In the early hours of New Year's Day 2016 I noticed on Facebook that friend, Robin Fox, had just entered the Snowdonia Marathon.  This was one I'd wanted to do for a few years but the event fills up fast.  As I wasn't out, I logged on and signed up - I'd finally attempt the challenging course!

At the outset it should be made clear that it is Snowdonia and not Snowdon!  The route does a loop around Wales highest mountain but doesn't go up it!! I cajoled running mate/training partner, Kris, into coming along for the trip to support (and run some of it with me), so we headed to north Wales on the Friday night to stay with aforementioned Robin in Shotton, near Flint. Robin fuelled us appropriately and we discussed the route, Robin having run it a few times before. And so to bed, for an early departure the next morning.
Eryri Snowdonia Marathon


Lucas, Ange, Kris and Robin just before the race starts

Snowdonia is the first marathon in the UK I've run on a Saturday. (I've done two abroad - Stockholm and Luxembourg). We arrived at Llanberis, where the race HQ was, in plenty of time - so much so we got in some extra breakfast once we'd registered. I even got to stand by the huge trophy the winner would receive later (it was as close as I would be getting).  We then met my sister, Ange and her husband, Paul, who had driven over to also support. They and Kris saw Robin and I off as we headed for the start on the south side of Llanberis.

Robin and I parted shortly after the start.  Over 2,000 runners crossed the start line and we took a couple of minutes to officially start.  The first two miles were relatively flat/downhill through the village of Nant Peris, before the first long climb began.  The road wound up, and up, and up - 3 miles of up, into the misty drizzle, and over the summit at Pen-y-Pass.  A welcome site as we went over the top and began a similarly length downhill section.  This took us off road for just over two miles onto a rocky track - not the easiest surface for a fast drop, but I took advantage and by the 8 mile point was just over the hour mark - a good time given the 3 mile climb.

With the Trophy pre race and Lucas, Kris & Robin get breakfast pre race

We rejoined the main road (A498) and followed a relatively flat route, through Bethania and along the side of Llyn Dinas.  After going through mile 11, Ange, Paul  and Kris appeared about half a mile later.  Kris was in his shorts and t-shirt and joined me for the next 8 miles.  By this stage the runners were spread out, although still close enough to have opportunity to pass each other.  I passed two older gentlemen who, I can only assume, had started earlier than the main event to enable them to finish by the 6 hour cut off. I assumed they were both two of the handful who have run it every year since it began. (or they had amazing pace for 8 miles then had a break!)

Kris and I ran and chatted through Beddgelert and the halfway point - a time of 1:45:39.  The second long climb then commenced, although not as steep as the first, but noticeable given the stage of the course. Kris alongside helped drag me up the two or so mile climb as the clouds lifted a little to reveal more of the amazing scenery. The course then levelled out with the odd undulation alongside Llyn Cwellyn.  By mile 18, I was getting concerned Ange and Paul hadn't passed us in the car (the route is open roads after mile 5.5) and where Kris would be picked up. We agreed he'd drop off at mile 19.  I headed on, and a few minutes later, they all passed in the car!  Kris said he'd barely stopped running and they appeared and nearly missed him!

Whilst I'd slowed I was still going under 9 minute miles and heading for a good time.  My target had been sub 4hrs 30 mins given the challenging course.  At mile 20 I potentially could do under 3:35!!  Ange, Paul and Kris appeared a few more times along the next 3 miles, before we started climbing again through the village of Waunfawr. Through mile 2 and I'd not stopped or walked at all!  However, we turned right and began the final ascent - and the hardest yet!  I managed to reach 22.5 miles before I finally conceded to a walk up the hill, which wasn't getting any easier. The irony here was my thighs burnt more as I walked than when running - with some sign of cramp lurking.  I kept moving - but then had a brief stretch, before continuing up the hill through a mix of jogs and walks. Mile 23 took 16 minutes!  Nearly twice as long as any other mile before!  

Much to my amazement some people seemed to be in fine form running up the long climb, while most of us were doing more walking than running, or running that had little extra speed!  The climb carried on through mile 24 - but not quite the highest point yet!  It was a false summit, and as the road turned into a dirt and rocky track, we headed up a little more to go through the final summit - where a crowd were also gathered.  With around 1.4 miles left I had 10 minutes to break the 4 hour mark and a long, steep drop ahead of me.  I usually hate steep drops, especially off road on a rocky drop.  However, I was determined to break 4 hours and headed down at a pace, ignoring the objections from my thighs and zigzagging around other runners.

Around the 20 mile point just after Kris had rejoined the support car

We rejoined surfaced roads with half a mile to go and it made the final section that bit easier as we dropped through mile 26 and levelled out again through the centre of Llanberis.  The final section was well lined and I sped for the finish line - and had just made 4 hours but had over a minute to spare with a time of 3:58:45.  I was absolutely chuffed to achieve such a great time over the toughest course I'd run to date.  Kris, Ange and Paul had cheered me over the line and I was greeted with a chocolate milkshake after receiving my flint medal. Interestingly I'd dropped from 408th at Pen-y-pass to 562nd by the finish line (out of 2065) - reflecting how my pace had still dropped off, although I hadn't felt I'd been passed by that many runners!  

I headed to the finish straight after a bit of recovery and having obtained some clothing to keep warm, but still in time to see Robin come through in 4:33:07.  A further 64 runners didn't finish - but given the route, that is not a bad drop out rate.  We gathered at the finish and hobbled to the HQ to get warmed up and check the results.  The winner had finished in 2:35:05!  An impressive achievement.   We celebrated finishing with dinner in a cafe before we headed off our separate ways.  Marathon 45 complete and the end of the year's challenges in support of Cystic Fibrosis Trust.

Above: Kris & Lucas at the finish

Left: Lucas with his medal

Right: Kris, Ange, Lucas, Robin & Paul post event

Right: Lucas with Clive after the race

Lucas (top) and Robin (below) going through approx 11.5 miles

Starting the final climb in Waunfawr

Lucas (left) and Robin (below) just before they cross the finish line