I shuffled nervously at the start line with my serious game face on. Snowdon – the largest mountain in Wales … and here I was stood at the foot of it about to run right up one side and down the other. Was I mad?
‘You are in this together …. everyone look out for each other and keep each other safe’ boomed the loudspeaker in one of the best safety briefings.
10, 9, 8 …. as the countdown started I realised that not only did I have my game face on … I also had my ugly face on too. I had scraped back all my hair into my head band in preparation for the race, totally forgetting that everyone was at the start with cameras and happy clappy faces! I needed to look gorgeous and glam for the camera … so I quickly whipped it off and around my neck! Tada! (I know – how vain – but if you see me at the end of the race you can afford me one nice pic!)
….. 2, 1, Go! We set off in an excited huddle, skipping joyfully along the first 200m and then we hit the first hill … and it was steep. Everyone, still in the huddle format, slowed to a walk. I eagerly and politely joined the few who surged past keen to conquer the mountain in a good time!
The first 2k of relentless uphill wouldn’t have been so bad had a bunch of kids not sprinted past us in the campsite field. They were all laughing excitedly and shouting encouragement for their friends and family when the lady next to me asked if her gritted teeth resembled a smile or if she had to make an extra effort.
We hit the 5k mark at around 48 minutes and by this time the path had deteriorated to no more than a sheep track strewn with boulders and shale making it quite difficult to run. I think by this point the group were ‘power walking’ and chatting happily to whoever passed. ‘Do you know this is the equivalent to 3 1/2 miles of squats’ said one lady! If that’s true my bum should look blooming marvellous.
Ahead was a downhill section where the path was made of large grey pebbles. I have no idea how anyone could run down this but almost everyone did! I winced as each person passed imagining sprained ankles.
Apparently this is the rangers track that climbs steeply to the top of Snowdon. A small tent was pitched next to the lake enjoying the surrounding solitude and I had to giggle. There was some poor guy, wishing to escape the hubbub of every day life and finding the most remote spot in Snowdonia … and low and behold … on the very weekend he has chosen for his blissful retreat – here we were … 2000 smelly panting trail runners each giving a ‘good morning wave’ as we passed!
Now in my head, I have a rather romantic faery tale image of ascending into the heavenly cotton wool clouds at the top of the mountain. But alas no … my dreams have been shattered! The clouds were more like a damp smog. The refreshing breeze had become a bone chilling wind and we couldn’t see more than two foot ahead. Even the hardcore runners stopped and put on their waterproof jackets before climbing the last few hundred metres to the top.
The elation at reaching the top was lost however, as we shuffled around trying to work out which way was up or down.
The downhill section of the trail run followed the main public path although it was still strewn with loose gravel and trip you up boulders. I gingerly made my way down again in awe at the runners who managed to sprint past me … until one of the girls did a magnificent faceplant in front of me. She wasn’t the only one to wipeout on the way down but trail runners are made of sterner stuff as they spat out the blood, dusted themselves down and carried on running!
I feel I need to add a word of caution here though – we saw a lot of day trippers struggling to climb the mountain who really didn’t seem fit enough or were not wearing the correct footwear. I don’t want to be a kill joy but it is important to have respect for the mountains. Anyway, someone must have got into difficulty as Mountain Rescue were called and the helicopter was sent out. What a brilliant job they do. Well done and thank you Llanberis Mountain Rescue for watching over us and keeping us all safe.
The gravel track turned into large boulders which acted like steps so I was able to ‘skip, hop and jump’ down them with more confidence although sadly not more speed!
We arrived back in Llanberis and I felt relief to hit the tarmac. I started to grin like a Cheshire Cat as i increased my pace for a steady jog to the finish. A brow beaten marshal tried to smile as I ran upto her expecting her to sign me towards the finish but instead she winced and pointed in the opposite direction! WHAT! WE’RE NOT FINISHED YET I shouted. And obviously having heard this 1999 times before she shrugged apologetically and said ‘sorry’. She certainly drew the short straw at this event. I think she was the only person to be verbally abused by almost every runner!
A small assembly had gathered at the bottom of the stairs to the slate mine preparing themselves for what lay ahead. I grabbed a quick gel, gritted my teeth and started to climb the steps. As I rounded a corner I groaned for ahead of me lay thousands of near vertical slate steps.
I paused giving my head and body a few minutes to fully assimilate the situation. In the background I could hear the loudspeaker at the event field announcing ‘the first women to finish the 2018 Scott Snowdonia half marathon in 2hr 16 minutes is Rhian Probert’. As the crowd went wild I grimaced and took another step!
Confident that this downhill was the final downhill and that the finish was now within sight my legs found some hidden energy. I beamed with delight as the crowds started to appear.
I’d done the last 5k alongside a couple of other runners and as we jogged towards the finish I continued my motivational chat telling them we had done it – we had run 20k over Snowden and that we were all bloody amazing. I started to stretch out my pace to a sprint finish running on adrenaline.
Sadly, I don’t think my motivational speech worked on the rest for when I looked behind there was no one else with me. So in actual fact I crossed the finish line talking to myself whilst waving my hands in the air and grinning like an idiot! Great look – but did I care? Did I heck! I had just completed my first ever trail half marathon and over Snowdon to boot. Beat that!
A big thank you to
Snowdonia National Park for allowing this event to happen
Always Aim High for the great organisation and including the names of each runner on the bibs
The general public for reading the names on the front of the bins and using it when calling out encouragement and support
Llanberis Mountain Rescue for watching over everyone
The marshals who were just brilliant
And of course to all the other runners who chatted and helped each other along the way.