This is my 8th and final attempt to write my report for Trail Marathon Wales (TMW) my earlier efforts not meeting the approval of my proofreader! So as she snores away the effects of the hills we tackled I will write this version quickly!
My reports are far easier to write and far more entertaining to read when I forget something or have a minor disaster. But after 42 marathons sooner or later I must get everything right! Maybe I am learning from my vast litany of mistakes?
Set in Coed-Y-Brenin forest park TMW is a brutal but beautiful event that brings runners back year after year. In fact Massey runner Joanne Stacey returned to run again to collect yet another coaster (Is that now a set of 7?)
Last year I spent well over 7 hours being roasted by the searing sun, after forgetting my sun cream. This year I decided to based myself with P20 no matter what so as I drove to Coed-Y-Brenin in the mist and drizzle from the hotel, my skin shined like a well oiled Chippendale – stripper or piece of furniture!
It seems that no matter what the weather my default marathon running kit is my superb RaceXwear shorts with a pocket on the leg to pop the bib number on, 9” underarmour shorts, heatgear underarmour base layer (stops nipple chaffage and belly bounce) and my Scimitar Mr Bump vest. With her asthma being so difficult to control Mary’s race attire changes massively each race depending on the conditions, so with the rain, Mary stood on the starting line in shorts (less material to get wet) but two shirts and her reliable (but thick) waterproof jacket.
As race started Mary pressed start on her Garmin – being a Saturday she was in parkrun mode. Mind you how many parkruns start with a rifle shot echoing out? I decided to wait the 43 seconds until we crossed over the starting mats.
TMW is not the race to run if you want on course support as after the uphill start passing under the bridge from the café you are soon onto woodland trails. After the first two uphill miles and you can soon find yourself almost alone on the trails with only fleating glimpses of fellow runners on the trail ahead and no supporters anywhere.
Despite the lack of runners to follow the route is impeccable marked with hundreds of neon yellow arrows with additional red TMW arrows, as well as some of the best and most supportive marshals on course you could ever want.
The initial light rain meant that the midges could still come out in force and by the first aid station I was coated in hundreds of black dots as the combination of sweat, P20 and rain did for them. Every sneeze expelled more dead midges from nasal cavities – despite the amount of dead midges it still seemed their number was unaffected!
Last year due to desperation I discovered Torq energy drink and gels. This year my race pack had 1 litre of Torq drinks and 6 different flavours of gels. However the aid stations all had Torq drinks and four flavours of gels, Black Cherry yogurt and Orange and Banana taste better than any other gels but Raspberry Ripple and Rhubarb and Custard flavour are a delight. So my own gels stayed unused.
The rain continued pretty much unabated for 6½ hours the only thing that varies was how heavy it was. One effect of the rain was the low lying cloud over the park giving an ethereal beauty to an already fantastic scenery. The other effect was making stones and roots slippery and some paths muddy.
Mary and I carefully negotiated the technical downhills through the wooded paths wondering how anyone could actually run the route so quickly. With the half starting 1 hour after the full marathon we got a brief masterclass as some of the led runners floated past us.
The last real hill on the half marathon is enthusiastically marshalled by a lady (This.year dressed as a garden gnome – or was I hallucinating) welcoming you to ‘The Sting in the Tail’. A lung busting, hands on thighs brutal climb.
With any walking climb we do, I drive on upwards and wait at the top for Mary to catch up. At the top of the Sting I had a longer wait for Mary than expected. She arrived puffing and panting with rather grey and blue lipped… she hadn’t got enough air in! Her asthma.was.kicking in
Rather than run the downhill we walked a while and she perked up. So rather than taking the sensible option of turning in and finishing at the half she ran on.
At the halfway point aid station I decided to use the portiloos – rather than risk losing another buff in the woods. Unfortunately for me the hand spray really did spray and I got a face full of antibacterial mist.
Blinded and with eyes stinging I stumbled back to the aid station to grab some water to rinse my eyes. As a word of advice even though electrolyte drink may look the same as water – It isn’t!
With the second sweeper runner waiting for the first I ran on with blurry eyes just as the announcement was made for the race winner of the marathon in a record time!
The second half of the race would have been a rather lonely affair but as we gained the sweepers at mile 18 we had company.
Nervous of being pulled from the race I asked the sweeper how we were doing for time, to be told not to worry we were an hour and a half up on last year.
Walking and running we slowly caught up and over took another runner – no longer last – and our companions kept him company. However that wasn’t to last long as he was suffering from mild hyperthermia and pulled out at the next aid station.
The race institution tell of how the organisers cut and strim over two miles of grass to mark and make the route accessible. On a gentle downhill I was chatting away happily to the sweeper about parkrun when a root grabbed my by the ankle and threw me to the floor. Much to the worry of the sweepers.
After a commando style roll in the damp mossy ground. The worried sweeper asked if I was okay as the ground was.littered with large stones. Before I could utter a groan Mary replied, “He will be fine.He always does that”. Then she told me to get up. And we continued to run. No checking to see if I had sustained any injury!
Thankfully she was right! Apart from a muddy knee and left buttoch the roll had done me no harm at all; my Mr Bump shirt has been well earned over my marathons and should be viewed as a warning to all.
For the last few miles the sun finally decided to join us and the rain clouds burnt away. Soon we crossed the finishing line over 10 minutes faster than the previous year but in last place… not a bad way to.spend a birthday.