My good friend who lives in Wales suggested we do the Snowdonia Trail Half Marathon back in May even though the thought of running up a mountain the height of a munro filled me with dread. As it turns out she had to withdraw through to injury and her husband James took her place (no athletic organisation rules broken as the race organiser allowed numbers to be changed). I felt for James because he hadn’t even run a normal half marathon never mind up a big hill!
The Sunday dawned blue skied and sunny but as we drove towards Llanberis, where the race started, it became gloomy and drizzly. By the time we arrived at just before 9am those competing in the ultra-marathon and the marathon had already been racing for more than 3 hours.
And it was off, great atmosphere, the crowds cheering and cowbells ringing as the colourful spectacle of runners snaked through the town.
Within minutes there was a really steep road and as we passed a campsite a Scottish couple, sitting in their pj’s on deckchairs, shouted “you’re doing great!”, I thought, “we’ve only been running for about 10 minutes, but thanks”. Then on the hill proper with a nice, easyish gradient through a valley to a col, where miraculously it was time to go downhill – the landscape really opening up with hills far and wide and the odd loch, or whatever the Welsh call them (a llyn?). The easy downhill wasn’t to last and it was a left turn and then a gradual contouring climb past the odd walker and then the alarming site of a zig zag path up a very stony, steep path and runners as far as the eye could see on the skyline.
Now, it was time to walk, and that I did for at least an hour, I wasn’t feeling quite as invincible as an hour before but kept plodding on. As we climbed higher into the mist and murk you coudn’t see further than around 50 metres. Then the peculiar sound of “choo choo” – the Snowdon train making its way to the summit. Was getting overtaken by a fair few of my fellow competitors now but ploughed on. Crossed the railway tracks and then there was the best sight – the turning point checkpoint. Didn’t stop for water as I was on a roll.
It was very tricky going on the downhill as you had to navigate tourists walking up and stone steps and the odd twiglet sized ultra runner speeding past at twice the pace I was doing. Lost concentration at one point and went bang down on my knee, which looked more horrific than it actually was. Was down the mountain in what seemed like no time, the sight of Llanberis below getting welcomingly closer. And then it was back on to tarmac and into a nature trail.
Horrified to learn we would have to climb again to find the two miles still missing. This part of the race was torture! Exhausted runners puffed and panted up the path, stopping to gasp for air and drink from their dwindling water reserves, wiping sweat out of their eyes. Finally topped out and it was downhill all the way, the sight of the finishing line, and the cheer of the crowds a boost on the last painful metres. I earned extra whoops and shouts of my name due to the horrific look of my bloodied leg.
Then it was over the finishing line and the best post-race spread of food you can imagine. Lay in the grass, soaking up the lovely atmosphere and even managed a swim in the Irish sea later to finish off a cracking day.
Gender position: 99
Cat position: 37
1st male, Joe Dale 01:51:19 – Victoria Park Harriers Tower
1st female, Josie Lloyd – 02:11:14 – Mercia Fell RC