In a weekend where we've seen Andy Swift complete a Bob Graham Round in 19 hours 12 minutes and David Lee complete an ironman distance triathlon in 14 hours 55 minutes. The various groups taking part in the Thunder Run 24 hour race. It's amazing reading the stories and reading the outcomes of the challenges we all complete. Truly inspiring. Every single day something amazing happens and someone, somewhere has an achievement they are willing to share, where they've gone out and conquered the world. I tell you what, I'm proud to come from Barnsley!
The Snowdonia Trail Marathon!
Gruelling, challenging, up Mount Snowdon in the final stages of the marathon. In a stage where you should really be ready to fail, where you should be hitting the wall. This takes you up and beyond the wall, instead of hitting it. You're meant to go over it. Literally. Over 5,000ft of climb in this race. Up, up and more up. It levels out for a bit, through bogs, trail paths and half a mile of road. Comfort zone completely obliterated. I love a trail, I do. I love a climb, I do. Well and I love a Marathon too. So let's through them all together. A long distance slog up a trail to get to the top of a mountain. What else can be better to do than that? For those that know Snowdonia National Park you ascend the Pyg Track and down the Llanberis Path.
Pyg Track is so runable.. aligned with tourists and dusted with rocks. Scrambling territory, hands and knees stuff at points. You then descend down the main more popular track, loosened by all the foot prints from the tourists before you. Alongside the railway for the easy way up Snowdon.
That's the race anyway. But this isn't the first time I've run here. I managed a trip this way last year, for the road marathon and the trail as well. Clocking 4:41 and finishing something like 23rd place. Not too bad, whether was poor visibility, but breezy and not too warm.. having the time of my life running up Snowdon a year ago.
Preparation for this has been minimal, after the boundary I've hardly done a 'long' run, the furthest for a 'session' being 17/18 mile. Miles for the week have still been over 100 but not quite the mad 160/170's I've come familiar with. This isn't a target race, this is now a kick on race. A race to start the preparation for autumn's marathons, the hill training of all hill sessions; traditionally feeling strong after my Snowdonia exploits. Anyway, we came through Saturday straight after work. Taking a steady drive through to a bunk house in Llanberis. Right on the high street. In fact it is where the road Marathon finish line is! A bunk house with all the rooms crammed to fit the best they can. Quantity not quality here.
Couldn't decide what vest or t shirt to wear!
The room is above a pub, so as you can imagine it was lively! Went to bed relatively early, I had a massive headache from the drive and felt really quite sick. So thought sleep would do well to get rid of it. Alarm was set for 7.15. Breakfast was at 8 and Marathon start is 9. No movement from the staff for an earlier breakfast. I as always, brought my own jar of Nutella. Scoffed breakfast down and to the start line. There for 8.45.
Stood now looking around and thinking of what is to come, I had read nothing about the course; if there had been any changes from last years route. I was to find out! Glanced over to see Mariusz Felczerek. A runner I've met from various events around the country. He only lives in Doncaster, originally from Poland. Does a fair few ultras or mad runs as well from what I've kept up by following him on Strava. Good to chat to a local familiar face to calm you down! Good luck and we was underway.
The first few mile is a relentless up hill climb, before descending out onto flat from memory.
On a map you can see the change, looks so simple, however in reality. It was two minutes per mile and boggy through the fields, truly energy sapping.
You can see the change here on the photos, last year on the left; this year on the right. Last year you took a main path run to the road and ran on the road. Comfort zone. This year bog monsters! Gruelling. I took my time to the top of a climb, but still clocked a quicker time than last year. Coming down last year I managed to clock a 6:40; this year a 10:40. Different area, different route. I didn't enjoy this part. Last year I was met with the biggest scariest descent I've ever seen. This year, flat, rolling downhill descents through a bog. Did I mention there was a bog? Running through miles ticking slowly, trying to hook my shoes onto my feet. Dropped into a bog, up to my knees. Shoe still magically attached. Annoyed at myself for some reason, but still skimming across the surface and trying to pass people. Seeing a runner from Derby, in a new pair of Inov8 X Talon's. Carrying the largest bag of kit, abrasion marks across the shoulders. Thinking it could be worse. But I was still too hesitant, living in fear. Fear of loosing a shoe, pace or even my leg? It is a monster after all. Dropping slowly position after position now and energy at an all time low. Gagging for the first water station because I knew the route from there on in. Hopefully. Goes around a lake at Rhyd-Ddu and then towards Beddgelert Forest. Winding on trail paths likened to bits of the TPT or the Manvers Rep. Its flat enough here. I flew as soon as I could, kicking on and passing runners now. First water station down and on my journey of known territory. Noticing very quickly that my bag was leaking water, not good. Loosing weight but water stations are sparse. Lemon sherbet in. 6 mile down, 7,8,9 mile. Easy miles, 7 something pace. Training miles these. Not threshold miles. Just Keep Running.
