Tal y Fan Race Report – Saturday 11th July.
Whilst several fell races use the Tal y Fan peak only one, held in conjunction with the Rowen village fete shares the name of the mountain. This 8 mile race was chosen as the 7th (out of 9) North Wales Fell Series race and so though the field size was just 67 many of the runners were there as part of the series and thus committed to putting in a good time.
Buckley were represented by 3 veterans; Jez Brown, Andy Pritchard and Simon Edwards – all looking to cement their current positions in the series. For the fell runner having a race that was encompassed in a village fete offered many benefits:
- Spectators – a rare sight in most fell races!
- Non-racing things to do and see – watching wood being chopped seemed particularly popular
- Music and dancing – not the runners of course – local ladies belly dancing to Indian music garnered rapt attention from many
At 2pm the small field set off and immediately spent the next 10 minutes on road – not what most fell runners expect. However the gradient was severe – soon many had to face the indignity of walking. Walking of course is an accepted part of fell running; however walking on tarmac severely dents a fell runners ego! Fortunately the road soon gave way to a rougher and flatter track leading towards the open moorland around Tal y Fan.
By the time a style was crossed and the long steady climb to the summit commenced the leaders had already a significant margin over most of the field. Ironically the climb from that point onwards was much easier than the road section and allowed a slight recovery before the highest reaches of the climb forced the grass to give way to heather pock-marked with up-thrusts of rock.
The race then proceeded to descend to an expanse of grass, heather and reeds and headed towards a stone circle around 1.5 miles distant. Fortunately the plateau area offered plenty of sheep trails; unfortunately the sheep didn’t appear to be heading in the direction of the stone circle. Instead the best approach appeared to find a trod in the approximate direction and follow it for a while. As soon as it wandered off course a bound through energy-sapping scrub was required until the next potential route for easier running was found. This meant that the runners all took wildly different lines and places were frequently exchanged until the circle was passed.
From that point onwards the running until the final descent was all on grass or stone. At this point the faster runners pulled further ahead though a strong headwind in places did impede everyone’s progress to an extent. Several miles later the descent was reached. As with the climb this was in two distinct sections; the upper section through ferns, heather and grass until the road was reached. The descent then to the finish line down the steep road originally climb was punishing on the joints and on the soles and it was a relief to reach the grass on the finishing field.
The three Buckley runners all finished with good positions (Jez – 2nd, Simon- 5th, Andy – 11th) – and celebrated on the field with tea and cake.