In 2015 we both ran our second marathon; it happened to be the extremely beautiful yet very challenging Trail Marathon Wales sponsored by Salomon. We chose this race because we had heard so much about how beautiful the course was. We hadn’t visited Snowdonia before, and we hadn’t run a Marathon in the UK before. It just made sense 🙂 Of course we were not disappointed, and so as soon as tickets for the 2016 Trail Marathon Wales went on sale, we quickly bought a couple!
We made it to Snowdonia on Friday, the evening before the race which gave us plenty of time to enjoy the delights of the Run Coed Y Brenin Welcome Party.
At 6.45pm the pasta was served and then at 7:30 the Q & A session began with Matt Ward, Max Nicholls, MG Spalton, a team from Salomon (who were experts in footwear and race packs) and a very knowledgeable Sport Scientist. I really enjoy the Welcome Party as it gives you that pre race wind down time where you can settle in, relax and at the same time get briefed on the race course. It’s also really great to have the option to eat after travelling so far to be in Snowdonia for the race. Its always nice to be surrounded by like minded people (runners) and the questions they ask tend to be quite thought provoking. Which is always good when you’re trying to improve your own training and racing process.
I found it very interesting that the whole event is supplied by local businesses as to support the local economy. This included chip timing services, photography, finisher t-shirts, finisher coasters and even the paper bags to put the goodies in! This is very important for sustainability in my opinion.
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Profile / Route / Terrain / CP Nutrition
I’m still not sure what makes this race especially hard in comparison to some other trail marathons; but its probably one of two things.
- The race starts with a large hill and continues with undulating large hills. As a top 30% finisher, whenever a race starts with a hill, I personally always get sucked into running it in an attempt to keep up with the pack of runners that I intend to race with until the end. Something for me to learn not to do; its ALWAYS best to run your own race. Oddly Im better at doing this when a race starts with a downhill or flat.
- There is a lot of “ankle rolling terrain”. Especially that long rocky flat section as you begin the second half of your race. Maybe this makes your feet and ankles feel extra tired.
None of this is a bad thing, it just makes the race more of a challenge in my eyes. Its probably why I returned for a second crack at it 🙂
The course terrain consists of forest road, soft forest trail, rock, mud, bogs, technical single track descents, and plenty of climbs 🙂
Check Point Nutrition
There were plenty of checkpoints on the route. All well stocked and managed by very friendly people! The bananas were once again my top choice for slow release energy. They kept me going strong! There were also Jelly beans & babies, isotonics and water. I had some issues with cramping as I was pushing quite hard in this race, thankfully the isotonic drink and my salt tablets sorted me out eventually.
The race start area is perfect for racers and spectators. There are beautiful views of the Coed Y Brenin forests with the comforts of a lovely cafe. The Cafe has a nice outdoor balcony area which is lovely for sitting out on whilst enjoying the peaceful views and drinking a coffee.
Run Coed Y Brenin visitors centre also has a brilliant running shop on the ground floor which I always love to look around. It’s the only place I’ve found that has such a wide range of Salomon trail running gear, including the higher end S-Lab range that I love so much 🙂 The other great thing is that there is a range of trail shoes for you to test out before you buy. Where else does that!!?? Brilliant!
The Race from my perspective.
I came back to race Trail Marathon Wales to experience running through these amazing forests again and my main goal was to beat last years time whilst running a more well rounded and experienced race strategy.
Once again I chose my On-Running ‘Cloudracers’ for this race as I have had a lot of comfortable runs in them recently. Again my feet felt really good after the marathon but in hindsight my Salomon S-Lab Sonic shoes may have been better for this race. The reasons for me suggesting road shoes for this race is that there are quite a lot of hard packed sections including forest roads. That isn’t to say there wasn’t a lot of soft trail too. But if you’re a runner who enjoys extra cushioning over longer runs then don’t be afraid to go with a well gripped running shoe that drains well. you may find you run faster and more comfortably during a race like this. The one downside to wearing a road shoe on this course is that that there are a lot of trail sections which seem perfect for rolling your ankles, unless you’re paying extra attention to the terrain. Having that extra ankle support from a trail shoe would definitely be beneficial!
