Tom's Blog 26.7.17

By Tom's_Blog July 26th, 2017

26.7.17 Final blog

Snowdonia Trail Marathon – done! Easily the second hardest race of my life but also most definitely the most stunning race setting of any I’ve done.

The race by numbers:

Finish time: 5 hrs 35 mins

Position: 110th place out of 660 finishers

Distance: 27 miles / 43.5km

Ascent: 1602m / 5356ft

First 19miles to Pen Y Pass checkpoint 3:25, final 7 miles up the Pyg track to Snowdon and down the other side to Llanberis: 2:10 (that second split for 7 miles says it all!)

40 different nationalities taking part

So challenge complete and I do look back on this race with a real sense of enjoyment when I think of the route and having finished it – I also managed to run fairly quickly over the final three miles downhill into Llanberis passing half a dozen runners so at least I’ve also finally finished a marathon vaguely respectably and, unlike a fair few others, I didn’t fall over along the way. The organisers’ label it ‘one of Europe’s toughest trail marathons’ and whilst I realise it’s not the Alps and there are races like UTMB which dwarf this one, even seasoned trail runners describe this as one of the hardest and I can now vouch for that!

As expected, the first few miles was the second hardest climb of the whole race out of Llanberis up over the nearer lower mountains before a long descent into the valley the other side but this was down through a vast peat bog which, as witnessed to the runner in front of me, was thigh deep! as well as over piles of slate before hitting the valley floor. This then was the one relatively flat part of the course following the river towards and beyond Beddgelert and I felt great for the first part of that section really picking up the pace, being in the top 30 or so and making the most of the good terrain but after passing halfway just beyond Beddgelert I rapidly and frustratingly slowed – partly because I could feel soreness in my right foot every step but more noticeably because of a lack of endurance fitness as a result of the previous four weeks’ significantly curtailed training; this was a shame as it was the one part of the course where a decent pace should have been possible but perhaps it was not surprising. Before the start I had viewed the race in three parts: do the first 19 miles as well as possible, then simply get through the climb up Snowdon and finally run as hard as possible down the last 3 miles back to Llanberis. The one surprise, which was my fault for not noticing on the OS map contour lines, was the massive climb from the valley floor up a very steep narrow path just to reach Pen Y Pass before the Pyg track had even started and also the hot weather (having presumed north Wales never gets very hot! – I was aware of the sun factor at altitude, had sun cream on accordingly and took on plenty of fluids but I’d still expected it to be cool and wet although maybe that would have been worse) so I was feeling pretty much knackered before I even started the Pyg track but I did at least manage to gobble down a fistful of cola bottle sweets and more drink at the Pen Y Pass checkpoint; there were a couple of moments on the steepest rockiest parts of the Pyg track towards the top of Snowdon when on my hands and knees I could barely lift my legs over yet another boulder due to cramp and fatigue and I wondered what would happen if my legs stopped altogether; the stunning views over the lakes below more than compensated for these enforced stops as did the support from walkers who were wisely coming down the Pyg track. So many runners passed me on the long climb up, I simply reminded myself of the objective which was to finish (and ideally in one piece) as I inched like a snail closer to the top. After taking the final step, then turning right just below the summit station and visitor centre to begin the descent, I was briefly in much cooler misty weather but only for a few minutes. I started to force my legs to run and they responded in a rollercoaster ride as the path down was loose scree and required every last drop of any concentration I had left to avoid a faceplant, before we rounded a corner of moorland to see the town of Llanberis again which was such a joy, matched by the smilingfaces of my wife and two little treasures and our close friends who were there just before the finish to welcome me back. The look on my face as I crossed the line was quite pained and I remember the PA announcer summing it up quite well and quite politely by simply saying ‘he seems relieved to finish’ (when I was actually thinking ‘thank god, as I’m totally f****d!) Over the coming hours and days I feel a bit more contentment about it, but also a real love for the region as we spent the days before and after visiting Anglesey and the delightful beaches of the Llyn Peninsula in lovely sunshine.

So Tom’s 2 Marathons challenge is complete – I could have done better in both races but I won’t let myself dwell on that; undoubtedly the better of the two was Sunday’s Snowdonia Trail Marathon, as it encompassed everything I hoped it would and so I am left feeling happy and content, even with extremely painful quads three days later and counting! It’s also been an opportunity for me to raise money for two small but invaluable charities along the way:

I will be back in the London Marathon one day to try and finally do myself justice but it will not be for a good few years; I doubt I will ever do the Snowdonia Trail Marathon again but that was the beauty of it – using mileage banked from training for London to roll into a trail marathon and try a one-off challenge which, despite hiccups along the way, ticked all the right boxes. Now, I am looking forward to recovering, feeling fit and well and getting stuck into more frequent, shorter distance races closer to home in our region. I’ve found this blog cathartic but it’s a good time to stop my weekly ramblings and turn my attention to an imminent house move out to Horringer in a few weeks’ time.