Wimborne Athletic Club

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‘The Grizzly’ - 9 September 2007 – Armageddon No Where

‘The Grizzly takes no prisoners and accepts no passengers’.

This is my favourite race anywhere – despite the fact it can be something of a bodybreaker! Describing it as a multi-terrain race doesn’t do it justice. The route is partly on road, footpaths, pebble beach, bog, under water and even up steep steps up the East Devon cliffs (known as the ‘Stairway to Heaven’) and it had a climb as vertical as I ever hope to encounter in a race (where you used your hands to grasp onto tufts of grass to pull yourself up).

The whole buzz of the event sets it apart from other races. There is much in the way of entertainment, a couple of pipers, a guy with a didgeridoo, a steel band raised the echoes in a cowshed, a couple of folk groups, and something that looks like a Buddhist shrine in the woods and -  did I really see it or was I starting to hallucinate due to low sugar levels – a ventriloquist! In a recent national poll the race was voted the third best race in Britain (the top 2 were the London Marathon and the Great North Run – both of which have many more runners in them). It may only be 19.7 miles but is tougher than a marathon. If ever there was a must do race this is it.

The men’s team on Seaton seafront, left to right, Jon Braund, Pete Lemon, Ian Kennedy and Jerry Shield

Gillean and Ian on the first climb
as they leave Seaton

Pete Lemon – happy to be
entering the home straight

Jon, Jerry and I travelled together to the start where we met up with Pete and Gillean. The last time Gillean and I met was for the Lairig Ghru fell race in the Cairngorms in June. Gillean and I decided to run together, we started at a steady pace and at 10 miles we were feeling pretty good, well as comfortable as it is possible to feel on a race of this kind, and slowly but surely we started to make up a few places. At around 15 miles there was a steady descent onto the beach. We decided to raise the pace from this point on. In the next 2 miles we had still to tackle pebble beach and the ‘Stairway to Heaven’ but after that I knew the route would get easier. All those miles we did earlier in the year when preparing for Scotland started to pay dividends and Gillean and I gained dozens of places in those final miles as other runners started to struggle. On the Stairway to Heaven I was about half a dozen places ahead of Gillean. One of the runners between us collapsed and all those behind him on the narrow path were held up until the first-aiders were able to get to him.

Once I emerged onto the cliff top I kept targeting runners ahead of me and chasing them down – it was a great feeling (although some of them weren’t putting up too much of a fight - I must have passed four runners at various times lying on the ground groaning with cramp). This is the first time I have run the Grizzly in warm weather (we are more likely to get howling gales) and I think that a few people may have got caught out with dehydration.

As I ran along the final section of shingle beach into Seaton I could see Pete’s family cheering the runners home. Hollie, who was one of the stars in the Tarrant Valley recently, had no trouble running alongside me shouting encouragement all the way.

A great day. Gillean came in a couple of minutes behind me and once she had got her breathe back declared that it was 1-1, Lairig Ghru to her, Grizzly to me, and we will need another bonkers off-road race to settle it for a best of three. Any ideas anyone? Naturally if she gets the best of me next time out I shall be pushing for a best of five!

Jerry, Jon and Pete all had excellent races too.

There was a terrific article in Southampton’s Daily Echo click here to go to ‘Getting to Grips with the Grizzly’ .

Ian Kennedy

Jerry Shield (96th) - 3:07:47
Jon Braund (172nd) - 3:16:53
Pete Lemon (198th) - 3:19:03
Ian Kennedy (662nd) - 4:12:49
Gillean Keith (685th) - 4:15:36

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