Race: Snowdonia Trail Half Marathon
Distance: Half Marathon
Time: Doesn’t really matter when you have to run up a mountain
I had to give myself plenty of time to reflect on and recover from this race. It was the hardest run I have ever done. It is a tough course but as usual I was under trained and unprepared.
The event featured ultra, marathon, half and 10k distances. I considered signing up for the marathon when I entered last year but on reflection I’m glad to opted for the half. At the time just doing the half felt like a bit of a soft choice but the half is a really good race. It shouldn’t be thought of as an easy option over the marathon. Obviously the marathon must be really tough but the half is a challenge in its own right.
Sunday morning race meant limited bus options from Caernarfon to Llanberis but start times worked out well so I was able to arrive at the race village about 90 minutes before the half marathon start. Plenty of time for collecting my number, getting a cow bell (never had one of these before), faffing about with kit and trying not to panic. Off the marathon runners went, then one last toilet visit before getting in the start area.
The big issue causing nerves for this race was the unknown sections of the route (the bit between Llanberis and the Ranger Path plus the final couple of miles round the quarry) and not knowing how long it would take me. With an actual mountain to climb I was expecting it to be slow but had no idea how slow. An added pressure came from needing to catch a bus to Porthmadog, with the ideal option being a bus at 2pm. Could I make it back in under 4 hours?
Well the race went much better than I expected. I made it back with plenty of time spare coming in at around 3 hours 20 minutes. It was more runable than I expected due to good paths, so I was able to run most of the ‘flatter’ bits. The big climb up the Snowdon Ranger Path arrived much quicker than expected.
I was determined to put my mountain walking experience to use and make good time on the climb. Mile 6 involved 1200ft of climb and I did it in under 30 minutes which I was pleased with. The slopes of Snowdon were shrouded in low cloud and it got very cold but eventually I made it to the top.
Now for the downhill. Easy right? If only. All was going well down the steep loose path. I’d nearly made it down and then I fell over. I got distracted for a couple of moments when my mind wandered thinking about how much my toe was hurting. You can’t get distracted on a steep technical descent. But I picked myself straight back up and carried on, laughing it off with the two runners who stopped to check I was ok. I had passed other battered, bleeding runners I’d passed lying down along the path waiting for first aid so it is clearly a path for falling over on.
Descent done so surely that is the worst bit done. Again wrong. The worst was yet to come. The final couple of miles took us up paths around Vivian Quarry. I was ready to give up by this point. The sun was beating down and the steep slate steps seemed to be never-ending. Mile 12 involved another 400ft of climbing. That’s just cruel at the end of a half marathon when you can hear all the noise of the finish line. But I gritted my teeth, put my head down and kept on powering upwards.
What goes up must come down so the last mile was a steep descent through the woods that led almost straight to the finish line. On the final stretch a man watching from the sidelines actually asked me if I was ok so I must have looked completely broken. The finish line was a beautiful moment especially when it sunk in that I had made it back not only in time for the bus but with enough time for a trip to the shop too. Cheese sandwiches, crisps and lemonade. I’d been dreaming of that cheese sandwich for miles.
This race left me battered, bruised and broken. When I fell I must have landed on my water bottle as the next day my ribs were very sore. It took almost a week before my legs stopped hurting. But it was all worth it because I achieved a long-held dream to run a race involving a proper mountain.