Race Report by Simon Edwards
Whilst the setting might not sound auspicious – a deserted quarry – the Arenig Fawr fell race is quite special in a number of ways. Firstly in the manner the runners are taken care of before and after the race; warm greetings beforehand and wonderful refreshments and prizes afterwards. Secondly the camaraderie of the competitors – typically the small field involved and enclosed parking helps foster an atmosphere rarefied even by fell running standards.
Finally there is the race itself…
Despite an early rain shower the 3rd running of the extended Arenig Fawr fell race took place in particularly clement weather. Indeed some of the sheltered climbs erred on the warm side; though the significant breeze on high elevations did help moderate temperatures to an extent. Whilst an 8 mile fell race with 1000m of climb might not sound particularly tricky (and in light of Phil and Dave’s efforts isn’t!)- those statistics are only part of the story. After less than a quarter of a mile there are no tracks, paths or trails to follow.
The relatively easy traipse up through the quarry was followed by a steep rocky gully. It was narrow and so steep it required hands and feet to climb. Particularly dangerous were loose rocks falling down from runners in front; one good reason to either get there high up the field – or leave a generous gap between you and the runner in front. So whilst you need to concentrate on placing your hands and feet a careful eye on potential rock slides was required too.
That set the tone for the rest of the race; the going underfoot was rough and whilst reaching checkpoint 1 was straightforward enough the optimal route to checkpoint 2 was lost on me unfortunately – resulting in climbing around 400 feet more than necessary. At that point I realised I’d lost the opportunity for a PB and concentrated on just finishing as high up the field as possible.
Soon after the checkpoint 2 the long descent and subsequent climb up Moel Llyfnant offered fantastic views which many thought were reminiscent of Scottish races – just wonderful in the clear conditions. The run/walk up Llyfnant was then reversed and the final long climb to Arenig Fawr itself followed. Again with no path to follow route choice became important. There was no easy option though – some climbed and then traversed whilst others took a more direct route. Either choice resulted in a long slog involving gullies, boggy sections, thick marsh grasses and higher up scree slopes to traverse.
A very short section then offering a quick trek across to a ridge led to my favourite race segment; the last long descent. This was down a wide valley and whilst it was not particularly steep it was criss-crossed with gullies, bogs, streams and rocks – all hidden in long thick grass. Attempting a fast descent was utterly exhausting and fortunately following this descent the run-in to the finish was much shorter than the original race route!
Back to the car park for refreshments finally! Whilst held in a disused quarry that did not impede the organisers from the usual very generous offerings. Soup and rolls, tea and coffee and numerous home-made cakes – as much as you desired all included in entry fee. The prizes followed and as always most runners stayed for this – again quite unusual and further added to the wonderful atmosphere.
In summary then an incredible route (tough and technical), warm atmosphere, generous prizes and tasty refreshments. And the entry fee? £4! Hoping to see many of you there next year!