My third Snowdonia Marathon, sadly without co strider Richard Gray on today`s start line who was ill on the race morning (thankfully now better).
The weather is very heavy rain, similar to that when a few of us did Snowdonia trail Marathon earlier in the year, yep glum and that white low cloud over Snowdon itself. Yet it was good of the organisers to provide disposable rain macs when we picked up our numbers and superb Technical T-shirts from Electric Mountain the day before, they were a big help at the start line.
This is a bucket list Marathon for those who collect them, I’ve yet to hear someone who dislikes the event and the 2700 places are snapped up from January 1st in no time whatsoever, this is a testing and visually sumptuous 26.2 miles and a real credit to North Wales.
10:30 the race starts and naturally despite the bad weather its Striders vest all the way, a slightly downhill first mile towards Nant Peris before four miles up the highest Road in Britain (Pen Y pass), it’s a long slow climb so it’s best to just pick a speed and sit at it-already by mile four quite a few walk.
Over the top of the Pass and drop off the top downhill, I really enjoy this descent and pass lots of people on the way down to Pen Y Gwyrd, from there it’s a long trail descent down into the Gwynant valley.
The plan is going well, run strongly but leave something in the tank for Bwlch Y Groes at 21 miles more on that later, I`m running at good speed as we get into the popular tourist village of Beddgelert at the halfway point. The next few miles out of Beddgelert is the hill that many forget, I can tell that I feel a lot stronger than last year as we head towards Pen Y Groes where there’s a bloke in Fell Kit running a largely road marathon in Inov-8 X-Talon`s!
The miles between 19 and 21 were my `wobble miles`, largely because I find the Betws Garmon area a bit dull on road (Although Llyn Cwellyn and its backdrop are remarkable) so was actually glad when we got into the village of Waunfawr and `That` climb. So 21.5 miles in and you have a climb that perhaps 90% of runners end up walking that goes over the lower slopes of Snowdon, at about 23 miles it goes to trail. All the offroad Fell running has paid dividends as I run from Waunfawr straight over Bwlch Y groes without a problem, very happy about this as felt awful last time I tried.
The trail section was utterly soaked, complete water and mudfest in road shoes, pretty much carnage with runners slipping over constantly (one bloke fell three times in a hundred yards) Although pretty much soaked and muddied up I remained on my feet. For once I was happy to hit tarmac again on the long descent back into Llanberis chasing a young blonde (!) back towards the finish line which she duly crossed and immediately threw up!
Very happy with the day`s performance which I dedicated to my Dad, 25 minutes off my course PB coming in at 3 hours 33 mins not bad with 2036ft of ascent!
Hope some more Stilton Striders will give this a whirl in the coming years it truly is worth doing on so many levels, really is a race you`ll never forget. [Rob]