This week I flew CRC’s flag from the top of Snowdon! I have a really special place in my heart for North Wales and jump at every opportunity to run or climb there, so when I saw Snowdonia trail marathon, I knew I had to have a go.
It was a difficult night before the race with only one hour of sound sleep (starting at 6am) and a nervous stomach that struggled with the veggie burger, onion rings and chips I tried to force down. In the morning I only managed a few spoons of jam and porridge, so was pretty worried about my energy levels for the day. Not a good start! However, as soon as I crossed the start line, my nerves disappeared and I got into a good rhythm fairly quickly. We all soon realised why the first feedstation was at only 2 miles (?!) when we started up the slog out of Llanberis!
After this initial climb, the route petered out, travelling through some pretty boggy (knee-deep actually) ground near Rhyd-ddu, and onto smooth undulating trails through the beautiful Beddgelert forest which I really enjoyed, although it did seem to last forever. Beddgelert itself was full of supporters and smug people eating cooked breakfasts and drinking coffees- although it was nice to see some civilisation!
From there, we took a lovely path along the bottom of the Nant Gwynant valley and the big climb up to Pen y pass. I was expecting this to be horrendous, but surprised myself with my desire for a snack at the top and felt good, mostly running up here. I also surprised myself with my pace up to this point when I looked at my watch for the first time- maybe I would finish in plenty of time to get my train home!!
Then was the start of the long slog up the Pyg track to Snowdon after a quick refuel. I think running up Tuttor’s Hill on Thursday prepared me well for this, although I’m still not sure which was harder…. Just below the cloud line hiding the summit, I could see the gorgeous blue waters of Afon Glaslyn and Llyn Llydaw which looked very enticing from up above! Wouldn’t have minded a sneaky wild swim at that point. After scrambling and groaning my way past lots of tourists, I finally made it to the top of the ascent. Unfortunately what goes up must come down, and I set off on the gruelling 5 mile rocky descent to Llanberis on twinging knees and aching hips. This was a pretty demoralising section- those who have been up/down the Llanberis path will know that you can see it stretching out in front of you for miles downhill, and I could see the finish line in the distance.
I had stitch, a grumbling stomach, raging thirst, screaming muscles, the sun had just started beating down and I was being overtaken by the people I had just overtaken on the ascent- not to sugar coat it. This was by far the hardest part, and it was not helped by seeing the waving and smiling people on their way down on the train. I just kept reminding myself that it wasn’t far left and that can of coke and flapjack at the finish were waiting for me if I could just “pick it up” and get there!
All in all, this was an absolutely amazing experience and I couldn’t have asked for more from my first marathon! I was really pleased with my time of 5 hours 26 mins and position as 25th woman, and the fact that my mad gamble to do this paid off in the end. It was very much a race of two halves, with a roughly 18 mile flat(ish) section where an OK pace can comfortably be maintained, followed by a cheeky trip up and down Snowdon at the end.
I can 100% recommend it to anyone- although it was tough, it was really well supported with a generous cut-off time, ample drink stations with snacks/gels on offer, and even some cute little army cadets refilling bottles. As well as this, you can bag yourself 2 ITRA points by doing the full marathon as it’s now a UTMB qualifying race. The scenery in Snowdonia is unparalleled and is just the thing to take your mind off the pain you’re in. And most importantly, it was all worth it for Shane to tell me I’m allowed to take it easy at training! Depending on how long my knees take to recover, I might just consider the ultra next year, who knows….