Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Snowdonia Marathon 2009

I woke up in the hut to see the rain coming down in waves down the pass. This was going to be a wet one!

Chris and I lined up at the start about half way back and were having a such a relaxed chat it was hard to believe we were about to run a marathon. When the gun went off we headed out into the wild Welsh weather. The run through Nant Peris was great, with lots of support. Chris was running a little fast so I let her drift off. My goal was to take it very easy on the first climb up Pen-y-Pass. I held 9mm until the climb then just kept it nice and easy all the way up. You couldn’t see the mountains but the views front and back were fantastic, with runners as far as I could see in in both directions. I strategically walked a very short section where the hill steepened, just before Pen-y-Pass then it was into the long downhill.

I had to be very disciplined on the start of the down. It was very steep and wanted to pull me along at quad-cramping speed. It was nice to hit the main road where the gradient eased. The next few miles were just wonderful. Downhill all the way! The numbers started to spread a little; typically two to three people wide. I got chatting to a lovely lady from Leicester and we ran together for about a mile. I saw a superhero taking a pee…something you don’t see every day!

I started taking on fuel at around mile five and set myself the task of eating something every mile. It gave me something to target and I seemed to be knocking back the sportsbeans pretty regularly, which made it feel like the miles were flying by.

The support in Bedgellert was fantastic. Folks were lining the streets and cheering, cars beeping horns with passengers hanging out of windows shouting encouragement. Brilliant! But then we hit the next hill. I was actually very relieved. It was a grind but wasn’t very steep and I was able to run it comfortably. I decided to get my iPod out for the rest of the race (Chris had warned me that this section went on and on and felt quite lonely). I pulled it out to find that a packet of Lucozade tablets had dissolved in the rain and my iPod and headphones were covered in fury gunk. Fortunately they still worked and I didn’t get covered in sticky orange slime. I’ve never used an iPod in a race before but the music really worked and gave me an instant boost. I passed Chris on the climb out of Bedgellert. She had had a few twinges and was taking a strategic walking break.

I absolutely loved the entire section on the back of Snowdon. This was my first time in this valley and it was a shame not to be able to see the hills but the running was great. Not long after passing half way John appeared on his bike and cycled along for a bit for a chat. He told me I was looking fresh and needed a kick up the arse. When he left I decided he was probably right so I upped the pace a little. I worked my way up the field feeling fantastic and absolutely loving being out there running. In hindsight I may have run a little too fast but I don’t regret it…this was brilliant fun; the most enjoyably running I’ve had for a while.

I hit 21 miles averaging 9:10 pace and felt that if the last five miles were flat I could have held on for a sub-four marathon but the route planners had other ideas: I still had Bwlch-y-Groes to come :-). After finding the first two hills easy I was expecting much of the same for the ‘big one’ but this was nasty. I dropped into a walk as soon as the slope rose. Pretty much everyone around was walking too but I seemed to be drifting slowly back through the field. I felt very relaxed about position and just kept walking as quickly as I could. Towards the top I saw someone stretching out cramp then he suddenly went down. I helped him stretch out for about a minute then left him when he was feeling ok (it turned out to be a fetchie…’Sinatra’). As soon as I started again my right quad locked. I thought I was finished but it walked out after a couple of minutes. 

The down from Bwlch-y-Groes was worse than the climb. It was incredibly steep and very painful on the legs. We eventually made it into Llanberis and it was fantastic to see my mates all screaming like mad things in the high street. The final loop around the back of the garage was evil. My calves were locking with cramp and I had to walk up the final small hill backwards. As I passed the 26 mile marker Chris appeared on my shoulder. She was much fresher than me and could have burned me off but she suggested that we ran in together, which was fantastic. I was feeling pretty emotional as I crossed the line. Superb race.

Big thanks to all the organisers and especially the volenteers who stayed out in the wet and cold for all hours to make this such a great event.

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