By Chris George
It was my second time at the Grizzly 20 miler down in Seaton (Devon) after racing last year for the first time and enjoying it so much. I entered the ballot again for 2017 and was lucky enough to get a place.
So what’s it all about “Twentyish muddy, hilly, boggy, beachy miles of the multiest-terrain running experience you will find this side of the end of time” is the quote on the website, and to be fair that’s pretty accurate
The Grizzly has over 3,500ft of ascent in its 20 miles; there are two sections of beach, totalling close to 2 miles; 2 bogs and the infamous “Stairway to Heaven”, a steep path up the side of a cliff. The pre-race advice is that it will take roughly your road marathon time, perhaps longer if conditions are grim.
After running just under 2:46 last year in what was apparently really kind conditions, I was unsure whether I would better that time this year especially as the local mumblings were “it’s pretty much rained since January”, with that in mind I set the target of breaking 2:45.
The race starts straight onto the pebble beach before heading back through the startline and off into the countryside.
Running out of Seaton is pretty good going on roads through a caravan park in Beer (the village of, not the drink. Ed.), at which point you’ve climbed to the cliff tops. There are some stunning views from the cliffs before heading down to Branscombe beach where you are sent through a small river. After this dunking there a several miles of country lanes and little paths in and out of the fields gradually descending.
The second half of the race is where it starts to get tougher, the “bog of doom” was actually slightly easier this year after all the rain as although much deeper, was less claggy, the river section was also deeper, waist high at some points. Shortly after the bog and river you descend straight through a pub beer garden which gives you a great boost, before some really tough climbs and a long slippery trail back down to Branscombe beach.
From this point it’s a battle to the finish, which begins with another trip through the river onto Branscombe beach, before approximately 1.5 miles along the pebbles to the “stairway to heaven” a near vertical set of step from the beach to the cliff tops. At the top there is one last decent climb back into Beer before to the Finish.
Coming into Seaton and the finishing straight I was pretty happy to see the clock ticking over to 2:41 with a final push I was over the line in 2:41:26 for a 20th place finish, 16 places better than last year’s 36th.
I think it’s definitely a bucket list race and would be great if as a club we could attend on mass and make a weekend of it. For those interested I’ll post when the ballot the 2018 opens.