The 36th edition of The Grizzly, the 20-mile multi terrain race in East Devon that took place on the weekend must have been amongst the most challenging and muddiest to date, writes Carol Austin. 

After weeks of heavy rain, the sun actually came out with blue skies above the 2000 plus runners who set off from Seaton Esplanade to tackle the hills, rivers, bogs, pebbles and fields along the course from Seaton to the furthest reaches of Branscombe and back.

As ever, the race was entirely organised by volunteers from Axe Valley Runners (AVR) with support from many local community groups who provided marshals, water and feed stations, much cheering and kept all the runners safe. 

Seaton, Beer and Branscombe were buzzing with spectators and runners, before and after the event, enjoying the sunshine and local hospitality making this year’s Grizzly another exciting and memorable occasion. Musicians including bagpipes and drummers plus a beer tent on Beer Head all added to the unique Grizzly experience.

More than 1300 runners completed the 20-mile full Grizzly course yesterday despite the muddy, rocky, wet and frightful conditions underfoot.  First home in an amazing time, given the conditions, was Sam Kelly of Exmouth Harriers in 2:20.36 for his second successive win. 

Midweek Herald: Sam Kelly, male winner receives his prizes from President of AVR, John Barrington-Rowe

Making her Grizzly debut and winner of the women’s race in a simply incredible time of 2:37.25 was AVR’s Emily Cowper-Coles, who flew around the course making the most of her fell running experience.

In the shorter Cub race, which is still a tough 9 miles across Beer Head to Branscombe Mouth, it was a win for another debutant, Harry McMahon, in 1:06.54.  The AVR member has just turned 17, making him eligible to take part in his first Grizzly Cub.  First woman in the Cub was Vegan Runner, Caroline McAleese.  More than 630 completed the Cub race.

The poignant memory tree was created on Branscombe beach with many runners pausing to tie a ribbon and remember those lost in the last year.  There was also a marriage proposal, which was accepted, at the tree, the ring having amazingly survived the bog!

On Saturday, more than 260 children had taken part in the Grizfest races in the pouring rain and a chilly wind, so hopefully a few hardy Grizzly runners in the making.

Midweek Herald: Harry McMahon, Cub winner receives prize from Scott Salisbury from East Devon Sports Therapy