Race Report “A report of a record breaking run, seen from the back” By Rob Mackey
Moel-y-Gamelin Sunday28th June 2015
This race is one of the best, and toughest, in north-east Wales. It may not include any 3,000 foot mountains, or the “glamour” of the National Park. But the route takes you through the fantastic scenery of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and includes nearly 3000 feet of climbing in its 10 mile route. And unlike many fell races it keeps the steepest climb until the latter stages of the race.
I paid my £5 entry fee (bargain!) at race HQ, the Ponderosa Cafe on the Horseshoe Pass, and got ready for the start. The Ponderosa was a busy place on that Sunday morning with a big motor bike event, a cycling sportive going through and this fell race all at the same time. The fell race starts on the grassy track opposite the café about 100 yards from the road, The route immediately heads uphill, not particularly steep but a long steady climb up to Moel-y-Gamelin itself. By this stage it was clear to me that if someone was going to break the course record it wasn’t going to be me. I was pleased to note that the sweeper was behind me. After going over the first two peaks there is a fierce downhill section on loose gravel to cross a gravel road at about 2 miles with 28 minutes on the watch. The route then starts climbing again going over another three peaks in the next mile or so. At this point the rain set in. not torrential, just that very wet rain that comes down on mountains in Wales, and as the wind was directly in my face I did consider taking up watching CBeebies as a better way to spend Sunday mornings.
When the visibility improved I could see a couple of runners in front of me, and the sweeper was still plodding along behind me. At the summit of the last peak by the trig point the wind hit me full on and nearly stopped me in my tracks. But in front is a fantastic sight. From here the views are good and the running even better. Veering off the gravel track the route takes a straight line along an undulating path through the heather, crosses a road and follows a fence for a mile or so on an excellent grassy track. Four and bit miles done with 65 minutes on the clock the path turns right and after about five more minutes curves north-east and you are heading back along the edge of the open moorland. And while I am enjoying the good running on relatively flat grassy paths Jon is being clapped in to take first place and the course record. A couple more minutes and Rob and Jez are back, collecting their prizes and heading for the café! I can see at least one runner quite a distance in front of me, and the sweeper is still there behind me. At the drinks station as we cross back over the road I am within 20 yards of the runner in front. A voice inside me says I might not be last if it goes on like this. I grab a drink and get back to the business of the day. More good running, a bit more hilly until a sweep round to the right and head up a small valley, turn left, cross a stream, pick your way along a narrow and bumpy path until you meet the gravel road heading back up towards the checkpoint. Apparently the runner in front had benefitted from an intake of fluids and was nowhere to be seen. But I still had the sweeper for company even though he had stopped to chat at the drinks station.
And now for the fun bit. Up the gravel track and with 1.47 on the watch and only a couple of miles to go it is a sharp left turn off the gravel road. You remember I mentioned the very steep gravelly descent in the first couple of miles? It was down on the way out so now is very steep gravelly ascent! I can see the runner in front part way up the climb, but it is deceptive. She is a long way ahead now but I still have the sweeper behind me. It’s only a hill and eventually even I get to the top, a tired run down a slope, a brief climb up to the last peak and it’s all downhill to the finish. It’s a welcome sight and with 2.21.37 on the watch and two bottles of wine in my hand I head for the car park which is now nearly deserted now. The new course record holder was probably at home in bath by now! Hazel is still there to give me the news of Jez (3rd), and Simon E (4th) and Simon R not far behind. Hazel had won her age group! Phil was forced to retire after a couple of miles before he aggravated his calf injury (common sense would dictate that retiring half a mile earlier would have been sensible, Phil; before the steep gravelly bit, not after it)
By the time I get home the traffic on Facebook about the race is in full swing! Much praise and thanks to Charles and the team from Wrexham Athletic for putting on a fantastic race. And after some discussion about if the course record has been broken it was realised that Jon’s time of 1.10.50 beat the previous record by 9 seconds. A quicker time for the race was set by Lloyd Taggart but that was before the course was lengthened slightly.
The turnout (48 finishers) is disappointing but I suppose there is plenty of other stuff around at this time of year. This is a great race; well-marshalled and marked out, tough but excellent varied running through fantastic scenery. And what, I hear you ask, did the course record being broken mean to me? Did I get a warm glow? Did I feel excited? Did I rush home to write it in my running log? No, not really. But did I finish 15 minutes quicker than my previous outing mainly because I decided to follow the proper route and avoid last year’s diversion into the bracken (which means I got lost). And I did finish before the sweeper.