Thank you to Nick Thomas for this brilliant account of his experience at the Snowdonia Marathon!
I’d left booking an autumn marathon a bit late this year and as I was already doing the Great South Run I was looking for something in the weeks following that. A quick scout of the available run events and the most interesting that came up was Snowdonia. The family confirmed that it would be an acceptable destination so it was all quickly booked before they could change their minds. Incidentally, it books up very quickly but you can use the event Facebook page to swap places with other runners who are no longer able to do it, a great idea and this is what I did.
A rather short 6 week build up followed during which I just adapted my Great South Run training with extra distance on the Sunday long run including a longest run of 19 miles which I hoped would be enough to get me round. Not much in the way of hills but I had done the 10 mile Great South Run the week before and was feeling great!
Race day came and according to a lot of the previous reports I could expect gales, rain, snow and freezing cold but as it turned out we just had a bit of drizzle and it was quite mild so not too bad so far. The family decided they would try to climb Snowdon while the race was on and I think they got the worst of the weather.
There were something like 2500 runners signed up and it was a nice atmosphere heading to the start with plenty of crowd support. The course is a complete circuit of the mountain mostly on roads, starting and finishing in Llanberis and there are three major climbs on the route. Each climb is approximatey 2.5miles long and the first one starts about 2 miles in, up to the top of the pass above Llanberis. This was not too bad, plenty of energy at this stage and I was able to keep a decent steady pace without exerting myself too much. There is a long downhill the other side and then it is pretty much flat until the next climb at about halfway.
I was running to a heart rate of about 140, trying not to push too hard too soon and was doing about 8.20 minute miles at this point. The second hill was less steep and again felt quite manageable but after that I was down to 8.40 minute miles but still not losing ground with fellow runners and I felt OK. This section is really picturesque so there was plenty to see as we ran alongside lakes and through little villages with plenty of support. It was just a case of keeping the pace on the long, fairly flat section from mile 15 until mile 22 and the final hill, after which I would be in unknown territory. This last hill is a killer, much steeper that the first two, like Frith Hill in Godalming but 2.5 miles long. I really wanted to run the whole thing but I had to stop and walk eventually, the calves had given up. I wasn’t alone although I was surprised how many people did manage to run it, I’m guessing they had done some proper hill training! This was the slowest mile of the race and took me 15 minutes of running and walking. I was starting to feel a bit queasy now. At the top we were climbing through the cloud and it was getting a bit chilly so it was a relief to get running again as it flattened off.
There is a feed station at 24 miles and this was really bizarre to see appearing through the mist as all the volunteers were dressed in Halloween outfits and it all looked a bit eery. I carried on past them and there was another little kick up to the top of the climb at 24.5 miles before the descent into Llanberis and the finish. The descent is even steeper than the way up and this is where my poor descending skills were exposed as I was passed by loads of runners coming down the slippery grass track including Batman and Robin and The Flash! I was gutted as these were the first fancy dress runners to pass me. A couple of them stacked it (erm, fell over? Ed) which I really didn’t fancy so I kept tottering down the slope. The descent ends just after mile 26 when you arrive on the finishing straight and the final run in. The finish is so sudden it feels a bit like you have been thrown off the mountain but relieved and still feeling a bit queasy I was handed my finishing prize, a welsh slate coaster, better than a medal any day, and went to find a chair in the Scout hut where they were serving tea and biscuits. Lovely! It was then a short hobble to collect my stuff from the baggage area and then go and look for my family to see whether they had made it back down again.
So, would I do it again? I expect I will one day, if only to make a better job of it. The scenery is stunning and the area is a great place to visit, loads to do and see so I would highly recommend it for anyone interested in a marathon a little bit different from the usual big city races. For now though it’s a bit of rest for me before the spring marathon training starts. I think I’m better suited to the flat stuff!