Jogging back down the Pyg track after completing this classic race with a feeling of increasing pride little did I know of the trouble I was in for back at the Café, so lets start with getting myself out of the s… with some ‘sincere’ apologies:-
Sorry Angel for not giving you a kiss after you re-fuelled me at the Pen y Pass check point. Sorry Rebecca Roberts for not acknowledging your encouraging ‘Paul’ at the Carnedd Dafydd check point, I was taken aback by your subsequent greeting later in the café ‘oh, so you’re speaking to me now then, are you??’ Sorry Hayley Turner for doing likewise at PyP, clearly I have form here (& not the running kind) & I believe that whilst I think I made a half hearted attempt to thank Hazel Robbins for a similar cheer at Oggie Base there was almost certainly a lack of effort on my part to make eye contact. But this is not an un-reserved apology (what man could apologise to 4 women & not try to save face). I am reasonably confident that I did remember to thank all the marshall’s as I shuffled onwards & let it be known that I was in a ‘pb possibility’ zone during all of these ‘minor’ transgressions. That said, yours & others support was very much appreciated & help make fell running experiences the treasures that they are.
Back to the race/races & what is an incredible event on as ever the 1st Saturday of June. I’ll talk about the Long Fell Race as that is the one I took part in but first congratulations to all those who competed in the various events, talking with several competitors both in Snowdon’s café after the finish & in our own café the next day we all shared knowing smiles.
To anyone who has not covered the full course but wants to get an understanding of what we took on try this. Go to the start (north of Abergwyngregyn on the North coastline of Wales & walk through the village towards & then up & over Aber Falls. Then cross the river (un-like us try to keep your feet dry) & then climb its Southern bank gaining an agony inducing 500 feet before there is a let up in the rate if incline. Then carry on up & stop & look (you are now approx. 2,000 feet higher than when you started (in our case less than an hour earlier). Looking South what you will see is summit after summit of Northern Snowdonia spreading out before you & in the far distance the highest of all Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon), where the race ends. On Saturday I looked up at this point & despite having raced the route 7 consecutive years from 2011 to 2017 I got a shock ‘shit that is a long way away’. But oh if it was only that simple it would be ‘easy’ but knowledge adds to the phycological pain. First Yr Arag, navigate, Llewelyn, Daffyd, quad sapping descent to Ogwen, road, Cribin ascent (died on that 2 years ago, ‘what will happen this year?’), navigate, red dot descent, the PyG track ascent, the hordes to fight past, that right turn to to Carnedd Ugain (but I want to turn left PLEASE) & finally the U-turn & Snowdon’s summit. Think about that & you may just understand the knowing smiles we exchanged in the café whilst other non-participants shared their own experiences. If that appears a tad smug it isn’t meant to I am just trying to paint a picture of our realities.
As for my race, I was seriously under impressed with my 1:35 to the top of Llewelyn (our first 1,000 metre peak) feeling sure that I’d done it in 1:30 at some point previously (need to check that). Trying to make up time I fell on the innocuous climb up to Daffyd, blooded knee but without pain I am sure that Rebecca did not come out of her protective ten(serious respect for all marshal’s who get frozen whilst we runners keep moving & warm) & offer to clean up the wound when I arrived at the check point soon afterwards.
My initial descent (very steep) to Oggie was as decrepid as ever but then the lights turned to green. On easier but boggy ground I picked up speed, passed several in the Mountaineering category (who’d started an hour & a half earlier than we), followed a wider but better line down to the 2nd wall, my race & fortunes had changed for the better. I reached the check point in 2:29 to the minute the same time as in 2017 (the year I’d set my current pb), my race was on. Here I was re-united with team John & Marion, drink, shots, a banana on the run saw me off for part two.
I was feeling strong running the road, ‘that’s Russel Owen ahead, am I really doing that well?’
The Cribin climb was no blow out this year, I pulled a gap on several guys but was being pushed very hard by Kasia Osipowicz. She finally passed me just before I reached the football pitch ‘great climbing’ I said, she simply moved on. On top of the Cribin in clag the compass came out, I set it to 140 degrees, ‘can’t be’, I followed my nose, as two mountaineers followed me & soon hit the Glyder Fawr path (in my pre-race prep I had taken a bearing for such circumstances & got it school boy text wrong).
On the red dot descent I caught Kasia but soon let her come by after banging my ankle on a rock (sorry Kasia I’m not normally one to swear) & as she sped on I decided it was time for a quick call of nature.
At PyP a smiling Brian Robbins greeted me before he headed out for the PyG, Dorina & Marion fed & watered me, I looked at Dorina, thought about a kiss, then a pb, will she ever forgive me? I ran on.
You’re going well Brian called as I went past, another transgression as I responded with thanks rather than you too Brian, think I corrected this but probably blown away in the wind.
The PyG was surprisingly quiet & I climbed well despite losing one place but as I passed the Miner’s fingure stone the expected hordes appeared, my energy finally began to sap, another place gone, ‘Paul, just hold on’.
Reaching the 2nd figure stone I reluctantly turned right, ‘sub 5:30 might be on but probably not the way I’m now climbing’. I pushed on, check point, U-turn, finger stone, ‘9 minutes, a good me does it in 7 from here!’. Soon making their way back down Russel & Kasia gave me a warm knowing smile, next, ‘well done mate’ from Alwyn as he & Maggie also passed on their way down (having completed the ‘short’ course). The marshall waved me to the summit check point, I checked in, turned round to see a young runner (Joseph King) arrive seconds behind me ‘you almost got me’ I said as we smiled.
In the café I saw a smiling Elton, we compared wounds, Elton with a smashed lip & chipped teeth also won this ‘battle’ but the most memorable thing about this meeting was Stephen Edwards (Elton please correct me if I’ve got his name wrong) from Calder Valley Fell Runners. Seeing Elton take his face first tumble at the top of the Cribin Stephen didn’t just stop & wait with him for several minutes until it was clear Elton could continue he then went on to run the remaining two hours or so with Elton just to make sure everything was O.K.
By now I was feeling a tad un-well, a full fat coke, pasty which I offered to share with another runner, he almost bit my hand off before re-realising he was a vegetarian & just managed to keep his faith & a chat with a couple who were celebrating his 70th via the train route failed to warm me, I shivered, I needed to get down.
Outside with the phone shaking in my hands, ‘Dorina, I’ll be at PyP in an hour’, no mention of that missing kiss, ‘yes darling’.
At the fingure stone Stephen drew alongside, we exchanged ‘take it easy’s’ & went our separate ways. Once past the Miner’s fingure stone the hordes were left behand, I jogged, I warmed up & as with previous years the pains subsided. The descent highlights were saying well done’s to other competitors as they headed for their own summits & a woman who said ‘you’ve done the race, you don’t need to run down’ ‘I’ve got a car waiting for me’, she knew my madness & smiled warmly.
After 57 minutes I ran into the car park to be greeted by Marion ‘sorry about the fast pit stops but I was on for a pb’ ‘we guessed’.
Back at the café Dorina & I finally kissed as I made my first of many apologies, Simona gave me a kiss too, now bring it on Rebecca, who indeed did before giving me a kiss too, am I forgiven?
So what of my time, I did indeed beat 5:30 finishing in 5:28:50 a pb by over 12 minutes. It is clearly a race that suits me as every year I have lowered my times, this will one day end no doubt but for now:-
Early in the race as I spied Snowdon in the distance I really had thought ‘why am I doing this, never again’ what a difference looking back today is. I’ll be back next year & hopefully many years thereafter, thank you to everyone involved & giving me yet more fantastic memories with things to smile & laugh about.