This was a race which wasn’t a race, I was going into this one having not run more than 4 miles in the last six weeks due to spraining my ankle at the beginning of May.
Set in Coed Y Brenin Forest Park it is one of the most spectacular runs I have done, hence why this is my second year participating.
Last year when I took part it was my first official marathon and I wanted to do my best, setting (a then) PB for a marathon distance race. Although I didn’t blaze along last year I did push myself as best I could, missing much of the views due to my head being down and me focusing on the next step and I knew that this year would be different.
This year was about getting round the course, using the opportunity to get back running, testing some kit and mentally checking if the NDW100 is still on the cards.
Waking up on the Saturday morning (we had stayed locally at the same place as last year, Heulwen Guest House which is a fantastic place to stay by the way) the forecast was for rain, not just drizzle but full on heavy rain. This didn’t bother me a great deal as I was basically equipped for an Ultra so had everything I could need for any weather conditions.
The reason I had so much stuff was because not being able to run at any great pace I took the decision to treat the marathon as a training run, enjoying the views and experience as much as possible. With this in my head, it made the fact that I would struggle on the uneven terrain easier to deal with.
At the start line I was full of anticipation, Gareth had just left as he wasn’t due to start the half for another 30 minutes or so. With a gunshot the run started.
The first couple of miles is a gradual uphill so there is no real time to warm up and ease your legs into it, I have to say I felt this. My legs were tight and my ankle was letting me know it still wasn’t fully healed, happily though things level out (as much as they can) from 2-4 miles until the first big climb.
At mile 4 there is a climb, starting at about 800ft elevation and peaking a couple of miles later at 1,160ft. As this was the first proper walking hill (for me anyway) this was a good test of how cycling has helped, as ascending I felt strong and passed other people who were feeling the gradient. This changed as soon as we hit the descent and I realised the real impact of my injury, I couldn’t run steep downhills at all.
Mile 6 to about mile 7 you lose the height gained and quickly have another climb just before mile 8. Climbing back up to about 1,120ft from mile 8 to 10 it’s all downhill, ending up at 480ft elevation and straight into another climb to get back all that hight over the next 4 miles, peaking at around 1,345ft.
The trend continued, feeling strong on the hills and gaining places back only to lose them on the downhills, particularly the technical trails. I would give way to people coming down and let them pass as I knew that I would just hold them up and I didn’t want to ruin anyones race.
I have to say that from about mile 14 onwards I was starting to get very tired and the thought did pop into my head saying “You should have dropped to the half” but I was here now so had to plod on (didn’t want to prove Gareth right anyway!)
I eventually crossed the line in 05:53:05 which is 30 minutes slower than last year (albeit the route is different) but I have to say overall I enjoyed it a lot more, partially because it meant more to actually finish but also I just enjoyed myself. Yes it was hard and more training prior to the run would have made it a bit more comfortable towards the end but I stopped to take photos when I wanted, took in the views and chatted to other runners and overall just absorbed the experience a whole lot more.
Should I sign up for this race?
If you are reading this and asking this question then I can whole heartedly say “yes you should”, be it the half or the full marathon you need to have done this at least once, the views alone make it worth it.
The organisation is very good, aid stations well stocked, marshalls encouraging and to top it off the goody bag is really good as well (Salomon Trail Access socks, T-Shirt, Magazine, Energy Bar, plus a water bottle at the end and an awesome finishers coaster).
Matt Ward and his team have put on another fantastic event which I can only see getting better and better, the dates for 2014 are already out and we have already emailed Heulwen Guest House to book our accomodation, that’s how much I love this event!