These early Sunday mornings are starting to become a habit as well as another trip to Devon, this time its Seaton and the 30th running of The Grizzly. This will be my third Grizzly so really I should know better by now, writes Andy Young.
The day started with picking up George and then a blast to Exeter Services where we met Darren, Tryst and Tryst’s mate Dave in Costa for breakfast before the final leg to Seaton. Despite the doom and gloom predictions over parking we soon found a spot and where soon ready to go. The weather reports were spot on with the light rain rapidly clearing leaving it overcast with the prospect of it brightening later – perfect.
If you speak to anyone who has done the Grizzly they will tell you there is a great vibe to this race and its all a bit of a party with around 2500 excited and nervous runners milling around all of which soon sets the tummy going and the toilets become the most important pre race location as usual. In the throng most of the happy St Austell Bunch managed to find each other. Andy Lucas suddenly appeared but still looked to be carrying a bit of a knee injury – brave man. Jez Mancer was way up the front and I didn’t see him – think that goes for most as he moves pretty quick. Lauren Anning was also in the crowd somewhere.
10:30 approached, the town cryer did his bit and tinkled his bell – do i need the loo again ? he definitely said tinkle. We were off over the start and then back on ourselves for an energy sapping run along the shingle beach before crossing the start again and heading off out of town towards Beer.
The first five miles is ok and really sets you up for a big fall. Through Beer past loads of happy cheering spectators and fab Marshals and then onto Branscombe Beach. There are a few really tough climbs and a good mix of tarmac and grass/mud. The first indications of the mud to come was on the descent to the beach – thick trainer clogging mud – slippy slidey time. Dawn and George were together at this point and discovered that Hoka Speedgoats are pretty good and decided to give a demo in downhill running. On the beach Dawn and George parted with a hug and Dawn headed back to Seaton on the Cub (9 miles).
At this spot the Grizzly runners are sent through a stream and then head inland and the course becomes more dominated by mud. My serious lack of any distance training recently meant that I was under orders to take things easy. I was ticking along quite nicely and was really enjoying the banter with everyone – it’s so much more fun further back in the field. The only issue is that 1,000 other runners have churned up the already muddy paths for you and its now ankle deep.
The course is a grinding mix of narrow paths, steep climbs, steep descents and the odd section of tarmac which now had so much mud on them they were lethal. Miles 5 to 10 then slowly pass setting you up for 10 to 15 which are so tough. This is home of the Bogs and boy where they boggy. Knee deep in black sludge with a young lady in front of me chanting “don’t worry it’s only Chocolate Sauce”. The Bogs then end with a climb up a hill so steep and slippery a rope was needed to haul yourself up.
Next stop was Branscombe Vale to a full-on street party as usual and a comfort stop at The Fountain Head beckoned. I was now set up for the final slog through to Branscombe Beach, through the stream and along the beach to the Stairway To Heaven – a lovely climb up the cliff. Near the top was a weird ranting preacher man – all a little odd and I feel sorry for the marshals having to listen to him all day – there must have been a temptation to push him off. From the top of the stairs you get to see the finish and suddenly my legs felt way better and the pain faded and the pace picked up and I even managed a sprint finish!
All STARC’s finished safe and smiling and Dawn, who was keen to point out she was first home for St Austell, counted everyone back in. It was a great day and finished off with a stop for a well earned carvery and a pint at Sidmouth on the way home. The Grizzly lived up to its reputation as being one of the toughest and despite all the never agains the ballot will soon be filled will many familiar names. The Marshals must really get a special mention, they are out there all day and there are hundreds of them, all cheering – even a marshal called Dawn on a mission to hug other Dawns – fabulous.