October’s highlight came at the end of the month with my first significant race since UTMB, the Snowdonia Marathon. The Snowdonia Marathon is now in its 29th year and for many is an annual favourite given its beautiful course, great value and impressive organisation. It was founded by the National Trust who are the major landowner in the area, and they continue to play a big part in its organisation, albeit they are no longer solely in charge. The course is around 90% road and 10% gravel track, following a big loop around Snowdon, the highest mountain in England and Wales, and is always a sell out with around 2,000 runners taking part. As has been the case for the last three or four events, the weather for this year’s race was pretty grim; strong winds and heavy rain, not all that unusual for this part of the world. The conditions, coupled with the challenging course (1,150m ascent/ descent- in a road marathon!), made for a great workout, which was exactly what I had hoped for in preparation for The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 miler at the beginning of December.
After only ‘freshening up’ for a day or two before the race, I suspected it was going to be a painful affair, but actually I ran a really strong, comfortable and controlled race. The only time I didn’t feel comfortable was in the first few miles during the climb up Llanberis Pass. That was probably just lingering fatigue from recent training - and no taper. Not all that surprising really. Beyond that point I got going nicely and I felt I could adjust the pace as necessary to overtake people and run a respectable race. I finished in the solid, if unspectacular, position of 7th in a time 2hrs 45mins - only a couple of minutes outside my rather lame and longstanding marathon PB of 2h 43min set on a flat course at Lochaber in 2007. To give myself a little more credibility a 2h45min performance would have won the race on several occasions previously, but this year’s field was pretty stacked with top class marathon and shorter distance runners, and so it didn’t prove to be a great hunting ground for a distance hungry ultra runner like myself. I felt going into the race I was probably in around 2h35min shape for the marathon and my Snowdonia Marathon result seemed to confirm that – British marathon runners will tell you the ‘Snowdonia factor’ is fairly significant. It was also a good sign for me that I ran through to the finish at a consistent and strong pace and, had the weather not been so nasty, could quite happily have run a second loop at a pace not much slower than the first. I guess that’s the ultra runner in me….
So it was a good one for confidence and training, and a great stepping stone towards the Endurance Challenge next month.
Prior to Snowdonia I put in a decent 4 week block of training – basically the month of October – which followed a month off running in September. The rest from running and conditioning work I did during that period certainly freshened my legs and mind up, putting me in a great place for some quality training thereafter. It provided a great platform for a fresh start and I’ve been a lot more disciplined about the sessions I’ve been doing, definitely benefitting from the focus and speedwork. I’ve run a 5km time trial and a 12km trail race, again using the ‘races’ as sessions to try and push on my ultra race pace.
Now well into November, there isn’t a huge amount of time before it will be time to taper for the Endurance Challenge. A couple more solid weeks of training, including some longer runs along the coast path, should conclude preparations nicely.
Hey, the new Jez has turned an even bigger corner – I’ve just joined a running club for the first time in my career. I am now a fully fledged member of Bournemouth AC who have on their books some of the best road runners in the area – particularly their marathon group , with whom I’m looking forward to training on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Watch this space…..
See here for the Snowdonia Marathon race report on Mud Sweat & Tears.