Daniel Morgan, Damien Crombie, James O’Flaherty, Lauren Davies, Chris Adams, Steve Basset and James Davies – we have tamed the beast………..until next year.
Thanks also to Stephen Summers, Alan Kerr, and Steve Brace for cheering us on at the finishing line and for capturing some great photos.