For those who have not heard of it The Grizzly is a multi-terrain race of about 20 miles (the route and distance vary a bit each year), it runs between Seaton, Beer and Branscombe in East Devon. When they say multi-terrain it means stretches of road and muddy country lane, woods, pebble beach, rivers, cliff path and the infamous bog.
I set off towards the back of a field of about 1500 runners. The first mile was along the sea front at Seaton, which is a nice ankle turning slope of pebbles, about half way along I started to walk, not a good sign. My aim was to get round between 4 ½ and 5 hours, so I set my self a schedule of 12 minutes per mile for the first half and 15 minutes for the second half.
The first section after the beach loop heads up the hill out of Seaton and then down into Beer. We now reached the first bit of off road as the route follows the coastal path onto the cliff path. Down a steep track (ahh my knees) to Branscombe. We now reach the first interesting section as the route follows the course of the river, (yes in the river) across the beach to the Mason Arms. Lots of support outside the pub, no you cannot stop for a pint.
After about 10 miles I was 5 minutes ahead of schedule, but by then I had only walked up a couple of steep hills and more was to come.
At about 12 miles we reached the bog, if you did not know it was coming you can tell by the screams of disgust and delight from the runners who were already in it. People general took 2 approaches; negotiate your way around the edge trying to keep out of the deepest bits or go straight through. The second option, which I went for, guarantees mud up to thigh level and the chance of getting stuck, but people are very friendly and stop to help pull each other out. Photo on the right is courtesy of James Pyne Event Photography.
After the bog you make your way out to the coast path again and down to Brancsombe. What followed was the worst bit for me, along the beach and then up what seemed like an endless series of steps. At the top one of the many motivational signs informs you that you have just been up the “Stairway to Heaven”. I did pass a couple of people sitting on the steps looking out to sea wondering why they even stated this game.
All the way along the route there is great support from very vocal spectators, 2 pipers (both in kilts), steel band, jazz band, and folk music.
In the end I finished in 4 hours 36 minutes, happy, muddy and tired.
Would I do it again? Well I definitely would but my calves need convincing … give them time.
Thanks to Axe Valley Runners for organising a great race.