Baptism by fire: Scott Snowdonia Trail Marathon (July 2015) First Marathon + First Trail race
‘Not all ladies are made of sugar and spice and all things nice...
some are made of adventure’.
Ascending 1685m over 26 miles, the route took us from Wales’ adventure capital Llanberis on a route which circumnavigate and eventually climbed Wales’ highest peak; Snowdon (also the highest peak in England).
My inspiration going solo to the Scott Snowdon Trail Marathon was to see if I had what it took to undertake the Half Ironman 3 months later. So I packed the essentials: Sunglasses (!), camel-bag, energy drinks, cereal bars, survival bag, woolly hat, gloves, whistle and was ready to hit the road. It was only then I thought to myself ‘better book somewhere to stay’. Llanberis turned out to be one of the busiest Welsh destinations and my options weren’t looking great. Everything was booked and that’s how I discovered the wonderful world of Youth Hostels. The night before the race I shared room with another 3 ladies but due to someone’s insanely loud snoring, three of us hardly got any sleep. The following morning all eyes rolled when this lady said to us: ‘Morning! Slept really well last night. You?’
Lesson learnt: Even though over-planning kills magic booking accommodation early is advisable.
On the morning of the race skies were grey and there was lots of rain; apparently very common in Wales :) This was going to be my first marathon and my first trail run and dear-oh-dear, was I in for a ‘treat’! Armed with lots of courage and stubbornness I made my way to the start line busy with hundreds of ‘tough’ looking runners; not quite the usual looks of my fellow ‘Parkrun’ friends.
Soon after we begun, we faced ourselves with a fairly lengthy climb and the additional challenge of not stepping over a man who had slipped and us runners were trying to get past him. As the hills got steeper (and I run better up the hills) this was my opportunity to move faster but soon changed my mind anticipating this was only going to get tougher.
The beauty of Snowdonia is one of a kind and it was out there I discovered how much I love the outdoors and fell in love with Wales. But however beautiful the scenery is, I hadn’t thought that it can be challenging running alone for so many hours; especially if things start to ache and the weather begins to worsen.
Some of the paths were mud-baths, with mud almost reaching my knees (but I am a ‘little’ lady after all!) Narrow paths, tree roots, slippery rocks, rain and strong winds, this was trail running in all its glory and this first time-amateur trail runner turned up in road trainers!
Lesson learnt: Cinderella is proof that a new pair of shoes can change your life, and I certainly needed to invest in a pair of trail running shoes!
At around km 6 I met two Welsh lads who became friends-for-life. We were running at a similar pace and we were continuously overtaking each other, so we introduced ourselves and decided to run together. We successfully got to the ‘Pen-y-Pass' before the first cut-off time but the toughest 9 miles laid ahead of us. Unaware of it at the time, the path that lead along the foothills at Pyg Track was going to be the most rugged and challenging up Snowdon. We dug hard to endure the strong winds and rain, whilst the temperature had dramatically dropped at around -2 degrees. The massive rocks that formed part of this route, produced by volcanoes and extensively sculpted by glaciation were very difficult to ascend. We overtook a few less fortunate runners who were injured and showed signs of hypothermia but the Always Aim High organisation was fantastic and help was never too far. Admittedly while passing them we were relieved that it wasn’t our day for it to happen. The climb in Crib Goch proved the hardest and most painful part of the race but that said, it was where we helped each other out and laughed the most!
Lesson learnt: Finding friends with the same adventure disorder: Priceless.
Despite finishing in 7 hours 45min there was a sense of pride having completed the Scott Snowdonia Trail Marathon in such challenging conditions; it was something truly special. Guess it’s only in adventure that some of us succeed in knowing ourselves. This race has had a transformative experience on how I visualise pain and taught me how resilient humans are, how life has its risks and being in the mountains has its fair share too!
P.S. I still smile when I think of crazy Jim telling us how many people die every year in the mountains (while we’re up in Snowdon!) or his frequent stops to change into dry socks, in a race where the rain never ceased (he had been carrying at least a dozen pairs!). Since then he’s become a spokesman on mountain health and safety; only joking!
P.S 2 I did complete the Ironman 70.3, Lanzarote, 3 months later in less time than Snowdonia Trail Marathon :)
P.S 3 Second Welsh friend-for-life successfully completed his first Full Ironman, Wales, 3 months later and both Jim and I were there to support him!