Yep like the proverbial bad penny, or as Arnie once declared; I’m back! My last Blog was back in June and I have to admit that after then for one reason and another I lost my Blogging mojo, however after a weekend spent amongst legends my wish to Blog again has been revived and I’m back! So sit back and relax as it’s time to experience Snowdonia Marathon from the comfort of your own home, office, train, bus….or wherever you might be!
My Blog could be spent gushing about what a truly wonderful weekend I spent amongst the Realbuzz family but I fear it will sound like one of those nightmare Oscar speeches which are far too long, drawn out and emotional for any well-balanced individual! However I will just say it was a weekend that the memories will stay with me forever and for all the right reasons, thank you! So you will be relieved to know that instead I will write about my pre, actual and post marathon experience with a little mountain climbing thrown in!
So to pre-marathon. Most of the summer I have spent running up and down hills, literally! Mid-week before breakfast up and down the same hill where the local residents on one side of the road and the cows on the other must have wondered who the loon was who’d get to the top of the hill, turnaround, run to the bottom and repeat! Long weekend runs incorporated as many Wiltshire hills as possible, fortunately these are aplenty! In July I had two hilly marathons which I really struggled around, this ‘struggle’ was mainly due to afterwards being diagnosed with sports induced asthma and in hindsight this has been an issue for at least two years! So now armed with inhalers the hills became less of a struggle but of course never easy; I am certainly no mountain goat! Claire, who has the unenviable task of coaching me, in addition to running hills set me my Snowdonia Challenges to make me stronger on the hills; squats, crunches and planking! I relished in these challenges but decided I’d only do them Monday to Friday; you need the weekend off when some days involved 600 squats and 600 crunches! Snowdonia bound I felt the strongest I’d ever been to tackle the hills!
Snowdonia Marathon has to be taken seriously, it is certainly a demanding and spectacular route, here’s a general race synopsis; ‘The route firstly climbs to the top of the Llanberis Pass (Pen y Pass 1.100ft). Dropping down to the Pen Y Cwyryd junction, the race then follows the old road to the campsite. This 2km section is farm track, downhill, then the surface returns to the tarmac. There is a short, sharp uphill back up to the main road at the campsite. The route then continues to the Beddgelert (200ft) and then continues along to Waunfawr. From here it is a rapid climb to about 1,200ft at Bwlch y Groes (a short length is unmetalled) and then downhill to the finish in Llanberis.’ So not exactly flat or even just undulating!
I have run Snowdonia Marathon twice before; 2014 I had a good race and 2015 I had a bad race so to speak so I was back in 2017 to avenge! In 2014 race day morning I had a full cooked breakfast and then in 2015 I had porridge so this year I went back to a full cooked breakfast and delicious it was! Snowdonia marathon is extremely civilised as firstly it is run on a Saturday and secondly it starts at 10.30am so plenty of time to let your breakfast settle and also for the Realbuzzers to convene at Vicky’s holiday rental cottage before walking down to the race start together.
Realbuzzers at the ready:
Spectators at the ready:
Finally at the race start:
The first part of my race plan was to see how far I could run up Llanberis Pass before I had to walk and from then on run as much of the course as possible, walk when I had to but always start running as soon as possible. Unlike any other road marathon pace did not figure in my plan anywhere! So I started off at a steady pace and just kept plodding along whilst concentrating on my breathing, stride rate and posture; the training and inhalers were certainly working as it wasn’t until 4 miles before I had to take my first walking break which was a record! Myself and Jane ran together for a bit then our paces would differ for a while and then we’d meet up again and run together, I think this pushed us both along that first climb. Finally, together, just before the 5 mile marker we reached Pen y Pass; to see the water station and the downhill stretching ahead were an extremely welcome sight for sweaty sore eyes!
The next 2 miles are the best you will run in any marathon; a truly wonderful downhill stretch with the most magnificent views ever! From the start line myself, Hollywood Dave, Red Dave and Rob had all been passing each other, running together for a bit and then splitting up again as our own paces dictated, but it was meant to be that we all naturally re-grouped and ran together into Beddgelert for the Realbuzzers support station at the halfway point and what a welcome and noisy sight it was for us! Superb!
I felt strong after our short pit stop so pushed on, I think this is the strongest I’ve felt on this stretch and I rarely had to walk. Due to the nature of the course lots of race friendships are forged as you battle your way around and often you’ll run with someone for a while then as your paces change you fall away from each other only to meet up again a few miles further down, or up, the course; this was certainly true on Saturday and I had some great conversations which certainly made the miles pass by.
The hill we all dread is at around 22 miles; the 1,200ft climb at Bwlch y Groes! I know that I stand no hope of running this hill (mountain!) and there was nobody running from the group I hit it with so I certainly was not out of place walking! I am sure the leading racing snakes manage to run it however personally I am happy to be upright and moving forward at a good pace! Finally at the top it was quite eerie as it was as if we were amongst the clouds, especially when some witches appeared handing out gels! The track then leads to the most precarious part of the course; slippery grass and mud where pace is not an option, staying upright is your only goal! After this it’s a straight tarmac downhill into Llanberis but by now the steepness of it is a real knee killer! I looked at my watch and decided that if I got a move on I could possibility get close to my 2014 course PB; I had my goal! Lots of people were walking ahead of me so as I gathered speed I just ended up screaming ‘women with momentum and cannot stop’ which cleared my path quite successfully! Then with a final right turn I hit the home stretch and with the finish line in my sights I sprinted with all my might the best finishing stretch of my racing career! I could hear my name being screamed but for once I was completely focussed…..I had my goal!
Both feet off the ground……who knew I could achieve this!
Across the finish line and a glance at my watch and I knew it was a close call. I knew my course PB was 4:54:something and my watch said 4:54:43 but I had started it early. Reunited with my mobile and my official time had been texted through; 4:54:41, I also still had the text for my 2014 time; 4:54:52. With my flying finish I’d done it, a massive 11 second course PB! Time for Prosecco, celebrations and to cheer in the rest of the Realbuzzers home.
After a marathon and post-race celebrations your average runner would use Sunday as a rest day, not us, we decided to climb Snowdon! There was around 16 of us who set off up the Llanberis path on the cloudy Sunday morning, all with high spirits and many with aching limbs! The Llanberis path is meant to be the easier of all of them but is still not for the faint hearted; some of the climbs are extremely steep and the footing not always easy. Towards the top the easiest way was to set a target ahead to aim for and then only rest when you’d got there! Finally after around 2¼ hours and 5 miles climbing I finally reached the summit, couldn’t see a thing, but I’d reached the summit!
Off to the café for a rest, to regroup with the others and a Snowdon beer of course! Then time to retrace our steps all the 3,560ft back down, oh my did that hurt, downhill was certainly worse on the calves, thighs, knees; they all screamed at me! At least stopping gave you time to admire the views and as the clouds cleared we were able to appreciate the most stunning scenery. Absolutely worth it!
Just over 2 hours later and we were back in Llanberis and it was time to say goodbye to everyone and the most amazing weekend.
I may still be struggling to walk in a way which may be classed as normal but I know that these aches and pains will fade but the memories will always live on. Thank you!
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