Saturday, October 27, 2012

Snowdonia Marathon 2012

Very funny snap of us suffering at the end!

This race has been voted the UK's best marathon in 2011 as well as one of the country's toughest.  What else is there to say? I had to do it!  With an elevation gain of 763m (2,500ft), the challenging course circumnavigates the foot of Mount Snowdon, the UK's second highest mountain. Located in the Snowdonia National Park, this race offered a great opportunity to spend a weekend in a beautiful location and take in some great hiking as well as chillin in a cosy cottage.  Both myself and Zoe did the race, with our Nottingham pals Justin, Julia and Rich joining us for the weekend to support and enjoy some hiking too. 

We headed to Wales on the Friday, with race day being on the Saturday.  After picking up our race packs from the expo, we went to find the cottage. This proved a little more tricky than expected with no road names or numbers being used in the area but we found it eventually.  The cottage was perfect, super cosy with awesome views. I highly recommend this place as a fantastic base for anyone planning a trip to Snowdonia

We woke up on race day to clear and cool weather conditions.  Perfect.  Assembling on the start area with 2000 runners in stunning scenery, we were excited and a little nervous of the challenge that lay ahead.  Only having had limited training due to injuries, the plan was to just run and finish the race.  No time expectations, just get to the end! We positioned ourselves at the back and started off steady.  The first mile was easy, flat and then down hill. Running past a slate quarry as we headed out of Llanberis.  Then we arrived at the first major hill of the race, a 3 mile climb of 250m (800ft) up to Pen Y Pass. Not having done any hill training to speak of and not being a very good up hill runner anyway, I felt a little daunted to say the least.  Slowly climbing, we made our way up but at after 2 miles, my legs were telling me they were not liking it anymore. Seeing at this was only mile 4 and there was even bigger hills to come, I decided to take the sensible option.  Walking for a while, run for a little and then walking again. Just get to the top. 

Arriving at the summit of Pen Y Pass, one of the starting points for hiking up Mount Snowdon, we could see the most amazing view of the next few miles of the course, falling away from us and following the valley below.  Just awesome.  We really enjoyed ourselves flowing down the section of the course and taking in the scenery, passing lots of runners too.  We then came to the half way point in 1hr 51min. We passed through the village of Beddgelert and the next climb, just 150m (500ft) this time.  Then it was another section of flats and downhills from mile 15 to 21.  We were passing lots of runners, making good time and bracing ourselves for the killer hill at mile 21.  We knew that it was steep but upon arriving, it looked even worse.  Our legs were already exhausted and after only a few steps up the hill, it was clear that power hiking was the best we could hope for.  We were not alone, virtually everyone around us were also walking, a few brave souls were trying to run but barely going any faster than us.  This was a 3 mile climb that seemed to take forever, it took 44 mins to climb the 3 miles! 

Finally reaching the summit, we could see Llanberis below us and the finishing line was 2 miles way.  The first mile was mainly flat and the last all downhill.  We started to run again but my legs were spent, completely dead.  I had to walk, I was finished.  Then we came to a makeshift aid station with a guy offering tea and biscuits. Heaven.  No time for tea but a chocolate biscuit was just the ticket.  We walked a bit further while munching our biscuits. It was so cold at that altitude that the chocolate was virtually frozen, it took some serious munching to get them down. That was it, we gritted our teeth and ran for the finish.  The downhill was all that kept our legs moving, the finish line getting closer with every step. We entered Llanberis and the final few twists and turns through the narrow streets and the finish line was in sight.  Suddenly my legs were cramping, both calfs and one thigh.  I was half running and half hobbling now.  Only a few metres to go and we held hands to cross the line.  It was a combination of relief, pain, pleasure and satisfaction.  We crossed the line in 4hr 16min and gave everything we could give.  A few tears welled up in my eyes, we had done it. 

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