Gok the first Sidmouth runner to tame the Grizzly

Every Hill has a Silver Lining, was the theme of this year’s Grizzly, the 25th running of what is generally recognised as one of the best (and toughest) races in the country.,writes John Perratt.

Every year Axe Valley Runners put on a great show but this year surely must have been one of their finest.

Perhaps the brilliant spring weather had something to do with it but right from the moment that the Seaton Town Crier welcomed the runners and got them underway until the last runner finished six hours later the whole town and surrounding countryside was taken over by the event.

The course is changed regularly but improvements to the start and finish on Sunday were particularly welcomed by runners and spectators alike.

Instead of turning straight on to the beach at the start we had an easy warm up along the Esplanade before coming back on the beach and climbing up the hill on the way to Beer. That is an impressive sight as well over 2000 runners set out on their day’s work.

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Then on the way back the route came down the hill on the road towards the Finish just past the Hook and Parrot so that spectators gathered around the finish could see them coming from a greater distance. It also meant that we could finish in fine style with something resembling a sprint instead of the half mile energy sapping stretch on the pebbles to which we have become accustomed over the last 24 years.

Our club entries were a bit down but there were some stellar performance from our members especially from three of them vying to be the first Sidmouth runner home. Milan Goc appeared to be hanging back for much of the way but on the last stretch from Branscombe wound it up and moved up plenty places to finish in 12th position in 2 hours 40 minutes with Justin Ashby (16th) a mere 2 � minutes behind him. Over such a distance that is really close.

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The third musketeer, Mateusz Szala, unfortunately aggravated a calf injury and lost touch with them towards the end, hobbling over the line in a still very respectable 2.50.22 Naomi Garrick, this time in conventional running gear, was our top lady

with an impressive 3.19.10 but I daresay that Nic Smith - on his home turf and with a couple of sub 3 hour times under his belt - may be a little disappointed with his 4.13.48. Virginia Bell and Ashley Broughton on the other hand who finished around half a minute ahead of him will be very happy with their times.

Anyone finishing after the 4 hour 30 mark deserves the greatest respect because even with all the support throughout the day it is still a massive achievement to finish. John Keast refuses to give up and accompanied by Joe Kent clocked up 4.36.48 five minutes ahead of the age-less Bev Tarry warming up for yet another ultra distance event.

Julia King-Keast was next in on 4.46.43 looking unbelievably fresh as a daisy as was Lynda Hawkins four minutes later. Debbie and Don (Cagney and Lacey) squeezed in under the 5 hours with just Corinna Stephens, Helen Palmer and Terry Bewes to come. Corinna, warming up for back marker duties on the Exe to Axe romped home in 5.25.24 whilst Helen and Terry were very relaxed abut the whole thing and stopped the clock on 5 and a half hours.

Close to 500 runners took the easier option of the 9-mile Cub run. Amongst those wise people were John Perratt, David Hedges, Claire Ashby, Cathy Miller, Sarah Watkins and this week they are not feeling so stiff and sore.

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