It’s a hard marathon to get into as it goes on sale at midnight on Hogmanay and sells out really fast, within 12 hours this year. It was voted the most beautiful marathon at some point and it prides itself on being the toughest in the UK. A huge thanks to Vicky for booking Yan and I into it as the bells rang all those months ago, I was out in Edinburgh that night.
Yan and I set off in his van down the road at 10:15am, and after a five and a half hour drive we were in the very quaint town of Llanberis in north Wales. The only hold ups were as you pass Manchester on the M6. Apart from that the traffic wasn’t too bad but it was good to avoid rush hour around Manchester as that could add hours onto your trip.
We’d booked spaces at the Llanberis camp site which was great as it was just a small walk up a lane from the race start. We went there first to get our tents pitched in daylight and were most chuffed that most of the other campers were race runners too, so would be a quiet night.
It was easy to find registration at the Electric Mountain Visitor Centre, where we got our bib numbers and T-shirts in advance. We found somewhere to get some pasta in a very friendly restaurant and were all set for a good nights sleep heading back to crash out at 9:30. The camp site was on a farm and there were quite a number of sheep dogs just round from us. There was also another dog in the camp site who wanted to square up to this pack of hounds all night long by barking it’s head off! This really went on all night, one setting off the other again and again! Anyway we weren’t too bad in the morning and headed down to the start which was just 10 minutes walk from the town centre.
Since the elevation of this race was really steep at mile 4 (Pen Y Pass), 15 (Point Cae Gors) and 24 (Bwlch Y Groes), I had no thoughts of rushing off and aimed to keep my energy for the end. My legs were quite tired from doing Glencoe and the Pentland Skyline this month, so just really wanted to enjoy it and wasn’t looking for a time, just finishing would be great! There were a record number of runners at the race this year at 2,200.
The weather was very misty after a short shower at the start, but this cleared up later and was quite good in the second half. Although the mountain tops were covered in cloud we still got great views. The autumn trees looked amazing looking up the valleys as we went through so many small villages with everybody there to cheer us on. I got speaking to a local guy a few miles in and he told me he had ran it 12 times and this was the best weather yet. It was a 23 mile headwind last year. I stopped at mile 4 to take a few photographs of the runners coming up Pen-y-Pass which were quite a moody few shots in the mist. Everybody was in good cheer and the Welsh accents soon turned into Gaelic as we headed further into the hills which was great. The course was mostly road but there was quite a bit of trail in there too as it took us up the hills and up through a few more beautiful villages with great local support.
There were certainly the highest number of runners I’d ever seen having to drop out with cramp etc. I kept on taking it easy and really enjoyed the course from start to end. When we got to mile 23 it was so steep for so long that nobody could run at all. This didn’t make it hard though, everybody was in very good spirits as we trekked quickly up and had lots of Jelly babies handed out to us by so many friendly locals. I also had quite a few energy bars and jells as I knew I’d need them on this course. The top of Bwich Y Groes at mile 24 was covered in tons of slate, quite a site really and fantastic views across to Snowdon, even though the top was in the clouds. There was quite a few guys with terrible cramp up there though which looked very painful. The four mile ascent of Bwich Y Groes was replaced with the same height as a decent in the last mile. This really didn’t help though as my knees were protesting at any running down the hill at that point. The views again were really stunning as you looked out over the valley as we headed back down into the town of Llanberis to finish from a different route from the start. We were told this marathon is the calendar highlight of Welsh running, so there was a massive support for the race as we headed into the finish. We all got a slate plaque with the race logo on it and a bottle of water when we finished. It was that the Electric Mountain Visitor Centre was just a very short walk as that’s where I left a bag to be picked up after the race with dry clothes. One thing to point out is they don’t provide any tagging of the bags or anything to put things in if you don’t have a bag as they said they had gone green. I had a clear large bag I safety pinned together with my number and name visible through it.
The most important thing then was to get some beer which went down very quickly in a nice traditional boozer on the main street. It was packed with runners and we had a chat with many of them all about our experiences on the route and other races too. A local guy had done the Fort William Marathon and loved it. Our couple of pints we had planned soon turned into six local ales and a whisky! Yan and I had a bit of a drunken wonder back up the country lane back to our camp site and crashed out about 10:00. It’s a bit of a drive to get to but well worth it to run something totally different from before. Kevin Anderson also ran the race and really enjoyed it but I missed him, Yan saw him at the start though.
Yan Horsburgh: 03:41:14
Kevin Anderson: 03:58:09
Mark Dawson: 04:49:05