Race date: Saturday 20 August 2022
Race distance: 14 mile
Race location: Tywyn, Wales
It’s tough to know how to fuel for a race that starts at 2pm. It’s a fiddly kind of time. Stands to reason that it must be even tougher to fuel for a race that starts at 2:05pm. For the benefit of future generations of train-racers, here’s how I did it.
7am – breakfast
- Porridge, banana and honey
10am – top-up at the race registration café
- Bacon sarnie
- Can of Fanta
12pm – lunch, watching the finishers of the earlier races
- Small latte (for vim)
- Large Cornish (for vigour)
- Pint of milk (for strength)
- Apple (for health)
I did have to swallow a gip at about 13 miles, but that’s the price you pay for elite race prep.
Meandering repletely round the start area to the sounds of Jive Bunny from the funfair, I bumped into former Strider Scott Liddle, who admired my new-old-style vest, and current Strider Ian Stinson, who was running incognito to keep his shoulders from sunburn.
A train whistle screeched, and we were off. That was the last I saw of a train for ages. There are two trains to race. One of them sets off at the same time as the runners, and the other one about 20 minutes later. They trundle up to the top of a valley, stop for a brew, then trundle back down. The runners, meanwhile, trundle to the top of the valley, don’t stop, and then scramble up a hill before trundling back down.
By the time we’d run out of town and left the road to climb across farm tracks and fields, the temperature had climbed to borderline uncomfortable, and as we rose steadily towards the turning point, lots of the runners around me began to complain about the heat. My approach was to hold my place when there was no breeze, and try to overtake people when the wind picked up, as it did from time to time. It served me well and I picked off a fair few runners before we crossed a field and climbed the side of the valley a bit before turning for home. The first few km of the return leg were the most technical bit of the race, but doing a bit of fell racing in recent weeks had been good prep for running a narrow path at an awkward camber, and I really enjoyed it, until I got the first signs of cramp, and because I’m cautious after a couple of recent incidents, I stopped to eat a banana next to a marshal who was telling everyone who passed that the bog wasn’t very muddy this year. She was right, and I was soon zipping along again until our lollipop-shaped route rejoined its outward leg, via a really steep little hill that I’d barely noticed running down earlier. By the time we got back to town, I had very little left for a sprint finish and I was relieved to get across the line and grab a bottle of water. Races like this are sneakily tough. No too-steep-to-run bits, no real bottlenecks and a good distance means you’re running pretty fast all the time, and I was proper beat.
I don’t know how many runners actually beat the train (36 beat its scheduled finish time of 1:47) but Sullivan Smith of Cambridge & Coleridge AC finished first in 1:29:27, and Elliw Haf, of Eryri Harriers, was first woman in 1:47:07.
Ian Stinson finished several minutes before me. Perhaps you should ask him what he ate.
This is a well organised fun and challenging event (including an after-party!), with multiple distances, loads of marshals, about half a dozen water stations, competitors from all over the place and a lovely little seaside town to hang out in. I’ll definitely have another crack at it.