THE GRIZZLY run in Devon is, quite rightly, classed as one of the toughest events in the country – a 20-mile off-road race, with more than 3,500ft of ascent, muddy bogs, streams, cliffs and shingle beaches.
Yet, in spite of this, it is so popular that it is always oversubscribed and now entry is by ballot only.
Five Stratford Athletic Club runners were lucky enough to gain a place for this year’s 30th anniversary event and so lined up with 2,000 other apprehensive souls on Seaton’s promenade on an overcast morning.
From the start, the runners head on to the shingle beach for a leg-sapping half mile before doing a loop back through the town, then out towards the village of Beer and the famous Jurassic coastline beyond.
Once reaching Branscombe, the route then heads inland through woodland, bogs, fields and farms, before eventually heading back to Branscombe beach and the dreaded Stairway to Heaven – a vertical, stepped route up the side of a cliff. It is then a mere four miles of continuous up and down back to the finish line in Seaton.
First back for the club was Wayne Vickers in 3.01.14 in 112th place. Despite not having run the event before, and on limited training due to work commitments, he seemed to thoroughly enjoy the whole thing, crossing the line with a huge grin on his face.
Next back was James Cusack (3.26.32 – 315th) who, after cursing his way up every hill last year, then could not wait to return and do it all again.
First Stratford AC lady back was Lisa Dallisson (4.01.36 – 749th). Despite this also being her first attempt at this race, she was in her element, being a fan of both mud and hills.
Following Lisa, but some way behind, was Lesley Kirk (4.21.43 – 1,013th). Having run this event numerous times in the past, she seemed to run out of energy halfway around and struggled to keep going to the finish.
The fifth club member, Sarah Odell, unfortunately suffered from dizziness and nausea caused by an ear infection. Sarah bravely carried on in the Cub Run which starts at the same time as the Grizzly, but then splits at 4.5 miles on Branscombe beach, turning back towards Seaton.
Sarah finished the nine-mile Cub Run in 1.41.52 in 123rd place out of 495 runners.
The winning male was Jake Smith of Axe Valley Runners in a time of 2.20. First female was Elizabeth Dyson of Haldon Trail Runners in a time of 2.32.
Report compiled by Lesley Kirk.