This was very much a bucket list race; the Snowdonia marathon starts & finishes in Llanberis, North Wales, and has an elevation gain that’d make most people light-headed. Not to worry, though, I’m sure it’ll all be fine…

I travelled down the day before, got checked in and had my evening meal in a pub in Caernarfon.  A pint of ale & a massive lasagne went down a treat!

Then it was up early for some porridge and a cup of tea, before the 7.20am bus to Llanberis to collect my race number.  With a 10.30am start, thankfully there was a cafe as part of the Electric Mountain, the building the event was based out of of, so I holed up here drinking yet more tea.  Then bag drop (also in the building), then race time.

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I was a bit late to the start so was quite far back. No pens/corrals here, a complete free-for-all! This meant a lot of weaving in the early portion of the race before the first climb up to Pen-Y-Pass – this one went on a bit, but the gradient wasn’t too bad (it was 260m in 3 miles, constantly climbing).

The downhill that followed went on for some time, falling 320m in total over 8 miles (280m in next 3 miles) and involved a scary section that’d no doubt put hair on the chests of the women, let alone us blokes.  This was off-road over loose stones and frequent concrete drain run-off that lots of people struggled with.  

I made good progress, though.  Seems I’m more confident/reckless than a lot of my fellow runners!  Resisted the temptation to shout “Save Martha!” as I passed Superman during this section.

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The views are said to be great from the top of Pen-Y-Pass… (and an EMF finisher in front!)

At the point the mist decided to clear and we were greeted by the stunning views we’d all been hoping for; it really was breathtaking. Or was that just fatigue? Probably not – this section was relatively flat now, but my knees were shouting at me, the undulation trashing them.

I don’t remember much of the middle climb. Odd. Must’ve been easy? 150m over two miles here.  All I do remember is in seeing the sign for Beddgelert at the start of it, we were as close as we were going to get to the village an ex of mine was from.  Seven miles of gentle, generally downhill running followed.

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Llyn Cwellyn in the background, just outside Rhyd Ddu (18 miles in)

Then you get to Y Waunfawr.  This beast doesn’t separate the men from the boys, it sends them back to a primeval state where only grunts and pain are possible.  There is nothing else. 255m of ascent in less than 3 miles from the 35km mark… there was no way I could run it…I don’t think anyone around me did. A couple of guys around me warned me what we were in for, and they were not wrong!  On it went, and so did I, and so did we all.  In a fashion.

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It’s hard to look your best when all you see is ‘Up’.

Still, after that it was 2 miles downhill to the finish. Steep, and bloody terrifying! Again, there are some trail-like sections here which could make for tricky conditions under foot on a less kind day, but it was largely dry and only a few puddles (some still sizeable, mind) to trouble you.  I made decent progress compared to those around me but it was unlike anything I’ve done before. My feet felt like they were trying to escape through the front of my shoes and I strongly suspected I might be losing my first nail or go over an ankle, but no, the gradient eased off a touch, there was a proper road, only a couple more corners.  And then…done!

Marathon #13 complete without catastrophe in 3:36:09. I’m pleased with that. The course was epic in places, and it’s a rewarding challenge – worth taking in, if you can! It’ll stay with you.

Entries open midnight 31 Dec/1 Jan, and it sold out in less than 12 hours last year.  Be warned!

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A slate coaster for a medal, and a bilingual tech t-shirt with the course profile on it!

PS – I’m writing this two days after the race, and my legs are still in bits.  God knows when I’ll be walking normally again.

PPS – Totally worth it.