24 Jul 2016 – Snowdonia Trail Marathon

I`ll leave the mysteries and glitz for the gossip columns and focus on the big race itself, that we had what 20 Stilton Striders at this event racing the 10k, Half Marathon and full marathon (ok it’s an ultra) in Wild Wales is absolutely fantastic.

What isn’t so fantastic is again we would be doing the event in heavy rain as half an hour before the event the heavens open, at least it’s a tad warmer than last year when the weather caused some rather massive anxiety and self confidence issues. Our big group of runners are pretty well kitted out, really not sure if some of them know what they are facing but hey ho they are smiling! The half and full start together leading out the village before a very sharp climb on Snowdon’s lower slopes that has far too many people walking in the first mile, its heavy traffic and good agility is needed in case of death by bum bag or backpack. Making good progress as pass Mike Bryan and Jim Hatherley early on, enjoy the first four miles of just grinding up the endless hill, there`s the masochist in me. Long fell like downhill brings us out near the Snowdon ranger before over a mile of tarmac on the way to Rhyd-Du and the turnoff to Beddgelert forest. Before I know it I’m looking at signs for 8 and 11 miles, have to say I was thinking of the team out there doing the half how they were finding it, when Luke would get back etc.

Make it to Beddgelert village wondering how far Stuart Shaw is in front as haven’t seen him since 5-6 miles thinking the mud and terrain near Llyn Dinas may have slowed him down only to find they had trailed the surface like Beacon Hill! Mud still to come though as we crossed the road to the far side of Llyn Gwynant and quite a merry adventure it is round there. Simon Bottrill I found out later somehow picked a wrong turn somewhere and ended up thigh deep in the lake losing 20 mins running time in the process, not good as it was tiring enough at this bit. 17 miles in and the course was changed, the long slog upto Pen Y Pass took another route although it was a damn lot steeper, some people preferred it, personally I didn’t. 20 miles and you’re at Pen Y Pass the highest road in the UK, some people may have said this year’s course was shorter than the 29.3 miles of last year but unless they’ve shaved the mountain down somewhat from here on it was exactly the same as last year’s course.

Instead of plumping for last year’s heroics in a vest I admit I was tired and went for a base layer, an energy gel and a protein bar as I started climbing the very hard going Pyg track up Wyddfa, a fresh looking Jim Hatherley passes me at 21 miles. Even the Half Marathoners had a hard climb going up the Snowdon Ranger path but the Pyg is the hardest route: full of scrambles, hand holds and parts of the route are very exposed to the elements, as well as the feeling it’s never ending. Pretty sure about 30 people must have passed me on the way to the summit, my pace was slow if persistent and it took a good mile downhill to get going again after the top, quads were burning on the descent after all the elevation.

Finally start descending a bit better and sadly the road back into Llanberis again doesn’t happen as we are sent through woodland trails around the back, taking my waterproof off cost me a good minute I can tell you. Past Dolbadarn Castle and I can smell the finish even starting to laugh as one runner goes the wrong way and heads towards Electric Mountain! Over the line to a great applause from the crowd and and the Striders faithful, a bit quicker than last year also.

Nothing on photo can tell you what this race is like, if you ran the full, the half or the 10k you deserve massive respect; it is a very tough race or perhaps event. You really have to have been ¾ up a Welsh mountainside exposed to the elements with badly aching legs and fading energy to imagine what this is like. I have massive respect for everyone who did this weekend’s races, everyone in my eyes achieved, although there were some stunning results also.

See you next year? [Rob]