Race Date: Sunday May 19th 2018
The event starts and finishes in the market town of Dolgellau, at sea level, and climbs almost 3000ft to the summit of Pen y Gader itself. The race covers a distance of approx 10.5 miles, from Dolgellau to the summit of Cader Idris (2927ft) (Category A, Medium), and returns by the same route.
Race Report by Matt Williams
What better thing to do in the middle of the night and you’re ill than book a race to run up a mountain, turn around and run back down again. Bizarrely, that seemed like it would be fun idea at the time. The race had sold out by about lunchtime on the day they went on sale which told me all I needed to know about whether it was a good idea or not. How I’d feel at the end was a totally different story.
Fast forward 4 months and both Paul Smith, the only other Strider in attendance, and I were sat outside the Royal Ship Hotel in Dolgellau basking in the glorious sunshine waiting for the start of the race. Not quite the weather I was hoping for after blowing up in the heat a few weekends ago, but with my aim being ‘finishing it’ I was happy to kick back and not run off like a headless chicken. From the hotel here you can see the peak of Cader, which was both an exciting and daunting prospect at the same time
Dolgellau is a small but very beautiful town (I got told off for calling it a village) with very welcoming locals. As we’d (my wife and I) decided to stay for the weekend we’d already had a tour round town, a couple of beers to unwind and a visit to the local pizza shop on Friday night. Paul for all his sins had driven Saturday morning, the plan being to do the race then drive back to Sheffield after!
The race started at 1pm on the square, which is also where the finish was. It was strange starting a race at this time rather than the usual first thing in the morning or evening. Despite the glorious sunshine the kit rules had only been relaxed to the point where we no longer were required to carry waterproof trousers, but everything else. All runners were shepherded through the finish checkpoint, where our kit was checked and we all congregated at the start ready for the race briefing. A quick briefing later and we were off.
The race takes you out of town on the road which once you get round the corner goes up, and up, and up for a couple of km. Nothing like a bit of hill to get the heart rate up from the starting blocks. From here, you turn off the road and around the lake and through a couple of fields before a very short stretch of road then it’s up again. This time there is no rest and the climb continues until you reach the peak!! The route winds up the pony path, which is a mixture of rocky paths and stone steps. At the top of the path you turn and carry on up the ridge to the summit. Some of this terrain is very technical, small rocky sections mixed with grassy parts with hidden bigger stones required a lot of concentration all the way up. When near the summit you get such an amazing view, especially the lake down to the left.
The path to the summit is a scramble up the rocks, a quick touch of the stone at the summit then you turn around and do it all in reverse.
There were a lot of different routes to take on the way back down, some the shaved a bit off corners, others stopped your legs and feet getting hammered on the stones. I even got in a bit of the old bum sliding on a couple of particularly steep sections. I’ve descended some hills that are as steep as this before but nowhere near as long. From about half way down I could feel my knees creaking and was willing it to flatten back off again. Before long we were back on the path around the lake and although the flatter terrain was a welcome relief, I could feel my legs getting tired. The descent had taken its toll more than I thought and by the time I had got back on the road, I was becoming a spent force. Time to get my head down and push on for the finish. Thankfully there were a lot of people out of the road section cheering on, which was a great thing to focus on. Round the last corner and I had made it in 2:05. Crossing the line I was done in, the bottle of water that was handed out over the finish line was very welcome, it hardly touched the sides. It would have been nice to get under 2 hours but I wasn’t that bothered especially as I pushed myself and got over the line. As I said at the start, finishing was the aim and there’s always next year right?
We made our way into the library to grab some of the food that was kindly put on for the runners; a homemade dhal, sandwiches, crisps and a various assortment of fruit and salad bits. I must admit I spent about an hour trying to get some bits of food down me without trying not to let it come back up. Back to the hotel for a shower and an hour or two nap, then it was back into town for a couple of welcome beers and a glass of red wine with a proper meal and I was ready for bed. Hats off to Paul for driving back after the race, there’s no way I wouldn’t have been able to do that.
Sunday morning was spent having a little walk round, we then drove over the back road past Cader over to Fairbourne to stretch the legs, then set about the 5.5 hour trip back to the South Coast.
Thanks to organisers and all the marshalls/mountain rescue volunteers that were littered along the route. Also the support from the locals was incredible, some of whom had got themselves up the mountain to cheers everyone on.
The race was won by Andrew Davies of Stockport Harriers AC in 1:29:17. First Woman was Helen Brown, Mynydd du runners in 1:52:40. Two Striders ran the race, well done both! Full results available here