Snowdon Marathon

It certainly is nice for the weather to take an interest in my running. As I write this now I am on a train home from Snowdon where hideous clouds of rain have spent the day and are now heading straight for Crawley. I estimate they will be there for about 10am tomorrow.

The Snowdon Marathon was always going to be hard, it claims it is the toughest road marathon in the UK. What made it much harder was constant heavy rain made horizontal by 60mph winds. 8 Serpies arrived last night and set about the usual stroll down the towns high street to look for somewhere unsuitable to eat. We decided on a pub which advertised a list of people in the area who were barred from all licensed premised in the area. We did not spot any of our own names on the list so went in and enjoyed various methods of pre-race nutrition. Since I was carb loading for 3 days I figured I’d go protein heavy and as there was a beer I hadn’t tried before I thought it would be rude not to.

We stayed in a lodge that was only half a mile from the registration which made for a leisurely morning as the race did not start till 10.30. It also meant I could have a proper fry-up in the morning and drink enough coffee to make the necessary movements.  We set out about 9.30 to make our way to the registration where buses were going to take us 2 miles to the start. All weather reports had predicted miserable conditions but it is only when you get out there that you realise the effect they will have. The line for the bus was long and there was quite a bit gap between them coming so we were stood there for 30 minutes shivering in the rain. Alan, Mark and I decided not to take a bag and so couldn’t take a coat either. We were all suffering as we gathered together with others like penguins in the Antartic. I made the comment that my fatness was an advantage when standing around in the cold like this. When it comes to the running though the advantage is definitely theirs.

I bumped into Justin at the start who I had not seen since the Moose. He looked like he was ready to go camping he had so much stuff. I also saw Nick and his friend who revealed himself as "Cavey" from fetcheveryone. I'd been in contect with Cavey (Matt) online and he is running the Marathon Des Sables next year. I love how the world gets smaller when doing these events.

The first 4 miles were a gradual uphill into  very strong headwind. There was a stage when a sudden gust of wind stopped everyone on the spot. We all laughed at the time and spirits were high although we were all surely thinking about how long this is going to take if we get stopped that much. More than half the runners were wearing rain jackets. They were probably very slightly warmer and drier but blew around like kites.

The next 8 miles were downhill and I really struggled with it. My quads were still burning from a combination of running Leicester quite hard last week and my poor downhill technique. I tried to keep up with Nick but didn't want to hurt myself more. Helen then passed me keen to get this over with as soon as possible. I was in no such rush, despite the wind, rain and cold I was having fun.

The rain stopped for only a few minutes which was long enough for me to notice that one of the water stops had percy pigs. I'd never seen that before. Soon enough the wind and rain were back in my face and I couldn't see anything. It was a shame because the scenery would have been awesome. We were on roads cutting through lots of fairly big mountains and unfortunately most of them were covered in grey fog. I was assuming that Snowdon was the biggest one, the one that we could not even see halfway up.

12-15 miles were uphill again and ran into some small towns with great support. I'm not sure how close the organisers were from cancelling this race as they has done a few years back but they seemed to have everything well covered. There were water stations every 2 miles or so with ambulances everywhere. If something did happen they would have been right on to it. Fortunately there were no major incidents and only a few people really suffered with the cold.

15-20 miles were fairly flat, which would normally feel welcome except that I couldn't seem to run on it. I worried about the next 2 days when my legs felt shot already. Then, to make things worse I got overtaken by a plastic cup. The thought of getting overtaken by an inanimate object infuriated me but the panic was soon over, it got crushed by an oncoming car. If only it could do that for some of the runners.....

20 miles was the hill that I heard many people talk about near the beginning. I still don't look at race profiles before the run as it spoil the fun but you can't help overhearing stuff. It was quite a long grind but I was determined to run the whole thing. Many were walking and then strangely as the hill got steeper I saw that most were running again. Only when I arrived on the last stretch did I realise that people were only running because there was a camera at the top. Those guys are evil, picking the places where you are going to get the worse photos and compelling people to run when they wanted to walk. Good on them.

Snowdon on a nice sunny day. I didn't even see it

On higher ground the wind became really strong again but this time in our favour. There were points where I would get blown up the hill. This was fine uphill but was most unwelcome down. Towards the end there was a really steep downhill section that I had to lean back and hobble down. The finish was back near the registration where armies of medics were jumping on people with foil and making sure everyone stayed warm. I picked up a nice slate coaster which I liked more than a medal. Something different but useful, not that I'll ever put a cup of tea on it. It's far too nice for that.

Obviously you wouldn't normally chose to run in these conditions but doing so give me a great experience for when things go wrong in bigger races. I have never run a race with such bad conditions from start to finish but in doing so I am in a better position to start any other race. There will be times in the future when I'm halfway through some really tough race and the hideous weather will kick in. I'll be able to look back on what I did today and say "remember Snowdon"? I've done this before and I survived.