Return to Trail Marathon Wales – June 2015

I still find it hard to believe that just over a year ago I was standing on the start line about to run my first marathon, up some mountains, in Wales. It was one of the most memorable moments in my life so it was with some excitement that we set off once more towards the mountains of Snowdonia slightly more than 2 weeks ago to run the full and half Trail Marathon Wales races once more.

The drive down from Lancashire through North Wales to the Crossed Foxes, Dolgellau on the Friday afternoon was wonderful, with the hills and mountains covered in wild flowers and the sun making a valiant attempt to break through the clouds. After booking in we headed to the visitor centre at Coed Y Brennin to pick up our race numbers and the first of three goody bags which included some snacks from 9bar, a great t-shirt and some Salomon socks. After a very quick chat with Matt Ward (the race organiser and owner of Run.Coed Y Brenin), who was understandably a bit busy, we watched the evenings ‘warm up’ race, the 9bar9 and chatted to a few people we’d met previously at the Anna Frost weekend.

9bar9 race start
9bar9 race start

Once the final racer came over the line, cheered all the way in by everyone present, it was time for the Trail Marathon Wales evening party which once again was well worth it and included; a brief chat by Matt about the facilities in the area and the thinking behind the events, a question and answer session by Mary-Grace Spalton (a previous female winner of Trail Marathon Wales) and Lucy Bartholomew (junior sky running world champion), a delicious bowl of pasta and the showing of a few trail running films for inspiration. A great start to the weekend which included goody bag no. 2 (more snacks and bits)

Arriving back at the guest house for a relatively early night it didn’t seem long until the alarm woke us for our running breakfast, in our case porridge, then it was don the running gear, grab the bags we’d packed the previous night and make our way once more to Coed Y Brenin giving ourselves plenty of time for any last minute adjustments.

Some of the event sponsors had stands set up with Torq supplying samples of their gels as well as their new snacks bars and Salomon selling off some things at very good prices, it’s a shame my feet don’t get on with their shoes.

The weather was a bit over cast, light rain occasionally falling but I elected to run without my coat although I did stash it in my pack, this turned out to be the right choice as later in the day the temperature rose and although it never got too hot, wearing anything other than a shirt would have been out of the question.

We met a couple of friends on the way to the start area from Red Rose Road Runners, a club local to us that Wendy recently joined. Shane and Sally were also doing the two races after deferring last year due to Shane injuring himself during the Brathay 10 in 10. Shane was doing the full marathon and Sally the half. With not much time to chat we went our separate ways for a while knowing we’d see each other later.

Matt briefs the racers
Matt briefs the racers

It was soon time for the race briefing, no last minute changes so it was down to the track below the visitor centre for a 9am start, Wendy would be starting her half marathon an hour later, at 10am. A quick chat of reassurance to a first timer (someone I’d met previously at the Anna Frost weekend) followed by a loud bank from Iori’s shotgun and a quick wave to Wendy on the balcony and we were off.

Half marathoners and spectators waiting for us to set off
Half marathoners and spectators waiting for us to set off

Once more it’s hard to recall the entire route in detail but specific bits stand out. The route, as last year, was fantastic and although there was a light mist / rain in the first half of the race which meant we couldn’t see the mountains in the distance it did mean that the midges were kept to a manageable level, at least until the later stages of the race.

During one of the gentler sections at around mile four I spotted Shane a short distance in front of me, I was going a little faster so five minutes or so later I caught him and we ran together for a while, chatting about how we met almost three years ago at my first parkrun, Shane telling us it was addictive while Wendy and I laughed at him as if he was mad. Seems he was right. After a while I think he could sense I was getting twitchy so he sent me ahead.

The marshals whether at check points or just giving directions were all brilliant, always giving encouragement and all of them seemed genuinely pleased to be there, a true testament to the fantastic atmosphere Matt and the team have created with this race.

Unlike last year I didn’t get cramp which was great, I did feel a bit of a warning at some points in the race but after easing of the pace a little or having a proper drink these signs soon passed and I was able to maintain a fairly healthy pace throughout most of the run. Whether this was due to taking the Salt Caps every hour, better hydration, fitness or slightly cooler conditions I can’t say but whatever it was the combination worked.

Walking… What can I say? After attending the Anna Frost weekend a month ago and being shown the ‘correct’ way to power walk up those hills that are just a bit much for running, I walked up some of the hills I attempted to run last year and it worked. I was fresher when I got to the tops and was able to start running and at a faster pace a lot sooner. Obvious, but it took someone of Anna’s and Mary Grace’s calibre to ‘give permission’ before I allowed myself to walk, stupid really.

My food and fuel choice was good but about two thirds of the way into the race I could have really done with something that wasn’t quiet so sweet. My eating plan was to have one Torq bar and one Torq gel over an hour, split into three 20 min sections of half a bar, a gel, the other half a bar. After a while the bars were just too sweet so I missed them out for an hour and substituted a gel as I had extra and they were faster to consume. This worked but is obviously not ideal and needs looking for the future.

Running… I don’t think I’ll ever be able to fully express just how amazing it is to be able to run in such a beautiful area. The forest, although managed, seems ageless in places with the trees towering above. In other places you follow the track out from under the canopy only to find yourself on a path leading over the high moorlands, twisting and turning back on itself until it once more dives into the forest.

