Race Date: Saturday 29th October 2022
Race Report by Caroline Brock
If you haven’t already I would recommend reading Stuart Jones’ report when he ran Snowdonia in 2019. I re-read it the week before the marathon and it was a great inspiration.
Thanks to Matt Gibson I had managed to secure a place in this year’s race. I think this is the last race place that’s rolled over from all the cancellations having not taken place in 2020 or 2021. The race is popular enough to have a ballot and I’d missed out so Matt transferred a place to me.
With the race being on a Saturday I travelled over to Wales on Friday afternoon with Gilly Bob, to give her official runner name. We picked up our numbers, very efficiently and not hanging around, and headed to our accommodation at Glen Gwna Holiday Park. We are now proficient in the pronunciation of this thanks to our taxi driver on Saturday night!
We spent much of the journey over and Friday night discussing all things race related; what to eat, when to eat, trainer choice, gel consumption, toilets etc. etc. It was a lovely relaxing evening and even though the bathroom door didn’t close we managed to avoid any toilet related embarrassments!
The race doesn’t start until 10:30 which gives for a very relaxing morning and lots of time to mull over the race ahead. The wind and rain seemed to be picking up. We checked the weather multiple times. Gilly was happy if it rained but didn’t want wind, I wanted the opposite! In the end the weather was much better than expected and we both mostly got what we wanted.
We arrived in Llanberis and found a lovely car parking spot only to go to pay and realise it was a short stay car park, we weren’t going to be running that quick! Luckily we found another free car park not far away which was also next to Llyn Padarn which made for an excellent post race cold water leg dip. I would fully recommend it! I’m not sure it helped my legs recover but I enjoyed it all the same.
The pre-race toilet queue wasn’t bad (except for the torrential downpour) and soon we were walking to the start line. It’s about a ten minute walk to the start which is a good leg loosener. We made our way near to the front saying hello to Matt and Phil on the way and spotted the previous women’s champion wearing the number 1 and noted that she had taped her laces, an interesting idea and one we wondered if we should have thought of. The start was 5 minutes late due to people still walking up but time passed quickly and soon we were off. I lost sight of Gilly (and ex-striders Hal and Helen from HRRC who we’d had a nice chat with on the walk to the start) and it suddenly felt quite busy!
I had decided to race to feel and not look at my watch, I seem to settle in well to hilly races and can judge the pace so thought I’d give it a go for the marathon. It definitely made the run less stressful compared to a usual flat marathon and if you ever aren’t running for a particular time I would fully recommend it. I had thought if I had a good run and everything went well I could probably get around 3:15, it turns out I was pretty accurate!
The race start is slightly downhill which was a surprise but soon we were climbing up and I noticed Hal up ahead. He was running with a nice pack and I was running alone but I resisted the urge to push on and catch him up. Not long after that the motorbike camera appeared and from this point on I spent most of the race with them for company. It is not something I’ve ever experienced before and I must be the most anti-social racer ever, just focussed on the road ahead. I did manage at times to look up and take in all the views, it really is a beautiful marathon.
A spectator had shouted to me that I was the second female but I didn’t believe them. The start had been so busy that I’d not taken in where any other women were and assumed there must be a good few up ahead. It turns out the spectator was right and I was wrong!
After climbing to the top of Pen y Pass we then had a nice gentle road descent which turned on to an off road track which was a lot of fun for the fell runner in me. A flatter road section then took us to Beddgelert. It was along this section that I took over the lead of the women’s race. I still had no idea I was in second and I had been so focussed on picking off runners ahead of me I’d not even realised I was passing a woman, let alone taking the lead! Before I realised I was already passing by but we exchanged a friendly word and at the next water station they cheered me through as the first female. I thought it would be quite something to win a marathon but there was still a long way to go so I wasn’t taking anything for granted.
Once you reach Beddgelert you are halfway but there is a tasty climb here and then some more undulating/relatively flat miles before you get to the final 2 mile climb at 22 miles. On this final climb my legs were feeling a little sore but I was catching and passing people. As we neared the top I thought I was barely moving and my glutes might explode, luckily for me they stayed intact to finish the race! An amusing part of the climb (and nice distraction from the pain) was everyone spotting the TV cameras up ahead and running for 50 metres to make sure they were running on camera before promptly walking again once they had passed. Most of the runners walk at some point on this climb so it’s no bad thing!
After running 24 miles on mostly road the last descent of the race is across fields and muddy paths. There is much talk of slipping over and jokes about adding spikes for this section/changing trainers. The wind had picked up by this point and every time I took a step and was in the air I was being blown sideways off line. I had managed to save a few near misses already before I ended up on my ass. All I could do was laugh at myself before getting up and carrying on, it made me relax for the final section of the race and I really was having fun!
As we entered the final few road turns I realised I might actually win and took time to enjoy it and soak it all up! The turn to the finish straight was brilliant, I smiled the whole way to the end and had the strongest finish ever in a marathon. Covered in mud and grinning from ear to ear; the biggest surprise of the year and a moment I will never forget!
I went back to cheer Gilly through the finish although she was so focussed she didn’t hear us cheering her. She ran a brilliant time in tough conditions and her time will definitely be beaten when she goes back again! Long standing Snowdonia marathon finishers Phil Dooley and Matt Gibson were also back to race again. It’s a good advert for a race when people just want to keep going back even though they know how hard it is. We also chatted with Chris Lawson at the end who is a Strider (running as Dark Peak in this race) whilst we gathered in the hall for a post race debrief with hot tea, squash and biscuits.
The support on route was brilliant, I really enjoyed myself and smiled a lot along the way. Some of the roads are open and as people passed in their cars they cheered from their windows or beeped a horn. This helped to break up some of the quieter sections. The marshalls dotted along the course were fabulous too along with all the locals who came out to cheer us on. The aid stations are fantastic and so enthusiastic! The water came in small cups with foil lids which I found much easier to drink than from a general cup and less waste than a water bottle. There was also a plentiful supply of mountain fuel gels and energy drink at most of the stations and at 24 miles a cup of tea if you want it.
The goodies from the race included a nice tech t-shirt (with ‘37’ on the back when it’s the 38th race, unique!), a slate coaster, a water bottle and a very important banana.
The ballot for next year’s race opens on 1st December!
1658 runners lined up for the Snowdonia Marathon. Winner of the men’s race was Daniel Kashi of Sale Harriers Manchester in a time of 02:39:52. Steel City Strider Caroline Brock won the women’s race in a time of 03:13:51.
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Full results can be found on the TDL Event Services website.