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All ages, all abilities, all in it together at the Grizzly

by kirsty
Monday 10th March 2014
Tags  Grizzly   |   Axe Valley Runners   |   Kirsty Reade
 
 

Race report: Run247 columnist Kirsty Reade's worst fears are realised but her running mojo gets a massive boost at the Grizzly - March 9, 2014

© Pete Aylward runphoto.co.uk

Photos © Pete Aylward runphoto.co.uk

After many years and hundreds of races my worst fear was finally realised in the 2014 Grizzly: I lost my shoe. I’ve seen it happen to other people at the cross country or in boggy off-road races and I’ve always laced up tight and prayed it didn’t happen to me. But, alas, as I crossed a field which looked muddy but fairly harmless, but actually turned out to be a shoe-sucking, liquid pit of hell, made up of 90% cow excrement, the thing I’ve always dreaded happened. Before I realised it, sock met boggy ground for a couple of steps, then I had to turn around to find my lost shoe.

While my worst fear was realised it actually could have been a lot worse. At least I lost my shoe somewhere I could find it again. For people who haven’t run the Grizzly before, the main focus of this unique race is ‘the bog’. The first time I ran it I’d heard about this bog and I kept running through very boggy bits and thinking to myself ‘oh, that must have been the bog’.

However, finally, after about 15 very hilly miles, I came to ‘THE bog’, the boggiest of bogs, a long stretch of thigh deep liquid mush which claims shoes, the dignity of all who enter and quite possibly entire people. If they ever drained that bog I have no doubt that you would find perfectly preserved bog runners from the 1989 Grizzly, sporting Hi-Tec Silver Shadows and mullets.

So as you probably guessed, the Grizzly is an off-road race which has a tendency towards muddiness. There are obviously lots of races like this, but the Grizzly has a great deal to set it apart.

Firstly, it starts and finishes on the seafront at Seaton on the lovely Jurassic Coast. This seems slightly less lovely when the start takes you along a half mile stretch of shingly beach where the effort level to forward motion ratio seems very wrong. Then you come back along the seafront again and up the road to the incredibly beautiful fishing village of Beer. From here you head along coastal paths towards Branscombe and have a nice, refreshing, quick dip in the sea.

This was the 26th Grizzly event and it’s a real fixture on the local calendar, with a huge amount of support on the course, ranging from drumming bands and bagpipers to locals stood out with trays of jelly babies to just drunk people outside pubs enjoying the atmosphere.  It was an unseasonably hot day so this year’s event really brought out the crowds.

The course is never flat, with some very testing hills, steep muddy descents and enough adverse camber to make your ankles cry. It’s not a place you’d go to run a PB (although it does attract some top runners such as former international Ceri Rees and GB runner Isobel Wykes) but unless you’re at the sharp end you’re probably missing the point if you have a time in mind.

The Grizzly has the best atmosphere of any race I’ve run. The marshals are encouraging and incredibly smiley, there’s a real sense of ‘all being in this together’ with the other runners (to the point where a lovely woman was encouraging me to speed up in the last stretch, rather than attempting to crush me in a smackdown), lots of club runners travel down as teams and there’s a really strong team spirit in evidence. It’s a race where whatever your level of running you can really feel that you all toughed it out together and completed something very hard.

© Pete Aylward runphoto.co.uk

Photos: Isoble Wykes, fourth woman. Kirsty (1827) remembers what it's all about © Pete Aylward runphoto.co.uk

And then there’s the food. Pretty much every marshal was equipped with a biscuit tin of sweets (or biscuits), most aid stations boasted a pretty impressive array of treats, lots of spectators stood out with stuff for the runners and my favourite thing in the whole race was a lovely old lady who stood with a tray of homemade flapjacks and brownies, which were amazing. I think that pretty much sums up the spirit of the race – the support of locals and fellow runners makes it what it is.

So, as fuelling wasn’t a problem, I trucked along quite happily. Across lots of fields, through some very muddy woods, then at about 13 miles it was time for THE BOG. Trainers were tightened again, words were had with myself (along the lines of ‘woman up’ and ‘don’t be such a baby’ etc) and I went in. The amount of rain we’ve had recently actually meant that although the bog level was pretty high, the consistency was quite liquidy and not particularly shoe-sucky. Hurray! Success through the bog, dignity fairly intact, and only the matter of a few more miles to contend with.

This being the Grizzly those miles weren’t of the flat or easy kind. It was back for another dip in the sea at Branscombe, then a long stretch along the beach, before climbing what the Grizzly calls ‘the stairway to heaven’, an ascent up lots of steps which your already aching calves and quads don’t thank you for. But what a feeling to get to the top of there on such a sunny day and see the incredible sight of that Jurassic coastline. I mean, you could argue that you could just have a nice walk up there and see the same thing but I think you probably wouldn’t be a runner if you said that. Scenery definitely looks better if you’ve worked hard to see it.

Back down through Beer and some merciful downhill towards the finish on the seafront. It’s a spectacular finish with views down to Golden Cap and another unique feature of the race is the fact that there are firefighters (male and female) on hand to hose off that mud at the finish. If the mud, hills, shingly beaches and bog hadn’t already persuaded you to enter in 2015 I think the firefighters will do it.

The Grizzly is an unforgettable running experience. The atmosphere, the people you meet and the surroundings make it stand out for me as a unique fixture on the running calendar. I might have lost a shoe but I feel like I’ve gained a lot in that it’s given my running mojo a massive boost and reminded me of all the brilliant things about our sport. If I could sum up the spirit of running in one race it would be the Grizzly – all ages, all abilities, all in it together supporting each other, and flapjack . It’s mostly about the flapjack.  

© Pete Aylward runphoto.co.uk

Photos: High fives for Kirsty © Pete Aylward runphoto.co.uk

For more information on the Grizzly visit the Axe Valley Runners website: www.axevalleyrunners.org.uk

Men's results

1 Ceri Rees Wild Running 2:20:13
2 Rick Weston Serpentine RC 2:23:39
3 Patrick Devine-Wright Axe Valley Runners 2:25:18

 

Women's results

1 Lucy MacAlister Bristol & West AC 2:30:17
2 Clare Prosser Wells City Harriers 2:42:02
3 Sarah Morwood Mudcrew Ultra Team 2:45:27

 

Click here for full results

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

About The Author

Kirsty Reade

I’d describe myself as borderline obsessed with running, racing, reading about running, and watching others run so hopefully I’m fairly typical of Run247’s visitors. I tend to do longer races, particularly off-road marathons and ultras, but am pretty much a fan of any distance. I'm passionate about helping runners of all levels to improve through running communities I'm involved in, such as Underground Ultra and Free Range Runners. 

 
 
 
 
 

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