Ten months later, skimming the race notes the night before the race, I realised I was wrong on all three counts.
I got to Llanberis in plenty of time before the race, parked up and immediately saw Gill, Adam and Jason who’d all made their way from Liverpool too which was cool, and we had a good catch up on our way down to register. That’s when the scale of the race dawned on me, there were over 2,000 people running the race! It was the 32nd year of the race though, so everything was really slick, no queues and all really well organised, so just dropped my bag off, stretched a bit, and made the mile or so walk from the town down to the start. I saw loads of familiar faces, including Matt Tonks and Phil Ecclestone who finished eighth in the end.
The weather was threatening to turn a bit grim at the start, but it was still pretty warm for October. I had my OMM wind shell thing on but made a last minute decision to take it off which was definitely the right call. I’d somehow found myself quite near the front and wasn’t planning on hammering it, so I let a lot of people go past and just settled into a nice easy pace.
The scenery was amazing, and as it was almost entirely road you could actually look up at it without worrying about tripping on a rock. The first of the three hills was over really quickly, and then there was a nice long descent, partly on trail where I had a good chat with a guy from the RDB.
Then there was a long straight bit which felt pretty tough, but I had a gel and kept on plugging away. I was getting some pain in my left ankle and calf which was a bit of a worry early on, but I think the easy pace was messing up with my gait quite a bit. Soon enough we were onto the second, and shallowest of the ascents and things picked up again.
Into the second half of the race I was starting to catch all the people that had started too fast, just by running steady even kms. Not that I was there to beat anyone, but psychologically it’s always easier passing people than being passed. After the second climb it was another long flat drag, just waiting for the climb at 21 miles that everyone had been talking about earlier.
It started nicely enough, a steep-ish climb up a fairly wide road, then we turned right into a smaller lane, which wound all the way up the hill. I was feeling great at this point having run so easy for the first half of the race, so I hoofed it a bit, knowing I was stronger going up than coming down too. I caught Malcolm Collins about halfway up the hill which didn’t mean anything as I knew he’d be bombing past me with his fell running skills as soon as we started the descent (and he did!), and felt strong almost to the top. I really needed the water stop which was, weirdly, about 200m from the top. Having had some issues with the little foil covered water pots already I marched the last bit of the hill and readied myself for the last section.
Which was crazy.
Having just run 24 miles or so, the descent into Llanberis was bonkers. Really steep, a bit technical in places, especially in road shoes, and a little bit slippery from the odd shower we’d had through the day. I’m not great running downhill anyway, so my quads took an awful pounding as I tried to stay upright.
All of a sudden I was back on tarmac and able to stop desperately scanning the ground two feet in front of me, and realised I was back in the town. A quick right turn and it was into the finish funnel for a sprint(ish) finish and a nice slate coaster.
Overall it was a great day. I finished in 3:37 which was quick enough to be fun and slow enough to finish feeling strong and not needing any major recovery time. Which was just as well with two marathons the following weekend I was also quietly made up to have hit my 50th marathon/ultra. It feels like a very long time since I dragged my sorry arse around the London Ultra in 2011!