My tapering didn’t go exactly to plan, I did however manage to stick to my plan for almost 2 days starting with last Tuesday’s planned short sharp run on tarmac, a 4.5 miler at more or less race pace. This was then followed on Wednesday (as planned) with a couple of climbs in the company of Dave Ball & his partner Tamsin, it was good to re-unite with Dave having got on well during our adventures on Pik Lenin back in the summer. However the long steep descent off Tryfan’s Western flank did have me thinking ‘is this wise so close to the race’. Thursday the plan was abandoned & saw me out in the Coed y Brenin for a gentle 6 miler before Dorina & I headed off for an enjoyable night with Steve & Judy, think we might have talked about running at some point! Friday dawned, as we headed towards the cafe under clearing skies another run beckoned, soon I was doing the glorious circuit of Capel to the thoughts of ‘it’s only a 4.5 miler at gentle pace what harm could that do’. Tapering, who needs it?
Saturday, race day, dawned dull, at the cafe my final preparations were made, everything in place like clockwork, ‘Paul have you got your this, that & everything’ Dorina sang, ‘yes’ I replied. 20 minutes later with the car approaching Llanberis I realised everything I needed was in my running bag so carefully packed & now left at the Cafe, you nervous pillock!!
Thankfully a call to Dorina led to a friend called Janet (who’d been planning to watch me run) gulping down her poached eggs & setting off with my bag to Llanberis. 8 kilometres of brisk walking later (it’s a long story) saw me at the start line with said bag, gels, electrolite.. my mind was at ‘peace’, thanks again Janet.
I genuinely believed this would show me how much speed I have lost this year & had convinced myself that to get within 20 minutes of last year would in itself be tough but at least I felt I could go the distance, life is full of surprises & I was about to get another one.
The climb up the Llanberis pass is not feared these days but I was still pleasantly surprised to record a split at PyP of 37:59 exactly the same as last year. Taking a steady descent & pace to the halfway point I was shocked to see my split of 1:47:00 now some 7 minutes down on last year, This was now about damage limitation, could I reduce the speed of my decline? The Waunfawr climb (this one is still feared) saw me walking earlier than previous years but a combination of fast walks & steady trots saw me gain a few places & soon I was at the top. Looking at my watch I suddenly realised I might not be too far down on last year after all or are my eyes & maths deceiving me?
My trump card was also yet to be played, I run this ‘road’ marathon with fell shoes trading the inevitably sore feet for a fast but safe descent on the grass & mud. Invigorated by the reading on my watch I simply charged down the hillside (relatively of course) overtaking 15 or more runners who to be fair were on slicks & didn’t stand a chance. It was worth all the pain to feel so good as I stormed the final bend & reached the line seemingly still accelerating. My time was the icing on the cake, 3:32:55 beating last year by 2 minutes, just where that 9 minute reversal on the second half came from I have no idea but by God it made me feel very good. It was no pb, still 2015’s 3:31:51, but it was good enough for my first top 200 finish (175th out of 2,251) & saw me 11th O.50 out of 221. What a difference a ‘good’ run has done, in the words of Kean (or was it me), I’m back!
But of course this event is not just about times (yes you heard this runner say that), it is truly a great event & being a local to Snowdonia just makes it even more special so a few thank you’s for helping to make my day:-
Janet (again) – for high fiving me at PyP & greeting me at the finish.
Maggie & Alwyn for kind words before, cheering during, & well done Paul afterwards.
Hans-Peter – for enjoyable conversation & footwear discussions as we walked to the start.
Eryri Runners (too many to mention) for encouraging exchanges during the race, Megan you took some hauling in up that Rhyd Dhu climb.
Marshalls & Drink Station Staff – a job very well done, your time & cheers were much appreciated, the Coed-y Brenin team at the last station dressed as witches stands out, I am just sorry that I didn’t recognise you Sian & Dyfi, maybe my mind was somewhere else!
Matt Ward & Stephen Edwards for theirs announcing my crossing the line & plugging our cafe, always appreciated.
Alexandra (Gaby’s 8 yr old daughter) for being at the finish with Dorina.
Everyone – who turned out to support us, many familiar faces too.
& of course Dorina for being as pleased for me as I was for myself.
Every runner will have there own stories, this was simply mine.
I have of course chosen to recover in the manner I prepared, Saturday returned to cafe & did some (but not all, see I’m learning) pots. Sunday slotted in the Capel circuit recovery run spending the rest of the day either on pots or clearing tables. Monday a 6.5 miler mid-afternoon that seemed to get faster as it went on. Not bad for a 51 year old but let’s put some perspective on that:-
Back at the cafe after the race a fellow racer or two also came in, one was a certain guy (Christopher Bowes, I believe) who had just run his 32nd Snowdon Marathon, now that’s what is possible if you put your mind to it, all I could do was congratulate him & hand over a beer on the house, well done.
A final thought, whoever is responsible for making the decision to give so many parking tickets out on such a glorious day needs to be verbally humiliated, get it sorted, if you have time to issue tickets spend that time in a proactive way & have someone moving them on in the first place. It is safer, kinder & would show a spirit of goodwill to those who choose to come & spend their hard earned money in Snowdonia, we need them & do not need to leave a bad taste in their mouths!