“Those who say it can’t be done should get out of the way of those who are doing it”
I think I need to start this post by saying that I’m sad this race is over. Now and again something comes along in life that changes you and this race was one of those moments… I’ve fallen in love with running over mountains and want to do it all over again.
It was a tough race, you can’t run up and down a mountain twice and not feel it in your legs but this was in some ways more than a race. I’ve never known any event as well organised and friendly as this one.
When we arrived for registration on Friday night I did feel intimidated by how fit everyone around me was, but everyone was also very friendly and before you know it you start chatting to the person next to you and the nerves start to lessen… only in this case they didn’t !
For me one of the hardest decisions was what to wear. This may seem like a frivolous thing to say but knowing you are going to be on a mountain for several hours in very changeable weather all of a sudden it starts to become a lot more important. One thing that struck me at registration was how much colder it was there than it was 5 miles down the road at the campsite; all of a sudden you start to appreciate the “variable” conditions up on the mountain.
After chatting to a few other people I had my plan (and I was really glad I’d packed more running gear than I thought I would need !) and opted for the following :
Legs – 3/4 length running capris – the thicker of the pairs that I have
Top – Running bra (obviously) with an Inov-8 Merino wool base layer and my mudstacle t-shirt on top. This was topped off with my Haglofs Gram Q waterproof jacket (a “proper” waterproof jacket was a compulsory item)
Feet – Hilly twin skin socks and Inov-8 Roclite 280 trainers
Head – Inov-8 running cap and buff (the buff was used to stop the cap flying off in the wind and it also kept my ears warm !)
It was cold, wet and windy at the start but the weather forecast was for it to clear as the day went on; when we started we couldn’t see the top of the first hill let alone the summit of Pen Y Fan !
After a safety briefing from Ken Jones we were off… in some ways it was a strange start to a race because all but one or two of the front runners started at a walk and when you started you soon understood why ! The surface underfoot was nothing like I have ever run on before. If you can imagine slabs of stone stood on their sides it was just like running over the surface of that, they were all uneven sizes and heights and wet…. I will say that running uphill at some points was easier than the downhills 🙂
The first time we reached the summit of Pen Y Fan there really wasn’t a view, we had taken our waterproofs off to prevent overheating because we had been sheltered by the wind. They were back on before we descended Jacobs Ladder because we knew we would be slower than we had been and it was far more exposed. For me I think this was one of the scariest moments….. We couldn’t see anyone in front of us and until we leaned over the first rocks it really did look like we had come up to a sheer drop….. This was a scramble down the first part after that you reach the “steps” and I found going down sideways to be the easiest way…
As we went towards the Roman Road that weather improved again so it was a “jackets off” moment. We had a lovely, uneven, rocky, muddy, slippery stretch before the path became a bit more “runnable” to the half way point…. At the half way point we ate our flapjacks and turned round to face the long ascent back to the top of Pen Y Fan and the uphill version of Jacobs Ladder.
To see the Red Phone Box at the finish was quite an emotional moment and as I said at the start I felt sad it was all over. There is something truly majestic about a mountain and to be running over it and reaching places that you just can’t get to any other way really does need to be experienced by everyone at least once in their lives.
So, a big, heartfelt thank you to Ken Jones and all the Directing Staff. I think I may have left a bit of my heart somewhere on a Welsh Mountain.
At the top of Pen Y Fan (the first time !)
On our way back up Jacobs Ladder
My finishers patch and certificate….