Out of the 30 races I had planned for 2016, Snowdon was the physical challenge I was looking forward to the most. Standing at 3560ft from the base to the summit, this was one hell of a challenge I had in front of me, but as you will notice on my race video further down, I was rather giddy about it!
Snowdon Race Facts & Figures
The race totals 15.35kms in length, with 7.16km of ascent, 7.19km of descent and 1km that is flat. Although having completed the race, it is easy to forget that there were any flats at all. With an ascent grade of 13.4% which maxes out at a whopping 32%…Yes, 32%, it’s no wonder that my legs are feeling it at the time of writing this blog (2 days after the race).
The Race Buildup
Sat in a car park close to the start line, watching the rain pour down whilst consuming lots of fats (yes, fats. I’m eating a whole lot of them pre-race now). It’s not everyone’s cup of tea when thinking how to spend a Saturday morning but it most certainly is mine, especially when those yummy fats are being consumed for my race of the tallest mountain in Wales! The weather was certainly not ideal for people heading up the mountain for a hike and some nice pictures, but for me, it was pre much perfect race conditions. The temperature was nice to run in, the drizzle also helped keep me cool and fresh. Give me that over a clear Summer’s day any race of the week. Another reason why I love running…it turns a rainy country into an ideal place to live! haha. Well, I had popped over the border into Wales for this one but you know what I’m getting at.
The Big Race – Snowdon International Race 2016!
Honk!!!! 2pm, Saturday 16th July 2016…we were off!
Across the start line and away we all went. 650 runners in total with a huge mixture of nationalities, backgrounds and stories to tell. Some experienced Snowdon runners, others such as myself who were visiting for the very first attempt at conquering this beast.
Beginning at Electric Mountain close to the centre of Llanberis, and taking the runners steadily uphill on the tarmac past The Victoria Hotel we were all advised to approach this first section with caution. As it was the flattest part, it would be easy to attack the early segment of the course and live to regret it later once on the mountain itself. Personally, I think I got it just right in the early parts of the race. I am a semi-decent ascent runner, nothing exceptional when you think about the athletes at the front of this event, but I am pleased with my uphill skills so far since beginning racing, and they’re getting stronger.
Once we latched onto the first part of the mountain, the story starts to go as you would expect…uphill! Massively uphill! Well, it is a bloody mountain, after all! ha
To keep myself going in any race, it is good to have some mental markers in my head. This race is perfect for this as you are going 5 miles in one direction, then 5 miles back. To chop the course up perfectly, there is The Halfway House Cafe which is just before the halfway mark going up. This is also a nice area for a few of the amazing supporters to gather and give runners a much-needed boost as they start to really feel the uphill battle hitting their legs. In my case, a friend was there and had no idea that as she took my picture, I was coming in for a quick selfie with the GoPro (#selfiewanker).
So…I have hit the quarter mark of the race, and I have my usual mid-race selfie. Yes, I know…I am a tit! haha. I love it and it genuinely gives me a boost when I need it. It keeps me going strong. I smile and laugh in as many situations as I can and running is no different. I love to run!
Onwards and upwards!
That’s the selfie done, a mini-boost for the mind…now I need to go and grab myself a piece of that summit! This section of the climb is a huge mixture of being able to run and some sections where it takes heavy stride hiking style with my hands on my thighs to help push me through. In a strange way, I see a great benefit in this mixture of running and hiking…yes…it’s a heck of a strain on the muscles, but unlike flat out running races I am not having to concentrate so hard on my breathing. That almost takes care of itself at this climbing pace, it is the muscles that are taking the real beating!
The frontrunners are coming!
Once I reached the 80% mark (80% of the ascent), the front few runners were coming back down the trail. I say they were coming down, they were flying! Good on them. Legends, every single one of them. Everyone who was on that mountain is.
This was where things got a little tricky in terms of navigating the run. I don’t mean getting lost, no no no. We are going up, I knew that much! ha. The pathways got slimmer near the summit, there’s runners striding up the mountain and the front section is now coming back down at a good old pace. On top of that, there’s hikers on the mountain, all groups really trying their best not to disrupt each other’s goals for the day. This is why the race is capped at 650 participants. Any more would be too much and I hope this is never changed for the sake of the race.
Despite the tricky parts due to traffic, it flows just enough not to inhibit the race and everyone’s speed going up or down.
The summit! 1 hour and 1 minute
I reached the top and got another selfie. Yes, here he goes again! What a selfie taking toss pot hahaha. I have a mid-race selfie at the summit of Mount Snowdon. There won’t be many people who can make that claim! Who knows, maybe I am the only one! I could be 1st in that race. ha.
Now was time for the really fun part…the descent!
I will be honest, this is probably even tougher than the ascent. The ascent was of course very tough going on the legs but I got there and I felt like I still had something to give. Good job seeing as there was 50% of the race still to come, but coming downhill represents a whole different game, and one I really enjoy.
Put on those breaks!
If you are doing this race, don’t do it with your road running shoes on! Luckily, I didn’t do this, but judging by the terrain and gradient on the way down, I am certain I would have got myself in some trouble had I have not worn my trail shoes. This mountain descent requires some serious hard work when it comes to controlling your speed. On top of that you have all kinds of stone, shale, and rock to navigate your way over as you run at speed. There are 5 miles left of the race when you turn around at the summit so it is time to make sure your concentration is bang on the money because if you don’t keep your whits about you on the way down, you can really do yourself in.
Do as I say, not as I do. After those words I just uttered about concentration, I ended up going flying with about 1 mile left to go. I was lucky that I was that far down the mountain when I lost my footing because I wasn’t in an area near any severe drops but it could so easily have been somewhere worse. It’s all part of the fun hahaha.
As I hit the ground on my tumble, I went off the track and onto the grassy embankment. At this point when I tried to continue, I got bad cramp in my right calf. My split-second response was ‘oh no….no way…you are not stopping me finishing this race!’. Luckily, I was able to quickly react to the cramp and get through it. It affected my last mile but not necessarily with a lot of pain, it was more a mental battle as I feared pushing myself would cause the cramping to return.
I have done it!
My finishing time was 1 hour and 35 min and 14 seconds. A time that I was very happy with for my first attempt at this iconic mountain race. Do you know what else that time is? It is the time I am going to smash the sh*t out of next year! haha. Yes, I will return. I will be training hard with more fell running after this year’s marathons and I am going to be posting in 12 months with a time that makes that look pathetic hahaha. Always aim high!
Snowdon Race 2016 Highlights
As always, I had my GoPro running for most of the race and I have compiled it together to show the madness of the event. Hopefully someone out there will see this and it will help them decide to do the race themselves some day. Get on it!
Thank you, everyone!
I want to say my usual thank you to everyone who raced, all of the organisers of this amazing event and of course the volunteers and supporters on the day. Without you, the runners wouldn’t have this amazing experience. You’re all absolute bloody legends!
Snowdon has captured my running heart. I will return next year after some hard hill training. I have only started fell racing this year so I know I can achieve a hugely improved time with the right training and hard work. Those of you who know how I run, you know I will work hard for a better time. I can’t wait to return!