Billed as a bit of a toughie, this marathon certainly lives upto expectation. No fewer than 1685m of ascent (thats 5528 ft in old money) is shoehorned into this epic race. St. Boniface Down is only (only!) 241m as a bit of a comparison for you.
Voted the best marathon in the UK not once, but twice by Runners World magazine, this race was established in 1982 as a polar opposite alternative to the concrete carnivals the major cities were offering. If that was the objective, then it is mission accomplished. You couldn’t get any more different. Not a flat road or a high rise in sight, this course circumnavigates then finally ascends Snowdon, Wales’ largest peak. It’s not a peak let’s face it, it’s a full on mountain!
It was a bucket lister for our Ian Russell, who, along with his very own cheer squad, packed up the car and made the journey to deepest Wales to get this one ticked off.
Starting in Llanberis at the wonderfully named Electric Mountain, this beast of a course starts as it means to go on… with a hill! A rocky 3 mile trail of ascent was no obstacle for Ian though as he started brilliantly, keeping a good pace.
“The first climb was 1,500ft. I ran the whole lot. I thought I can’t start walking straight away! I felt good so I kept running and the views were unreal. I had the biggest grin on my face!“ he tells me
A steep descent followed toward the woodland area at Beddgelert where the course levels out for a bit of relief, or so he thought.
“It was hard going underfoot but I kept it steady. I didn’t want to push myself between 6 and 16 as I knew the challenge was the last 10 miles”
Onward he ran. Toward the next sharp but short incline of Pen Y Pass at mile 16. But that was nothing in comparison for what was waiting for rocket Russell at the Pyg Pass. 18 miles behind him by now and a colossal 3406 feet of ascent lay before him. Challenge enough had it been on a steep and stoney mountain trail. But no, no, no, no, this was rocks, boulders, massive monoliths of Jurassic lava to clamber over. There was no path, the boulders were the path!
“Going up Snowdon via the Pyg track was unbelievable. It was hard to the point I was climbing with my hands. It was cold at the top but the views were unbelievable. I will never forget them”
1085m above sea level, (that’s 3559ft) at the summit. But what goes up must come down and Ian embarked on the tricky and technical 5 mile descent.
“I felt good on the way down taking people with a smile on my face and just looking at the mountains”
Ian absolutely smashed it, arriving back in Llanberis to come over the line in 5.34.08, his wife and son there to cheer their hero in.