The Anna Frost Big Trail Weekend at Coed y Brenin

When we received the email about a weekend trail running event hosted by Run. Coed y Brenin and featuring ultra runner Anna ‘Frosty’ Frost we quickly put our names down for tickets to the three events and arranged camping for the weekend. As it turned out it was brilliant…

Arrival at Cae Gwyn Farm Campsite

As it was the end of May we thought we’d dig out the tent as the weather should be OK for camping. We arrived just after lunch on the Friday to find the campsite at Cae Cwyn Farm as good as the reviews suggested, with amazing views of the Rhinog Mountains and all the facilities you could ask for, it even had wi-fi.

Not a bad view from the tent, Cae Gwyn campsite
Not a bad view from the tent, Cae Gwyn campsite

Once we’d got settled in we had a quick explore where we tried to follow the footpath South along the River Eden, we managed to get partway but the recent rains had saturated the ground, flooding the areas adjacent to the river so we headed back up to the main road where we continued south to Coed y Brenin where we followed one of the many tracks back through the forest back to the campsite.


The weather was a bit touch and go with the odd quick shower which didn’t really bother us but the wind was colder than the time of year would suggest making the Friday evening a rather chilly affair.

A day with Anna Frost

This was to be the ‘main event’ of the weekend, hosted by Run. Coed y Brenin and Anna Frost so after a quick breakfast we arrived at the Coed y Brenin visitor centre, early as per usual, where we had a quick coffee then joined about twenty or so other runners in the main conference room. Matt introduced Anna, who in a very down to earth way took us through the story of how she started and ended up being one of the top ultra runners worldwide, sponsored by Salomon. Taking a break from the talk we headed out for a run.

During the run Anna and Matt continually chatted to us, giving advice on technique or just running in general as well as a few more specialised techniques which we tried out on some hills and a scree slope.

Down and uphill techniques with Frosty
Down and uphill techniques with Frosty

Also present for the whole day and generally helping out was Mary Grace Spalton another ultra running star and previous ladies winner of the “Trail Marathon Wales”  who was eager to chat, help or lend encouragement where needed.

Returning from the run Anna led a yoga and stretching session which was followed by lunch after which the talk continued. As well as chatting about running Anna also went through the basics of nutrition and what works for her plus a bit of information on how monthly cycles affect a woman’s performance, something I don’t think many people even consider. Anna was also there to promote the first Sisu Girls and their first book, “Fearless Frosty” of which she is an ambassador where the aim is to encourage and inspire girls to step into themselves through sport and adventure.

I must admit I was prepared to be a little awestruck meeting someone who I knew was at the top of their sport but Anna was very easy going and approachable, a brilliant ambassador for long distance running.

The afternoon passed quickly in such great company but there was no time for hanging around, a quick drive back to the campsite for showers and a change of clothes and it was back to Coed y Brenin for the second part of the weekend…

Trails in Motion

Back to Coed y Brenin we arrived in plenty of time for the 2015 edition of “Trails in Motion” which was to be a few shorts films followed by a break then the main 1 hour special.

The short films were all very good, ranging from a film shot by the African Attachment for Salomon about Bernd Heinrich titled “Why We Run”  looking back at his incredible life, his achievements, the lessons he has learned, and what we can possibly learn from him to a short films that were either very visual and/or informative but all conveying the emotion attached to trail running and the passion of those involved no matter where they are or what they do.

Anna Frost was once again there and over a pizza and beer dinner (fuel for later in the weekend, honest) answered a few questions about trail running in general plus went into how some of these films were produced from a behind the scenes point of view. Amazing that so much time and so many ‘takes’ can go into something as simple as a shot of a runner going through some long grass.

Settling down once more we were treated to the hour long (almost) feature “Finding Traction”, the story of Nikki Kimball’s quest to become the fastest person in history to run America’s oldest hiking trail, the 273-mile Long Trail. The film was engrossing as we saw Nikki’s emotions laid bare on the screen in front of us, the up’s, the down’s, the highs and the lows. This film alone made the event worthwhile, the effort of the Nikki and her team was incredible. After a quick chat we made our way back to the campsite where, as is normal when camping, it had started to rain so after an hour or so it was an early night ready for the morning.

Anna Frost 10k race

After a breakfast of porridge and packing a very wet tent away we arrived once again at Coed y Brenin for the race registration and a warming mug of coffee in plenty of time.

The Anna Frost 10k, fabulous 'goodie' bag
The Anna Frost 10k, fabulous ‘goodie’ bag

The atmosphere was relaxed but there was a definite feeling that this was a race, there were some very fast looking people in the crowd even through the field was quiet small. Not wanting us to stand around too long in the unseasonably cold weather Matt gave us the race briefing which was very thorough and with a few encouraging words from Anna it was go and the race was on.

Anna wrapped up against the chilly Welsh weather while Matt gives the race briefing.
Anna wrapped up against the chilly Welsh weather while Matt gives the race briefing.

The 10k circuit started with a fairly brutal climb, as do most of the trails at Coed y Brenin and meandered through the woods, following or crossing over some of the way-marked trails. Remembering a few lessons from the day before, I walked a few of the steeper sections and did short quick steps on the downs. The down were definitely the best bit, especially since the race went down the same trail we practiced on the previous day.

All too soon I was out of downs and the long gradual climb to the finish was upon me followed by the sharp climb to the line and a fantastic welcome by the early finishers, marshals, Anna and Matt. After a quick rest, a chat and a banana I made my way back down the trail to intercept Wendy and run with her to the finish which somehow she managed (as always) to sprint.

Typically the sun came out as we made our way back to the car to grab a change of clothing before the final positions were announced and prizes given, everyone agreeing that the race had been a success and the course perfect.  After a relaxed lunch in the café we said a few goodbyes and made our way back home.

The event was fantastic, everyone involved made us feel very welcome. It was a truly inspirational weekend.


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