There was too many of these kind of demoralising stiles to cross as well!
Mile 10 then 11, into Beddgelert, another water station and my first of many bag top ups. My bag must've been challenging to comprehend because no one but me could figure it out. Every station became an extended stay of 2/3 minutes ish. Time lost and places. All flat though so it became a clawing back game. Running on and hoping for the best. You have to see the views to believe them. Nothing compared to the beautiful Yorkshire but massive, awe inspiring mountains. Mere ridges in comparison to Snowdon but massive still! This year the weather was hot, visibility was high; but still not high enough to see from the top! I had sun cream on and was boiling. Any breeze was nice, it was a let up. But plodding through it and looking around was ace! I was becoming really drained at this point and every mile now became a struggle. Reflecting back on previous experiences and challenges to bring me strength. The Boundary; this one last year, every single road marathon, 5K's, 10k's and Half's; runs where I've wanted to pack it in, runs where I've felt on top of the world. Approaching Pen Y Pas, the car park specifically before you join the Pyg Track. It's a mile grass, rock and slow climb before you get to the car park. Lack of water and dehydration really hit hard here. I knew the water station was ahead. That's all I was thinking about, tongue getting bigger and bigger, headache on the horizon if I don't get a drink soon. The mile dragged on and on and on! 18 minutes later and 728ft of climb, all climb. I was there. Refilling my water and having drink after drink. 19 mile, roughly 8 to go! This course measured 27.6 last year. On track now for the peak of Snowdon to come around 22.5/23 mile. No breath, no respite. Constant up, I can see up this year. Last year I could just see in front of me. Just see my hands and feet. I could run, because I didn't know where I was going. It was hot and sticky. Sweaty with the occasional breeze. Not good, not fantastic. Water went again after a mile. Borrowing some from another runner and one from a tourist, they're good for something. Up and up, on and on. Rock after rock. Scrambling up at times. Trying to coordinate my body without tripping. Looking up and looking around. Seeing sights and natural wonders. Kit Kat in my mouth, didn't go down well, stodgy and way too thick, left an horrible taste in my mouth and no water to wash it away. I stopped at a small stream run off to put some in my mouth, swill it and spit it out. Worked a treat but didn't wanna risk swallowing it. Clearly the slowest miles of the race followed clocking an ultra slow 24 minute miler when I stopped to ask a tourist for a drink just off of the summit. Downhill now. Legs slowly and laboriously being placed one in front of the other. Down under the train track, where Damien Briscoe managed to fall last year (Sorry Damien I just had to), ending his charge. Stopping again for 3 minutes this time to fill my water up. Making it a 14 minute for the mile. Rocks seemed dry and loser. I couldn't glide down here. Gagging for the tarmac to come around. But passed the half way house now. Nearly down, water gone again. 5th sherbet lemon entered. Loosing footing a few times. Hoping I wouldn't do a Damien. Onto the tarmac now, galloping home on my comfort zone. Downhill tarmac steeper than Meltham's downhill. The runner next to me joyous that he could see the finish, his watch beeped to finish 26.2. Him saying come on, it's only round the corner. He sprinted to blow up, despite me saying it's longer than 27. We left the road at the bottom to enter a trail through a wood. Passing some of the Half Marathon runners as we go. Nearly home.
4:48:04 chip time
Different course, different time. Is it a worse time? Well on paper it looks it. I would've loved to have beaten 4:41. Everyone who knows me, knows that. But I've done it and I've run a marathon, fallen in a bog and improved some way shape or form. I'll use that experience, probably buy a new bag or water bladder, and take it forward into everything else that will follow. It's all just a story and well I'm building my book.
In other news my dad managed to find the moment I meant my 'twin'
Anyway folks, all over for another year.
Just Keep Running!