Last year, for some reason, I decided that I would run a marathon. I was only ever going to run a 10k when i started running but I guess the bug. Cardiff was going to be the one, or maybe London but the chance of that becoming a reality was a good chance of not having to run it 🙂 .
Then someone dropped the idea of Snowdonia, a few from the club have run it in the past, and like a sucker I do like a challenge. With all challenges I do I would do this for charity and this year was 2 Wish Upon A Star.
The marathon seemed like a lifetime away but I started looking at training plans and how much effort this was going to be, very quickly realising it was going to be massive.
First off would be where am I going to stay, Vicky had already booked Llanberis Touring Park so with the motor home that seemed like a good plan, so problem one solved and booked the rest had to be easy.
The weeks ticked by and other runs came and went, 10k, half marathon, nothing too taxing but then the reality came home with 16 weeks to go. The moment you start getting the reminders that your training plan needed this plan this week.
Ok I was a little ahead with training for other run but this was still a major challenge, the Vale 32km is the furthest I had ever run and I know the pain I was in after that for the first year although the second year was much better but that is still a long way short of a marathon.
I’ve spent quite a few quiet Sundays plodding the road alone (mainly because I don’t do early runs to join everyone else, so no offence) planning and looking at how high those elevations are working out how to try and mimic that around here!!
I started working on time rather than distance, I knew I would expect to be running for up to 5 hours so I had to work on keeping going for that long so out I went plodding. As I built up the time and distance I pushed to get a little further and seemed to get stuck around the 27km mark, when the knees and back just decide that enough is enough so having to stop and get picked up. I guess the vale was more forgiving than just running the roads. That was not even close enough to making the distance on the day, so more plodding needed. My training peaked on one day when I met up with Cath for a longish run on a Sunday. It felt like a good day so a route developed, in my head it was about 30ish km but in reality this turned out to be 37km. It took some walking and was very painful as the hips seized but it was 37km under the belt just needed another 5 km on the day, surely that was possible. The planning went a little off with the infection I picked up and was wiped out for two weeks at an important part of the training, not a good time but battle on and get on with it, time to catch up on missed hours. With training time running out it was time to ease off the distance so opting for shorter runs but using the height by running over Pentyrch and the Garth to try and build for the infamous last climb!!
And so came Snowdonia, did I feel ready? Yes, was I confident? sort off but there was no way in a millions years I wasn’t going to finish. Vicky even promised to pick me up and make me finish if she caught up with me!! The knees were hurting, the ankles were aching, the legs were tired and all of that was before the start.
I guess it is all about the day, a very fresh morning, not something I say very often but what should I wear??? I had packed for every eventuality and we were stuck between what looked like good weather and the potential for snow and hail! so Short, running vest and waterproof jacket it was. Oh and the last minute gloves after I walked the dog and realised how cold it was.
Obligatory team photo before the race settled the nerves a bit and my pace plan rattling around in my head, the though of …… must stick with my plan……. So the start line beckoned and the race began, I was determined not just to run this but also to enjoy it, see whats going on and what other people are doing.
Pen Y Pass – Plan one is walk the hill…… so off we go, nice and gentle, steady pace and the hill begins. It get s a little steeper as we climb but this is going ok, people start to walk and i’m still plodding on, this is not the plan but I don’t feel like I need to walk so we get to the top and time to take the coat off as by now I was boiling and over heating as we start the drop back down the other side. Ooooooooo blinkin freezing going down as you duck into shade and the wind blows so the gloves go back on as i can feel my fingers. The first off road track section comes and I plod my way down, loose gravel so not so bad. Time is looking good averaging 5:43 per km a little faster than the plan but this is a long down hill stretch. Back onto tarmac and heading for Beddgelert. Wow that’s a long road!!!
The climb out of Beddgelert is the start of the second climb up to Rhydd Du – Plan one walk the hill….. by now it had settled into a few people back and fore at about the same pace and I was running next to another guy called Mike and together we kept the pace as we climbed the hill as it weaved up and down steadily climbing, again didn’t feel the need to walk so plodded on even keeping the same average pace of 5:43 all seemed to be going well, I even commented that I was expecting the hills to be worse, I vaguely remember a comment coming back “wait for the last one”! Now on paper and looking at the course profiles all of the hills were about the same steapness so I was still feeling fairly confident that I might walk a bit as I would be tired by then and that part of the race was further than I had ever run before, so that was ok, right? This stretch went well, coming out of Beddgelert I could see Rhydian, Kerry, Charlaine and Cath so a little chance to catch them as they plodded on. As I got closer I could here the angels calling me…. nope it was the music coming out of Kerry back pack, so passing them I go a photo opportunity as we went on and away I plodded. Then came the hail stones and they did hurt but didn’t last too long.
Well, Hill 3 – Plan one is walk the hill, as you get to Waunfawr you turn a corner and there it is, the Hill, ok lets see how far I can run this, to describe this Hill would be like running up the side of the Garth from Pentyrch, the bit as the road forks and then it turns to off track. You know the one, the one you can’t run you have to walk. The main difference here is that this one is about 2 km long and just keeps going. So on with the run walk or more 10 running steps and lots of walking there was no way I was running that. I did spend that entire part of the race thinking where is the top of this hill, mile markers came and went and still not at the top. Only a few km to go it must be the top soon. Eventually the top came and how glad was I to get there, well I though it was the top!! By now the roads were long gone and we were on the tracks at the top of a mountain, after passing 23.4 miles the highest point I thought! I got to Tafarn 24, a quick cup of tea and a biscuit (that was needed) then off I went again down the track to look up to see people climbing the next part of the track, yes the climb hadn’t quite finished with us yet, another walk was needed. Not long to go but a lot of descending in not many kilometres. I have to say now, and I was saying it to myself then, the down was worse than the up. It was steeper, more slippery and my knees were already aching by now, so I was not in a rush to get down here. Llanberis was almost in sight, you could see the quarry on the mountain opposite with the power station hiding inside I had this in the bag, I was going to finish!! People were flying past me, it was quite a musical time as people squealed and screamed there way down, some from pain and some from fright trying to run down the slopes, this went on for a few km then finally back to tarmac, a sigh of relief and a chance to get a little faster…… wrong it was still too steep for me to run, so carry on plodding down. Not too steep for everyone though, Kerry and Charlaine took their revenge and zoomed past, obviously the down hill training is better in Tonyrefail, then a little later Cath passed too. It’s ok though I’m running my race not theirs so on I plod as it gets a little flatter. Into the village and you can hear the crowds, around the corner to lots of people calling your name encouraging you to push to the finish, what an amazing feeling. I was pretty much on my own by now so knowing everyone was cheering did make you pick your legs up, almost at the finish and you could hear your name being called and Pontyclun Roads Runners being read out so I was almost there with a little sprint to the the line……
What a day, 4 hours 15 minutes, averaging 6:03 per kilometer. I really don’t know how I did it, every practice I did was not like that. Thinking back now if you want to do this prepare, the day takes you so far but there were lots who had prepared and didn’t make it to the end. I live to fight another day and will probably do it again, I will never do this as a time that will challenge anything but I will challenge myself. I also look at the conditions on the day I would say it was pretty perfect and could not have been better, speaking with lots of other people this isn’t the norm and I think things would be very different with the normal condition for that time of year.
Time to rest now.