First things first – It’s the Snowdon Marathon this Saturday so good luck to all the runners & all those who help make the event what it is & to those of you who plan to come out & cheer us on, it means a lot & is always warmly received.
Taking a fall a little under two days before a race is never ideal prep. Then add to that 3 back to back runs during the 3 days immediately before race day itself (not tapering in most people’s books). Then add to that a typhoid jab just hours before that fall which I am blaming for a sore throat & gland coming on 3 hours before race start itself why would I be surprised that in the race I suffered more than I even feared?
The race itself is the Petzl Night Trail run in my own backyard in Coed y Brenin where I lined up on the start line for the 4th time in 5 years, the next 3 hours or so would frequently have me thinking WHY? I was not alone, there were 43 other solo runners & 85 teams (these can be all male, all female or mixed). The solo’s simply have to run a 3K loop as many times as they can in 3 hours between 6:00 & 9:00 pm with their last loop having to start before 9:00 pm. The teams simply do likewise with 3 runners per team running in relay, oh for a lack of friends to be in a team! All start with head torches which need to be pretty bright once the evening darkens.
I started with intent running my first two laps in faster splits than my best of 2018, my third lap saw me walk a hill section for the first time (as planned, the hill climbs for over a K with little let-up so needs to be respected) but I was still feeling strong & happy with how it was going (a first Gel whilst walking was taken on). Then on lap 4 during the hill my wheels began to come off to the thoughts ‘shit there’s a long way to go.’
Now this is where support becomes a vital factor in just what amount of pain Paul is going to put himself through, I shall refer to them as Paul’s Angels from Hell. These ‘Angels from Hell’ are otherwise known as Dorina, Ali & three little Angels, Alexandra, Justina & Ariana (aka my young nieces). Angels from Hell were in the start & finish area to cheer & high five me as I started each new lap which they did with gay enthusiasm so how could I let them or myself down & quit, I ran on & on……..
In truth I still felt O.K. on the descents & flats but as each lap passed the walks on the hill increased & by lap 7 even the walking felt weak so my early gains were steadily erased but at least I was able to still hope that my target of 10 laps (as achieved in my 3 previous appearances) was still on. Two more Gels & plenty of electrolyte kept me on track, just, so I was mightily relieved to high five at the start of lap 10 with a few minutes to spare. Now state of mind came into play & I suddenly had the energy burst of relief ‘you can enjoy this lap, it’s your last.’
I finished after a little more than 3 Hours 17 Minutes placing me 9th solo & even more rewardingly ahead of 55 teams but that is pretty irrelevant as we had all no doubt enjoyed it in either a Type 1 or Type 2 Fun kind of way. During my Type 2 Fun I had covered over 19 miles & climbed 4,000 feet. The atmosphere at this event is pretty unique, you frequently pass or get passed team runners with the occasional thoughts ‘is he or she a solo?’. The start & finish area is a riot of activity, Steven Edwards on the tanoy brings the action to a boil & as ever Matt Ward & his fantastic team do a wonderful job in pulling it all together.
After kisses & cuddles with the Angels Dorina took the nieces home whilst I queued for my beer & tankard with Ali & waited for the Prize ceremony, had I won my Over 50’s?
My hopes were raised as Matt introduced the O.50’s Male winner with a ‘now’s there’s a bit of a story about this guy’ (my thoughts ‘it’s me, he’s going to mention my fall on Thursday’) but hope comes before a fall & he went on to say ‘this guy has been helping me all day & he only decided to enter an hour before the off.’ I knew the name before he said it, Daffyd Roberts, an all round great bloke who lets be honest can put me in my place, 2nd, anytime he chooses & he had. Still I was only 4 minutes adrift some consolation at least.
Prize giving over I went up to Daffyd to congratulate him only to find out he’d had a bad couple of last laps & had been too stiff to remove his timing tag from his ankle. This making me feel better I couldn’t avoid the riposte of ‘well I may not be able to run as fast as you but at least I can still bend down’, our mutual laughter brought a great night in the Coed y Brenin to an end.
A post script, I awoke on Sunday morning with a sore throat & feeling a tad off colour which threw some light on Lap 4’s loss of wheels or will the Snowdon Marathon confuse this rose tinted view of things?