How it all began …
The Grizzly started in the village of Beer in Devon in 1988 with just 27 runners and over a much shorter six-mile course than the current 20 mile iteration. Records show a S Anning romped home in the inaugural race in a time of 34:45.
Within a few years the race had ballooned in size – both distance and runners – and the start was moved to the nearby town of Seaton which provides more space and facilities.
In 1992 a shorter, parallel version of the longer race was introduced – and even though the Cub sounds cute and is ‘only’ nine miles it should not be underestimated.
President of AVR, John Barrington Rowe (JBR) was the instigator of the “Grizzly” name. He worked at the Lyme Regis Foods company’s little factory in Colyton making Grizzly Bars, so suggested the name, Grizzly. And it stuck!
For the first runs, with up to 1000 competitors, Lyme Regis Foods sponsored the run providing every finisher with a free energy bar.
More recently sponsorship has come in the form of East Devon Sports Therapy Centre and Lyme Bay Winery so it has remained a locally supported event.
In 2007 the MSC Napoli container ship was grounded near Branscombe prompting a month-long clean-up operation. The Grizzly’s infamous pebble beach was closed for safety reasons and the Grizzly was moved as a result to September rather than the traditional springtime.
The weather can play its part – thanks to the “Beast from the East”, only the shorter Cub could take place in 2018.
And in 2021, like so many other events, there was no Grizzly due to the Covid-19 global pandemic.
Although there aren’t many big name Olympians risking an injury in such an event, local athlete, Jake Smith cut his teeth on the Grizzly finishing first in 2017 at just 19 and, since then, has represented Great Britain. Some top trail runners have taken on the Grizzly with Ceri Rees a five times winner, Nicky Spinks completing it in 2019 and author, Damian Hall running it in 2020.
The Grizzly is a non-profit event. Since the first event more than £457,000 has been raised for local charities and good causes. The Grizzly continues to be what it is because of the community and friendliness of everyone involved, from the runners to the marshals to the organisers to all the community groups that make it possible. The whole area has a real buzz when it takes place and that is why people come back year after year to take part.