Eryri Bites Back

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The Snowdonia marathon is always one of the highlights in my annual running calendar. It always sells out in the first few days of January and is held late October. Coming into the event this year I was running well and just returned from a few days in Tuscany, Italy where I had enjoyed some good hilly running. With this in mind, I had decided to give it a good go this year and see what time I could produce. Only once in the 8 previous times at this event have I gone under 3:30 and I felt like I was in the right shape to do it for a second time.

The weather is often changeable and wet around Snowdon but whatever the weather the scenery is always stunning and dramatic. This year the weather was very favourable for running, calm and mild and mostly dry, apart from when we were at the tops of the higher points and in the drizzly, low cloud.

The scene seemed set for me to run one of my best times on this course.

There are 3 main hills along the route. The first is only 2 miles into the race as we climb for about 3 miles all the way up the Llanberis pass. Usually I take this fairly easy to loosen myself up for the rest of the marathon but I decided to put a bit more effort in this year. Strangely as I reached the top I seemed to be struggling and out of breath more than I would have expected. I shrugged this off and enjoyed the descent down the other side.

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I think the following few miles to half way and Beddgelert are the most enjoyable with it being mostly downhill and easy running whilst also being surrounded by lots of trees all showing off their autumn colour. It really has some lovely unspoilt countryside. I got to half way in 1:41, perfect for aiming to dip under 3:30.

Out of Beddgelert is the start of the second climb, the smallest of the three, it’s a long drag over 2 miles and slowly energy zapping. Normally I’m able to run up this without it really affecting me or my pace too much but this year I had to mentally push my body very hard to keep my planned pace going.

From mile 15 to the start of the last hill at 22 miles the course is fairly kind as we run along the bottom of a valley and past a couple of lakes. I would expect to cruise along this section of the course but found myself getting more and more tired. The mind was having to work ever so hard to keep the body going and still my pace started to slow.

By the time I get to the last hill, I felt like there was no energy left in my body, like a car that had run out of petrol. My leg muscles were fine but I felt like I wanted to lie down and go to sleep. There was no way I could run up this last very steep hill and all chance of a good time had completely disappeared. All I wanted was for the race to end. In the past I’ve usually run most of this hill and walked a few short sections. This year I hardly ran any of it, there was simply no strength left in my legs. Also I normally enjoy over taking lots of runners at this point in the race but this year I was the one being over taken which made me feel even worse. Eventually the top appeared and it was just 1.5 miles all downhill back to Llanberis (and my car). I’m technically very good on downhills and it doesn’t take much energy so I was able to finish the last 2 miles running and thankfully regain a few places.

Finishing time 3:51:44, instead of being one of my fastest times it has ended up being one of my slowest Snowdonia times.

With not feeling the marathon love today, as soon as I finished I made my way directly back to my car and headed for home for a warm shower, fresh clothes and food.

It’s Sunday morning and the day after. I’m happy to report the legs are fine but I’ve come down with a cold. I’m putting yesterday’s poor performance down to not being 100%. I suppose I’ll just have to go back next year to have another go.

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