Nine Striders headed off to North Wales for the inaugural Snowdonia Trail Marathon (and half). Both routes were off-road courses that took in a visit to (almost) the summit of Mount Snowdon – via the Ranger Path for the half, and the Pyg Track for the full marathon, which included around 6,000 feet of ascent.
As Llanberis filled with runners and tourists on the Saturday afternoon ahead of the race, the warm July sunshine masked what the mountain weather forecasts were saying – Sunday (race day) would be very windy, wet and would feel like minus 6 in the wind chill towards the top. The organisers announced full body waterproofs, hat and gloves would all be mandatory kit…
Katie Hateley and Luke Eggleston completed the “half” in 3hrs 01min and 3.03 respectively, with the “full” being conquered by Jim Hatherley (5.31), Rob Beers (5.38), Rich Gray (6.25), John Houghton (6.35), Dan Valencia (6.38), Michael Atton (6.40) and Simon Bottrill (6.42).
Full report from Rob is below:
I entered this not long after it was announced, sounded brilliant and not soon after was joined by Dan Valencia and then it got silly with a whole horde of us being tagged in things and entering it but of course all in a brilliant way.
So somehow we got it all sorted, accommodation, transport, food, directions and made it to Jesse James bunkhouse in Llandeniolen for the nine Stilton Striders doing the race (7 doing the Marathon, 2 doing the half).
Despite rocking up in North Wales to staggeringly nice weather, the forecast for the race on Sunday was quite severe with heavy rain predicted so we thankfully were all well kitted out or so we thought.
The quickly sold out 800 field started at 10:00am in wet weather running both the half and full Marathon with already many people walking in the first mile on the road over towards Llyn Cwellyn. Suddenly avoiding those who chose to start walking or who wouldn’t recognise running courtesy was a bit annoying the first few miles over the mountain path but the field after the top started to string out more on rather a lovely descent where by then the race split in two (half and Full routes).
A mile of road between Llyn Cwellyn and the village of Rhyd Ddu before heading into the trails of Beddgelert Forest which provided some scenic and enjoyable trail running. Into the popular tourist village of Beddgelert itself before taking the path alongside the river that comes out besides Llyn Dinas, very muddy along here and wearing winter fell shoes paid off massively, indeed she did take a stud today.
The course veered the steep side of the Gwynant valley, circumnavigating the lake with some stiff climbs and quite technical woodland before coming out at the Gwynant campside and then the long pull up to Pen Y Pass which was a real stamina drainer.
Pen Y Pass, the highest road in the UK was 20 miles in, so in your head it’s a `mere 10k to finish` looking at my watch and thinking Hmm if this was a Road Marathon I’d be finished by now, the Pyg track for most is un-runnable with huge sections of rocky outcrops and as we ascend higher and into worse weather, many sections are climbs and scrambles rather than even walking. Its 22 miles and in and the temperature is dropping quickly, the rain hammering down and blowy as anything, I can’t explain what this feels like after your already tired from running and all the previous amount of ascent. Seriously ask any member doing the full and given the chance they would’ve retired from the race given the chance, it was severe, making it to the top wasn’t the good bit but getting down a bit further and the temperature rising was much more satisfying. So I reach the top, OK maybe I should point out I’m still wearing my Stilton vest at this point as too cold to put my base layer on, thankfully I’m directed downhill and I make it to train bridge and know I’m going to live to fight another day. Whilst I consider myself and fellow Striders doing this event very strong runners it is a concern for those perhaps not of our ability doing the event and hopefully the race organisers will think seriously about pre-requisites for race entries for the next event of this race.
The long descent down the Llanberis path finally see`s the legs wake up again, although when we hit road again it’s not the easy way back to the finish but were re-directed through some woods, then again at the side of Castell Dolbadarn and then just as I think we’re going towards the old Hospital finally the finish comes into sight.! I know it had been misjudged mile wise but to find out it was 29.3 miles rather than the advertised 26.2 was irresponsible of the organiser, especially given the terrain and the freak weather. The last and most dangerous section of the race 9.3 miles took over 2 hours to complete which really says it all how tough it was.
I had a lovely welcome from Katie and Luke who had done the HM and from Jim when I came in; apparently I was very blank and dazed. I sat there in the hall after dripping wet huddled in my coat before eventually realizing what I`d done, 29.3 miles including Snowdon! And only 7 minutes behind one of Strider`s fastest runners! It certainly took time and kind hearted Jim fetching me a cuppa to realize the magnitude of what had gone before. I know young Simon Bottrill suffering with recurring injury and repeatedly telling anyone who`d listen beforehand he was considering dropping to the half, yet ran the full and was last Strider which he was slightly down about-It doesn’t matter! Your first Ultra good man, massive endurance both physically and mentally to have done it at all, I salute you!
Scariest, toughest race any of us have ever been in bar none, we all felt great we did it and had an absolutely awesome weekend that we will never forget. Thanks to the team who came away hope we can have such a great trip next year wherever it may be, not only an unforgettable race experience but a great bonding experience where tears of laughter were never far away. [Rob]