Mick Warrington returns to Snowdonia in search of a faster marathon time and better weather than the year before.....
"..After finishing last years' race I was adamant that I would never run this brute of a course again, however a few months later when the memories had become a little fuzzy, and helped by a couple of pints of beer, I was persuaded that it would be a good idea to have another go.
We arrived in North Wales on the Friday afternoon and stayed in the lovely seaside town of Llandudno. Saturday morning gave us bright sunshine by the coast (after all the weather couldn't have been appalling for the second year could it?) but as we drove into the hill for the start at Llanberis the sky clouded over and the heavens opened! By the time we had walked to the start the roads had become rivers and the off road tracks on the course had transformed into slippy mud covered challenges.
However, all started well - even the race started on time - and by the time I reached the first hill I well warmed up (although still wearing gloves!) and feeling great. Then the long slog (3 miles) up to the top of Pen-y-Pas at just over 1200ft, the rain eased a little and from the top it was a steep run down the valley side before turning right towards Bryn Gwynant. The cloud had cleared and the views of the Snowdonia range were certainly enough to take your mind off the miles to come, the race went off road for a while which made footing a little tricky but managed to come through without too much trouble. Cleared 7 miles in the first hour, all on schedule and thankfully no signs of tight calves. Reached Beddgelet, which is about half way and then started another climb up to 800ft over the next 2 miles or so. By this time the field (1300 starters) was well spread out but the locals were out in force cheering us on despite the rain (and the hail!!) returning!
Through 14 miles in well under 2 hours, always wondering if the wheels were going to fall off and hit the dreaded "wall" but as the miles went by I felt fine, no doubt the endless training around Manor and Walkerburn were paying dividends. Latched on to another couple of runners and we paced ourselves steadily through 21 miles (under 3 hours) until we reached the beast of a hill after 22 miles at Waunfawr. Here the route takes you from the valley floor up and over the ridge to the highest point of the course at 1300ft all in the space of 2 miles. Absolute agony! Only managed to run up half of it (the majority of the field likewise) just too steep for tired legs. Still we plodded on and the road became a muddy track and levelled off before dropping steeply onto the next valley where Llanberis and the finished could be seen awaiting us. Here things got difficult with tired leges and an extremely steep muddy surface folk were sliding all over the place (a bit like the Borders Cross Country series but more extreme!!) had to be very careful until the track became tarmacked again at @ 25 miles, then a downhill "sprint" to the finish line at the end of the main street.
Was totally exhausted but came through unscathed in 3 hours 49 minutes for 317th place and more pleasingly 8 minutes quicker than last year.Then adjourned to the pub for a few well deserved beers!
I would recommend this race as a challenge for anybody (supposedly voted the toughest marathon in Europe), it is very well organised and marshalled with plenty of water stations en route just a shame about the weather! But as for me I think I'll try something a little flatter next time!..."