The start flows through the race village past the Run Coed Y Brenin visitors centre. Its a perfect location for all the spectators to cheer runners through and wish them luck as they pass.
I also have to mention that the spectator turnout was very impressive. I felt very lucky and honoured to have so many friendly faces clapping me through the start.
Straight away after leaving all the cheers you reach a steady 120m climb through the woods filled with switch backs which keep the gradient manageable. The race has begun!
It’s amazing how you end up running with a group of about 10 people through out a race like this. I suppose it makes sense really if you’re all of a similar ability level. There were some people who were faster than me on the up hills and then I would be passing them on the downs and flats, and I would be quicker than others up other hills yet they may pass me at an aid station. But in the end we all averaged a similar overall time.
I really love all the tactical aspects that you need to consider when running a trail race that will last you nearly 5 hours. Suddenly the race becomes not only about the speed of your running but how well you can eat and keep that food down whilst running, pacing yourself appropriately, how good you are on technical terrain, climbing up hills, racing down hills, and then the huge matter of mental capacity when things get really hard.
There was one section which I didn’t like too much, this was the “ankle roll corridor” (Thats my name for it) which starts after the half way point. It lasts about 1km but you have to go back through it to finish the race too, ugh!! It comes just after you pass through the race village and really have to switch on your mental engine to push you through another 21km of challenging trails. Still, what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger 🙂
I won’t go into too much detail on the mid section of the race as I think you should run it and discover the amazing trails for yourself when you sign up for Trail Marathon Wales 2017. Which you WILL, won’t you!!? 🙂
- 2017 Salomon Trail Marathon Wales race date 17.06.2017
- Entries live 01.09.2016
The race finish leads you through a small wooded area that’s well designed for enjoyable walks. I know this because it usually has a few people in there with their dogs cheering you on, letting you know that “You’re nearly there!”. It’s important to note that there is a bit of a hill right after this section which takes you to the finish line, its not far or that steep really, but you notice it after running 42 hilly kilometres. And if you want a finish line photo that doesn’t look like you’re about to be sick in, then maybe don’t push too hard before getting to the hill 😀
In the end I finished the course in a time of 4hr 41min and ended up in 107th position out of around 321 runners. I set out to beat last years time and I did by over 10mins, and I also managed to hold my position from the half way point which suggests a strong finish. So I’m very happy with that result. I know I could run this race faster if I play the tactical game better, so I may just have to come back again next year to try 🙂
The race finishers get a wooden drinks coaster, with “Trail Marathon Wales” branded into it, which I think is really cool and much more useful than another medal. And to know it was made locally makes it even better. You also get a bottle of water from another of the local race sponsors; “Brecon Carreg“.
You’re given the race t-shirt when you register and not when you finish which is good, as you may not be able to finish the race due to injury or accident. [seen in in the photo below, women get a blue female fitting version, Helen was very happy about that!]
Congratulations to everyone who ran the Marathon and Half Marathon, Coed Y Brenin is such a beautiful part of Snowdonia and we were all so lucky to have been able to run through it, just FOR FUN! 🙂
I came back to race Trail Marathon Wales to experience running through these amazing forests again…
- Position – (Half-way Position = 108 / Finish Position = 107) – Compared to (Half-way Position = 159 / Finish Position = 182) in 2015 – Suggesting a much stronger finish; and it was! 🙂
- Distance – 42.5km
- Elevation Gain – 1214m
- Time – 4:41:29 (4:34:55 Moving time) – Compared to 4:52:15 from 2015
- Average Pace – 6:37 min/km
I thought I would try something a little more creative with my trail bag picture this time 🙂
If you want to know more about any of the kit I used for this race then please let me know in the comment section below, I’m always very happy to answer any questions.
- Salts – Saltstick caps – If you suffer from leg cramping due to sweating, I highly recommend these capsules!
- Clif Shot Bloks – my new favourite and non sticky race nutrition.
- Clif Bars – A bit dry so you will need to wash them down with some water.
I have dropped electrolyte drinks from my nutrition since using Salt capsules which allow me to regulate water intake separately from electrolytes. So far so good!