Race Report by Casey Leaver
This weekend was the long-awaited and much-anticipated Trail Marathon Wales. Half though obvs. Matt generously let me defer last year because I got shingles. So I had a good year to (under)prepare. Last year when I said I’d entered Cathy Keay laughed at me outright. And now I know why! It’s called The Sting in the Tail. More on that later.
We arrived at the Coed y Brenin (Forest of the Kings) Visitor Centre in Snowdonia National Park at about 7ish on Friday to pick up our numbers. Just in time to see the record-breaking Friday 5k winner fly through the finish shortly followed by the second man and first woman. (Just over 20 minutes by the way. It might not sound incredible – but the terrain!)
You get your goody back when you pick up your number – this year we got a pair of v decent Saloman socks, a good Fruit of the Loom t-shirt, 9 bars and a Torq gel.
Having been obsessively checking the weather all week we’d packed for allsorts: sun-cream, bin bags, bug spray. And we needed the bug spray just for the number pick-up! Next, we headed on to our cottage in Dolgellau (10 mins away) for a huge risotto and plenty of hydration.
We tried to get back the next morning for 09:00 in time to see Claudie and Jo off for the marathon – but we failed. We were halfway down the (enormous) overflow carpark when we heard Iori firing his shotgun to mark the start of the marathon.
Still, at least it gave me plenty of time to fit in lots more toilet trips before the start of the half. I was determined not to have to find a bush about a mile in (which has been happening a lot recently). There are plenty of loos in the Visitor’s Centre plus extra portaloos. And a bike shop, a running shop, a café, and pop-up Saloman and Torq shops. So if you get there early you’ll have no trouble filling the time.
Matt’s bi-lingual briefing warned us to keep an eye out for mountain bikers (it’s got some of the best trails in the UK) and, unusually, a herd of deer crossing paths. He also reminded us that the Gofal/ Careful signs on some of the route are not there for decoration. True, true.
The first mile is a narrow, weaving, path uphill. The second mile is broader, but more uphill. At about a mile and a half, having already lost Justine and Chris, I stopped to stretch my tight calves and think about turning back.
From then onwards I implemented my plan to walk up almost all the uphills and run the level and downhill parts. I’d done a lot of work on getting my head straight about this plan and I was determined not to beat myself up about walking. And also determined to enjoy myself. It worked, I chatted with all sorts of people on the way round and took lots of lovely photos.
There were refreshment stations at miles six and 10 with water, more Torq gels, electrolytes, fruit – and even actual toilets at mile 10! Blessed relief.
My favourite parts were the wooded downhill segments traversing the forest slopes (gofal!). And my least favourite (apart from The Sting in the Tail) were the boggy uphills. The course is very varied, cinder paths, logging trails, roads, woodland trails, slate – and there’s plenty of sun and shade.
After mile 10 there’s some on-roady uphill then at mile 11ish you get to The Sting in the Tail. It’s marked by a cackling hag dressed as a marshal accompanied by a lion dressed as a dog – as you reach her she announces “Welcome to The Sting in the Tail” and gestures upwards. It is a never-ending, thigh-melting, single-width, uneven path. I had to stop twice on the way up to catch my breath even though I was walking. Then at the top – there’s more on-road climbing (!) before you reach a last final woodland gallop and then the final kick-up to the finish.
As you cross the line you are awarded your wooden coaster trophy. Then I was awarded fizz and falafel by our stalwart supporter Nathalie. Simon came in at 2:20, I came in at 3:08 and Chris and Justine were ahead of me by about 11 and six minutes respectively.
We then all settled in to cheer everyone else in and wait for Claudie and Jo. (The first marathon runners were back before I’d finished the half!) Next year’s date is 20 June 2020 – booking will open on 1 September. I’m definitely going back next year and I heartily recommend it to you too.
Joanne Stacey – Marathon – 05:37:31
Simon Trenchard – Half Marathon – 02:20:38
Casey Leaver – Half Marathon – 03:08:33