by Matt White
Each year there is a different name for the Grizzly race. In 2013 it was Grime and Punishment and this year it was Withering Heights. I have not done the Grizzly before until this year. However, several running friends had commented on how fantastic the race is. So this year, I decided to enter the 27th race… well Mark Stileman (Romsey Road Runners) kindly offered me his place. The Grizzly is twentyish muddy, hilly, boggy and beachy miles around Seaton in Devon. There is over 3,500ft of ascent. The organisers (Axe Valley Runners) encourage runners and their supporters to stay local, eat local, shop local and party local. The race is a significant event for Seaton’s local businesses, community groups and landowners. Here’s a nice little promotional video which gives you an idea of the race:
I travelled down to Seaton with some running friends. We represented three local clubs – Lordshill, Winchester and Hardley. The weather was fantastic on Sunday 9 March. There was definitely a buzz around the town. Runners gathered in the local cafes for a coffee and bacon sandwich. I spoke to several runners who said that they kept coming back each year. They were hooked on the Grizzly. Over 1,400 runners started the Grizzly. The build up to the start was very different to that which I have experienced before. Seaton’s Town Crier read out a speech and then started the race by shouting “oh yea!!!” three times and ringing a bell.
We were off, the first challenge was to run about a mile on the shingle beach at Seaton. I quickly realised that this was going to be challenging. I tend to run on roads, so this was a new experience for me. As we ran out of Seaton I could see what was ahead. The rugged cliffs dropping down to the sea. The race route goes through Beer and Branscombe. There were not many opportunities where you could take it easy. The terrain was up, down, up down, a bit of flat, up, down and so on!! The support around the course was fantastic. I would like to thank all the marshals for their lots of cheering, clapping and encouragement. Marshals were handing out sweets, cakes and drinks. There was plenty of entertainment on route, not to mention a Buddhist shrine, a memorial to absent friends and lone pipers in the most remote possible places.
And then the bog! – about 50 metres of proper gloopy mud that goes up to your knees. Looking back it was funny but at the time very exhausting. I have been told that runners have been known to go fishing for their shoes.
I was running well up until about 16 miles. Back on Branscombe beach: this is where it can go wrong. Unfortunately for me it did. I got cramp in both legs. I walked the kilometre or so along the shingle beach and then up the cliff side – Stairway to Heaven. I was suffering at this point but the cheers from onlookers kept me going as did the banter with other runners who were suffering. With the finish in sight I kept going and what a feeling it was crossing the line. I was so chuffed to have finished. I would say that the feeling was more rewarding than finishing my first marathon last year. At the finish line the local fire brigade are on hand to hose you down or alternatively you could have a swim in the local solar heated salient pool i.e. the sea. I would recommend the Grizzly to others. Could I do it again? I think so!