While out walking with Amy along the coastal path towards Branscombe we found signs nailed to several gate posts. These were warning walkers of the up coming Grizzly Race on the 18th March 2018. One paragraph particularly stood out.
"This race is one of the very toughest and exhausting in the country. Please allow runners time and space in order to avoid accidents or injury"Axe Valley Runners
I read this paragraph with a pang of fear. I'll be running this race in four weeks. Here's how it panned out for me on the day.
May The Course Be With You
The morning of the Grizzly
Well, the morning before actually, the email came through. The Full Grizzly Race has been canceled. Due to predicted heavy snowfall and very low temperatures, the conditions for the marshals and general safety were priority. I was sad. The training had been for the full 20 miles but at least they were still holding the 'cub' run (9 miles) with the promise of automatic entry to next years Grizzly. I'll take that!
So back to the morning of the race. Amy, her parents and myself made our way over to Seaton through the snow. It was getting heavier as the journey went on which was worrying. After hanging around in Seaton car park for some time we made our way to the start where we were hustled into the start area. The Town Crier didn't make it over for the traditional speech at the beginning so the organiser said a few words and we set off.
After a quick run along the seafront we veer left onto the shingle and pebbles. This stretch was around quarter of a mile and surprisingly not as bad as I thought it would be. I'm guessing it was the mixture of excitement, snow and the amount of people I was surrounded by. We left the beach (the sound was quite loud from all the shoes crunching the pebbles) and made our way back along through the start line.
The route then took us up and out of Seaton towards Beer. This section was mostly main road before climbing up to towards the top of Beer itself. The snow was now getting really heavy at this stage. We descended down into the town of Beer and climbed back out up towards Beer Head caravan Park.
From the Caravan park it was a long trail across the top of the cliffs towards Branscombe. The snow here was driving sideways causing it to be quite uncomfortable on one side. This is also where the race leader came back the other way already. Unbelievable pace. There was also a drink station here where the marshal handed me a cup… of ice. On I went.
I was feeling great now still had loads of energy and was picking up my pace too. We ran a huge loop around to the cliff path and watched as runners were falling over, tripping and sliding around. It was chaos really but I took my time and stayed upright. Unfortunately the pack bottle necked at a stile and we had to wait to get through which was annoying. Once past though it was up some steps and onto the top of the cliff path where we headed back.
Last 5 miles
These last 5 miles were the strongest I've ever felt in a race! I hadn't used a gel and had no water which was odd. I decided to up my pace again and began to overtake more runners.
The flat terrain helped of course but the snow was still driving into us and visibility was low. Even where the runners in front had already been, their footprints were immediately covered, the snow was relentless. We made our way back to Beer (I ignored the beer tent) and from the town it was back up and out to Seaton.
Here's where I knew it was all down hill to the finish. We cut through the park at the top of Castle Hill and out to see the finish line along the seafront. I opened up and gave it all I had passing at least 10 runners. 1 of them managed to get me on the line though but it was honestly the strongest I've felt during and at the end of a race.
Post race summary
So it wasn't quite the full Grizzly but it gave me a taste of what to expect next year. The snow made it very challenging and unique so I am glad to be part of the history of the race. Also, the training had paid off! Bring on the Exe to Axe in three weeks!
The journey home
Amy, her parents and I managed to get stranded on the way home from the race and had to abandon the car 2 miles from our front door. The roads became dangerous and chaotic. We trekked down into the valley, I was still in my race shorts and wet from the run, so proved to be quite a cold one! We made it home to a welcome shower and cup of tea.
- Race Time – 1:27:06
- Elevation – 1457 ft
- Distance – 8.70 miles
- Race Number – 1526
- Position – 244th of 1267
Photos – Amy Kerr