May’s Brathay 10 in10 has come and gone and it already feels like a life time away. I’m so pleased not only to have completed it for a 5th time but come out of it the other end uninjured. After a week of rest, sleep and lots of eating I was well prepared for more marathon madness.
Many people, especially none runners think one marathon is pretty much the same as the next and wonder why I don’t get bored of doing the same thing again and again. Well marathon running might be the same 26.2 mile distance but the locations and atmospheres at different events can be extremely different. Through April I had completed the flat, big city road marathons of Manchester and London with lots of spectators. Through May the Brathay 10in10 might had also been road marathons but it was hilly, in wonderful countryside scenery with very little support round the course each day.
As June can have warm weather there are few major road marathons and it becomes the turn of the trail marathons. This year I picked 3 challenging and wonderfully scenic trail marathons with Bolton Hill, Coniston and Trail Marathon Wales. They might all be 26.2 miles but a million miles different from the road marathons of Manchester and the massive world marathon major of London.
Bolton Hill Marathon
First up at the beginning of June and very conveniently local to me, was Bolton Hill Marathon. It’s so close that I can see it in the distance from my bedroom window. It starts and finishes at Moss Bank Park in Bolton and immediately takes runners up Winter Hill and close to the TV mast, although due to low cloud and drizzle this year I didn’t get to see the mast even when I was only a few hundred yards from it. This was a real shame as usually there are some great views across Bolton, Manchester and for miles across the Cheshire plain. The route took us all round Winter Hill and Rivington Pike using a mix of roads and paths. I really enjoyed the scenic route which takes in moors, woodland and paths close to Anglezark and Rivington reservoirs.
I paced the race with the plan to dip under 4 hours but I found the climb up Winter Hill for the second time tougher than expected and though I was going to be some 5 minutes off. The last 3 miles are virtually all downhill and I surprisingly made up more time than I had anticipated meaning as I approached the finish a sub 4 was going to be incredibly close. I pushed hard the last half mile and back into Moss Bank Park, legging it all the way to the finish gantry. Sadly I just missed out with 4 hours and 24 seconds! This is a great local trail race, hilly and demanding but with a bit of everything and I would certainly recommend it.
Coniston Trail Marathon
You know what I’m like, I don’t like to make things easy so as Bolton Hill Marathon was on a Saturday, I was able to go up to Coniston for the demanding Lakeland Trail Marathon the very next day and make it a double marathon weekend. I had booked this months earlier as it is one of my favourite marathons. It has all the wonderful scenery you only get in the Lakes. Interesting hilly terrain with a back drop of fantastic rugged mountains. The course is just stunning with a loop around the gorgeous Tarn Haws, Grizedale forest overlooking Lake Coniston, some moorland and the final stretch along the banks of Lake Coniston, through a wooded area with lots of tree roots making it very technical and demanding under foot. It was never going to be a fast time considering I was running 2 hilly marathon is 2 days so I was very pleased finish in 4 hours 36 minutes 21 seconds on a very warm and sunny day.
Trail Marathon Wales
It’s hard to top the 2 trail marathons I’ve just wrote about but if there was ever a contender to do so then it is Trail Marathon Wales, starting from the very impressive visitors centre at the Coed y Brenin forest deep in the Snowdonia National Park. Wow, what a course winding through mile after mile of forest. I’ve not come across another marathon like it yet. I truly love this one, at times you are high up the hill sides with amazing panoramic views then you drop down into the bottom of the valley and run over little wooden bridges over rivers rushing and crashing over white bounders. Absolutely fantastic stuff. This is a brutally tough course but also spectacular and massively rewarding. With a half marathon option there is also something for runners that don’t want to punish themselves with a full marathon. This marathon is so worth doing but be prepared for the midges. It is the only marathon where I’ve seen the marshals wearing brimmed hats with vales like bee keepers to protect themselves from the midges. Again not a marathon to compare times with and I was pleased with 4 hours 14 minutes 57 seconds.
So what a wonderful month of marathon adventures, all with times over 4 hours but worth every bit of the effort and sweat! I hope this goes partly to explaining why I’m not getting bored of marathon running and how varied it can be.