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The Grizzly – Paul Alexander’s Desert Island Race

If you could only pick one race per year, for me it would be the Grizzly.  I’ve ran it for the last 9 years. It started in January 2009 on a Monday night club run when Jim Casey asked me if I would be doing the Grizzly and said you are not a proper SJ unless you have done it!  So I decided that I didn’t want to be left out and back then it was easy to enter, so I posted off the entry and my money not quite knowing what I was letting myself in for.

As I was quite new to the club at that time, I didn’t stay in Seaton the first year and arrived on the day and met up with a few club members. I was quite apprehensive of what lay ahead and after a few words from the Town Cryer we were off and little did I know then that I would still be doing it now.

Paul & Sarah 2

Over the years it has become more and more popular as a race and after featuring in Runners World it has gone from being able to enter the week before, to selling out within an hour and before they introduced the ballot.  I now believe it has been entered into a book ‘Races to do before you die’!!

So why do I love it……..

For me it is more than a race, it’s the reason I love being a SJ.  Sharing experiences with runners that have done it before and watching the Grizzly virgins experience their first race is fab.  Every year it has evolved, from driving down on the day to now spending the whole weekend in Seaton and we seem to add a new tradition every year!  So we now arrive on a Friday, have a few drinks, then do the Seaton Park Run on the Saturday morning which was a new addition this year and then spend the rest of Saturday walking to Beer and enjoying the hills at a more leisurely pace. Saturday night starts in the fish and chip shop and then progresses to the Grizzly HQ’s for the Griz quiz which myself, Richard McCready and Paul Biggs discovered one year whilst trying to find something to do.  We had to rope in a local lady to help make up the numbers but we decided that night that we would be back with a team of extremely intelligent people to show Seaton what  a bunch of runners were made of!! The next two years we came 2nd and the following year we won and this has now become a must do on our Grizzly weekend.

On race day,  we all meet as a club at the cafe near the start to get a team photo and wish each other well.

Paul, Richard & the priest

Over the years, I have had many different experiences running the Grizzly from some of the best times to some of the not so great. One of the worst was in 2012 I was about 4 miles in and ran into a field and landed awkwardly on a rock and pulled up.  I didn’t know it at the time but I had broken my foot. I remember sitting there feeling really sorry for myself being passed by club mates checking that I was ok and making sure I was looked after.  I got collected by St. Johns Ambulance and was taken back to their medical centre. They wanted me to go to Exeter hospital for an x-ray but I convinced them that it would be better for me to go home and get checked out closer to home, so I hobbled round to the finish and waited for everyone to return.  I think for most people this would have put them off but for me, it made me more determined that the Grizzly wasn’t going to be beat me and returned the following year to carry on where I left off.

Loads of SJs on the beach at start

The highlights of the race for me are getting off the beach, it’s amazing the noise of 2000 runners on a stoney beach at the start and then the sound of the relief when we are off.  The support you get from the marshals to the crowds in the villages and pubs, the endless supply of jelly babies and bits of cake, the amazing contrast from running through the pub garden and being cheered on and a few moments later, being almost alone in the woods with the smell of wild garlic. Exchanging looks with other runners without words and knowing exactly what they are thinking and without doubt, wading through streams and muddy bogs and probably the best finish to a race ever.

Cub team at finish

This year I did the Cub for the first time, it was a fun run with great friends and allowed me to get back in time to watch the rest of the club finish the Grizzly, but next year  I will be back to conquer the Grizzly once again, I dare you to join me………..

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