Sidmouth runners embrace the Grizzly as the weather turns polar

Sidmouth Running Club members at the 2018 Grizzly meeting

Sidmouth Running Club members at the 2018 Grizzly meeting - Credit: Archant

The third Sunday of March saw the staging of the 31st Grizzly running event, and it became a run with a difference with the event turning polar as the second wave of snow hit the South West, writes Monica Read.

Race organisers at Axe Valley Running Club were contemplating a difficult decision as the weather took a turn for the worse and they were faced with the prospect of thousands of runners and a legion of voluntary marshalls being stranded in snowy conditions in remote and inaccessible parts of the East Devon countryside.

The Grizzly, which in the best of conditions can be treacherous, is a race of 20 miles that starts and finishes in Seaton and crosses beaches, streams, bogs, and cliffs.

It is known nationally as an extremely tough event and is hugely popular, usually attracting 2,000 runners from across the country, with entry tickets in high demand.

On Saturday, with an amber weather warning in place, the Grizzly Committee decided that there would be no full (20 mile) Grizzly, but that a modified Cub route (10m) would be open to all.

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Back at Sidmouth Running Club (SRC), there was a bit of debate amongst runners about whether to travel, and 27 runners decided that, if the marshalls were going to turn out, then so would they – and they were not disappointed!

Wrapped up against the wind and snow, 1,200 runners set off on the shortened race with high spirits.

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Not long into the race conditions deteriorated quickly so that, by the time Sidmouth runners got to Branscombe, the course was shortened to one of nine miles

Sidmouth Running Club chairman Terry Bewes said: “What an absolutely brilliant day, a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

“The camaraderie amongst the runners was fantastic and the marshalls were amazing, stuck out there in freezing blizzard conditions at times, handing our water, directing us on the route and being so supportive.

“They all had a smile on their faces for us and enjoyed asking if we wanted ice in our water!’

Sidmouth Runners delivered some good times, despite the appalling weather, with Antony Hall leading the Sidmouth team home in a time of 1:14:38.

Jessica Raynor was Sidmouth’s first lady home in 1:23:07. John Keast and Joe Kent acted as sweepers, running the route to ensure no one got left behind or lost in the blizzard.

In terms of the overall race, the first man home was David Green (1:01:06) and the first lady was was Kirsteen Welch (1:13:40), who was treated to a ‘powerful sales pitch’ before the start from Charlotte Forrer to get her to join the Sidmouth Running Club!

There was further encouragement from the club chairman and now Kirsteen is the club’s newest recruit.

The Grizzly organisers said: “Massive well done to all of you hardy 1,200 runners who completed the Grizzly Cub today in the toughest conditions of the 31 Grizzly events.

“A huge thank you, to all the marshals that made today possible - you really raised the bar.’

The final word then, with SRC chairman Terry Bewes, who said: “Huge respect to race director Tony Smith for the very difficult decisions he took and all his helpers who gave us a fantastic experience.

“The drive home was quite an experience too. Was it worth the T-shirt? Absolutely – YES!”

The times for the SRC members that ran the Grizzly were: Antony Hall, 1:14:38; Gary Anning, 1:23:03; Jessica Raynor, 1:23:07; Danny Painter, 1:22:49; Mark Welland, 1:24:55; Adrian Clode, 1:27:22; Nigel Maeer, 1:28:14; Charlotte Forrer, 1:31:04; Jim Forrer, 1:31:11; Julian Bartlett, 1:31:10; Graham Sheppard, 1:33:33; Els Laureys; 1:47:11; David Chipping, 1:47.20; Alan Colwill, 1:51:01; Sasha Colwill, 1:51:02; Lynda Hawkins, 1:52:06; Kaylee Hawkins, 1:52:05; David Wright, 1:53:43; Helen Palmer, 2:07:26; John Sharples, 2:17:38; Greg Ward 2:17:41; Kat Hall, 2:16:57; Terry Bewes 2:24:39; Suzi Rockey, 2:24:39; Bethany Wells, 2:30:12; Joe Kent, 2:39:09; John Keast, 2:39:10.

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