The downhills though are the best, I specifically remember the last couple of miles, running as freely as I had done all day with a young lady who I later found out was called Rebecca. Bizarrely it felt effortless at that point, as if we knew we’d done it and all we had to do now was arrive, it no doubt helped we could hear the finish. During this section I had my first ‘zen-like’ moment as I came to realise that this was what I wanted to do… run trails, in the mountains and countryside, for as long as I was able. I’d heard and read about others gaining insights or finding ‘the zone’ but this was my first, I can’t really describe it except to say it just felt right.

It was with this thought buzzing thought my head that I realised the final climb to the finish was in sight, unlike last year I had the strength to give it a bit more through the line. Startling Wendy and Sally, I don’t think they expected me quiet so soon, I came through the finish stronger than ever and was handed the coveted Trail Marathon Wales coaster, some much needed water, fruit and a few snacks.

We did it!
We did it!

It felt amazing, and although I was tired I wasn’t destroyed and I knew that I was ready to tackle the next couple of months training and my first Ultra at the end of August. Needless to say once over the finish line I ate almost everything in sight, we’d brought some snacks with us as well as drinks and it was great to sit near the finish line watching people’s reaction as their own races came to an end.

Shane came in as I was eating, he’d had some pain in his back which slowed him down a little while he walked it off but I think he still enjoyed it, he certainly had nothing but praise for the course and organisation.

tmw 2015 times

Our times? Wendy did the half 11 minutes faster than last year, coming in at 3:03, pleased with the time but annoyed at the 03, something to aim at next year. I took 25 minutes of last years time coming in at 4:42, I was (and still am) very pleased with my time but as we always say, I’m sure I can be faster…

Post race refuelling...
Post race refuelling…

After saying a few goodbyes we made our way back to the Crossed Foxes for showers followed by a late lunch then not much later dinner consisting of a well earned pint and the most anticipated burger of the year, both were excellent. Packing our gear that evening we both slept through until the alarm woke us for a fabulous breakfast after which we made our way back to Coed Y Brenin where I joined a few other mad men and women for a ‘shakedown’ run with Matt, Wendy did the more sensible option and went for a walk along the River Mawdach.

Shakedown run, great place for a rest
Shakedown run, great place for a rest
Final run of the weekend
Final run of the weekend

The run was excellent and loosened up my legs as we ran about five miles along some of yesterday’s route, thankfully avoiding some of the more brutal climbs while being fast enough to get a bit of a sweat on without it being too exhausting.

Cake, reward for a weekends endeavours
Cake, reward for a weekends endeavours

After lunch and the obligatory cake from the excellent café made our way home travelling back north through Snowdonia, the sun shining as we arrived back in Lancashire already planning our return visit for next year.

Beautiful wooden finisher coasters
Beautiful wooden finisher coasters


Trail Marathon Wales 2015 – Final Training Plan
Amended 5th July

W/end Miles (km) Activity Route
Mar 8 12 (19.2) Local loop to Hesketh Outmarsh x 2
Mar 15 6 progression 3m local loop x 2 plus .5m cool down
Mar 21 14 (22.4) 14 done, the Rivvy half marathon route plus extra up to the pigeon tower White Coppice to Rivington
Mar 28 Rest or bike Rest, naff weather
Apr 4 16 (25.6) 16 done, Rivington Pike, Winter Hill and Great Hill 3 Hills
Apr 11 8 (12.8) progression 10 done, 1m warm up, 2 x 4m loop round Anglezarke, 1m cooldown Round Anglezarke Resi
Apr 18 18 (28.8)  18¾ done, Out and Back along the Canal, Sollom to Parbold Canal Out and Back
Apr 25 Rest or bike  Short ride round Knutsford and Tatton Park
May 2 20 (32)  20 done. To Llanddwyn Island and Newborough Forest  To Newborough
May 9 10 (16) progression  5m local loop x 2
May 16 22 (35.2) 21¼ done.  Most of Rivington Trail Marathon  Winter Hill
May 23 Rest or bike  12m local Ride
May 30 24 (38.4)  22½ done. Even more of the Rivington Marathon Route  Most Rivi Marathon
Jun 6 12 (19.2)  15 done. Rivington Half plus a hill  Half plus hill
Jun 13 8 (12.8)  141 duathlon and 6 mile trail run
Jun 20 Race  26.2 done, race completed  TMW2015


  1. Shane said:

    It dose not seem 3 years since I got the privilege of meeting you both, you have both embraced running and come so far I wish you a grate time and enjoyment on your ultra
    Wales Trail I may not have run my best but when you end up taking longer than expected you actually get to see so much more of such a beautiful place and see how well organized it is.
    2 things…
    Even if I had run my best think I would of still held you back .. (Well done on a fantastic time)
    Complaint they need to do something with the midges ( I still got bit marks)

    July 5, 2015
    • Stu said:

      Thanks Shane, not sure I could keep up with you at your best but thanks all the same.
      Glad you enjoyed the area, it is one of our favourite places to run.
      Midges, yep, I’d forgotten about them, if you can believe it they were worse last year…

      July 5, 2015

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