Snowdonia Marathon Saturday 24th October 2009

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Snowdonia Oct 2009

Above is a view from my car before the start of the Snowdonia marathon. Before I left Llanddona to go to the race I was wondering whether I really should be doing the run today. I had been suffering with a cold over the last few days and a mild sore throat. The throat was feeling quite a bit better but I still had the cold and I have previously experienced running a long race with an illness and found myself running out of energy half way through the race. I knew that any coach would be advising me to not run today. I’m a strong minded and determined runner and don’t like to drop out of a race in fact I’ve never done it yet. The weather in Llanddona was cloudy and dry but I could see the thick clouds hovering over the Snowdonia mountains and I knew the weather forecast for the day was for it to be very wet. As I drove towards Llanberis and crossed on to the main land the cloud cover thickened and turned dark grey and the rain started. I arrived at LLanberis and hour and half before the start of the Snowdonia Marathon. I parked in a car park next to Electric Mountain overlooking Lake Llyn Padarn. The weather all be it not cold, some 15 degrees C was horrible with heavy rain being driven side ways into my driver’s door. I sat in my car warm and comfy looking over the lake wondering whether I should continue preparing for the race with such bad weather and as I didn’t feel 100 percent. Maybe the right thing to do is to drive back to Llanddona. Anyhow after a few minutes of collecting my thoughts I plucked up the courage to get my running bag out of the boot and get changed on the back seat of my car. I elected to wear Helly Hansen thermal long sleeved top, running vest, shorts, Cagoule and baseball cap to keep the rain a bit off my face and glasses. The start of the race is roughly a mile and a half up the Llanberis pass from the town and there was a free bus service from the town’s community centre to the start. I jogged along the front of the lake passed Electric Mountain to the community centre. By the time I had got the half a mile to the bus stop in the heavy rain and head wind I was already extremely wet, with water seeping into my trainers. The queue at the bus stop was very long and so was the wait. Spirits were high as I laughed and joked with the other masochistic runners as we wondered why we were standing there in the rain. It came round to my turn to board a bus to the start and enjoy a 10 minute respite from the rain. At the start which is a lane at the side of the pass had no shelter from the rain but we did seem protected from the wind by the mountain. We still had half an hour before the start, the rain was constant and then an announcement can over the tannoy that the race was to be postponed by another half an hour due to the weather slowing down the buses bring the runners to the start. I was told by some runners that the forecast was for the rain to stop in the afternoon so at least there was a prospect of conditions improving during the race.  I had a plan in my mind that I should take the marathon at a slower pace than previous marathons for two reasons:-

  1. As I have had a cold and mild sore throat and probably should not be really running and worried that I might not have the energy to complete the distance.
  2. If I’m ever to go further than a marathon I wanted to see how I felt if I ran slower and what my recovery time would be. Could I feel good enough to run a good distance within ideally 24 hours?

Also in my mind was to run the first 4 miles up the Llanberis pass very conservatively, if I didn’t feel well enough then at the top of the pass I could turn round and run back to my car. The race eventually started and I took it calmly and relatively slowly up the pass at 9 minute mile pace, in the steady rain and the very strong blustery side wind. At the top of the pass at the first water station (4 mile point) I felt like it should be the place to decide whether to run the race or turn round and retire. I felt fine but lacked confidence that I would be able to complete the whole course. My stubborn mind decided I would continue and descend the other side of the pass. The next few miles dropped down to a lake on the right hand side. As the 7, 8 and 9 mile markers passed I realised I was still only doing 9 minute miles. I was planning on running slower that normal but I wasn’t sure whether I meant to be running this slowly down hill. Was my cold and sore throat affecting my energy levels and consequently my pace and would I completely run out of energy in a couple more miles? At least the rain had stopped! At 10 miles an ambulance patrolling the race slowly went past me and I thought to myself, do I give up now while I have the chance and cadge a lift? No I persevered and soldiered on at the same very slow pace. Running into Beddgelert brought up the 12 mile marker, I was still running at the same pace and I was feeling fine. My confidence was slowly growing by the mile and the thought of the half way point approaching was a very good feeling. The half way point came during the next steady long climb in 1 hour 55 mins and 50 seconds. An incredibly slow time for me but I felt strong and quite confident now. My pace seemed to slightly increase over the next few miles and the rain was holding off. My confidence continued to increase as I over took runners and kept ticking off the miles. I was holding something back though as I could remember from last time the big hill at 21 miles. 20 miles came in 2 hours 55 minutes and then a mile later and at 3 hours 3 minutes, at 21 miles I came to the bottom of the last big hill. I was hoping to be able to run it or at least jog but after getting about half way up I decided the better way to tackle this hill was to walk the later part. The weather was changing again the wind was stiffening and blowing across from right to left and the rain was coming down quite hard. At the top of the hill at 23 miles, in 3 hours and 30 minutes, I was very exposed and being almost blown off the path. I was now descending back down to Llanberis, confidence was now high but I was feeling tired from the last hill. The weather was still worsening and I was nearly being blown off the track along the side of the steeply sloped field which felt quite scary on a couple of occasions. I was still able to over take a few more runners on the way down. I remembered from last time that once you get back to Llanberis there was a loop of the town to do before the finish but there was still one more surprise for me. When I can down to the town we didn’t turn left to do a loop of the town but right and quickly right again and back up the hill again! This alteration to the course albeit for only a few hundred yards was up hill and quite demoralising for me and others round me. I walked for a few yards before my mind got me running again. Then it was back down hill and into the finish, in the field next to the community centre. My gun time was just over 4 hours but my chip time was 3 hours 58 minutes and 15 seconds. It was still raining quite heavily and lots of the finishers were eagerly trying to get foil blankets to keep warm. I decided not to bother. I thought I should quickly grab my finisher’s coaster and jog back to my car where warm dry clothes were waiting for me. This is exactly what I did, happy and smiling knowing I had completed my 20th marathon in a worst time ever, under anything but ideal circumstances and in dreadful weather conditions. After analysing the split times I was very pleased. First half         1Hr 55min 50secs Second half    2Hr   2min 25secs If I hadn’t had the hill at 21 to 23 miles and continued to run them 2 miles at a similar pace to the rest of the second half of the marathon I would have managed a negative split for the first time during a marathon.

Splits:

Halfway                1 hr 55 mins 50 secs
20 miles                2 hr 55 mins
21 miles                3 hr 3 mins
23 miles                3 hr 30 mins
25 miles                3 hr 47 mins
26.2 miles             3 hr 58 mins 15 secs

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