When you hear about a marathon at Snowdon, you may think you run up to the top of the mountain and then back down. The route for Snowdonia Marathon is, in fact, much worse than this. You run around Snowdonia National Park, with Snowdon in the middle. It has a total of 838 metres of ascent. In 26.2 miles. That’s a lot. It’d be like running the London Marathon, but running up to the top of The Gherkin and down again three times in the middle of it. The flat equivalent distance for Snowdonia is 29.32 miles. Yikes. You’d have to be mad to even just think about doing this, right? Well. I thought about it. I entered. And on Saturday 28th October 2017 I was in Llanberis, wearing a bin bag, waiting to start.
Llanberis is a small village in the heart of Snowdonia. The race starts and finishes here. The first five miles of the race is uphill with 850ft of climb. How do you start a race like this? Well…you just do.
At the start line it was cold, windy, but full of excitement. From everyone. No hanging about though. I’d barely taken off my bin bag and off we went! I was immediately expecting to go up Pen Y Pass. This did not happen. What are people on about? I thought. Where’s this uphill? I had ignored the first mile of downhill on the profile and went off a bit too quick. Whoops. The uphill comes. And my goodness. It is tough. You just keep going. It’s a hill. It’s steep. The views you see though as you climb. It’s spectacular. The hill gets steeper. But you know it’s going to go down again. And when it did…Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!
The downhill is on road for about half a mile before a swift turn onto a track full of hard stones, rocks, and concrete gully things you have to make sure you don’t trip into. Sounds dangerous? Nope. Just immense fun. On one particular hop over a gully, I did miss my footing slightly and thought, crikey, I might go down here, but thank goodness I did not. To myself I thought I was going super fast and must look like a gazelle. However on looking back at the highlights on TV, you get to see the speed of the frontrunners. How they do it, I just do not know. They were definitely gazelle like. Me? Not so much.
From the track it’s still a mostly downhill but bumpy route to halfway in Beddgelert. I felt quite strong on this section and really enjoyed it. Beddgelert was a lovely little village which had masses of support. My favourite part of this was getting some cold orange segments on the course. I’d never had this before on a run and it was just amazing. I was so happy! Marathon delirium, perhaps.
From halfway until about mile 18 I was struggling. I was getting tired, cold, emotional. All the things you don’t want. I also hadn’t paid much attention to the profile of this part of the course and was getting annoyed at myself for not remembering what was coming. I had a pitstop at mile 18 and then carried on. I knew the worst bit of the course was coming between miles 22 and 24 so I had to prepare for that.
You reach mile 22 and you climb. The steepest climb you ever did see. This is in a place called Waunfawr which I understand can be translated to “Big Moor.” That it is. You reach a right turn and think perhaps a little respite here, but no. It just keeps going. And going. And going. I knew this was coming. And had to walk the whole thing. This didn’t bother me. I was so pleased for getting this far and knew I could get to the end now. Plus I was also counting down the miles to the descent back into Llanberis!
You reach the top of the climb with just under a couple of miles to go. Thank goodness. The downhill will carry me home now! Well no, that didn’t happen either. It was a particularly misty day. Meaning no views at the top of Waunfawr. This was fine. I felt completely epic wandering around in the mist.
So the descent. It was on a mud….track, I’ll say. The mist, cold and wet meant it was super muddy. I am told it is often like this, although I do not know how bad. You cannot run at full pelt like you would on the road. I say this and again watching the frontrunners on the highlights go down this. Blimey! Gazelles indeed!
I could not do that. Treading carefully. Running. But carefully. You reach some tarmac. It is still slippy here, but this doesn’t last long. As soon as I realised I wouldn’t slip I lent forward and it happened again…Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee. I pushed and pushed and pushed. You turn a corner into the high street in Llanberis, 200m to go. There’s the finish line. Crowds still everywhere. VROOM. And that was it. I finished. I made it. Snowdonia Marathon. Done.
Incredible. There are some LFRs who go back to Snowdonia every year. And I see why. I had the best experience. It’s a tough marathon. A tough run. Probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. But I enjoyed it all. The challenge. The experience. The crowds. The other runners. I would recommend this race to everyone, whether as your first marathon or a seasoned marathon runner. This one should be on every runner’s bucket list.
I enjoyed it so much, I’m going back next year!
The race organisers have moved the entry date this year and entries will go live at 7am on Friday 1st December. If you do want to enter, you MUST enter straight away. The entries for this year’s event sold out within four hours. Stick the date in your diary. Come join me next year!
http://www.snowdoniamarathon.co.uk/ Go on….you know you want to…