Attempting to compete in either of the above competitions is a serious long term endeavour covering 8 months and a minumum of 4 events for Open Welsh and 6 events for the North Wales series.
The North Wales series was kick-started by the short Moel-y-Ci race, less than 5 miles and under 1,000 ft of climb. This gentle introduction was ran in mild conditions, though the snowy backdrop of the higher regions of Snowdonia reminded everyone it was still mid-winter.
A couple of weeks later at the end of the February the Open Welsh series was initiated with a Welsh/North Wales combination event of the “pipe dream”. I’m still unconvinced anyone would consider attempting to clamber up hundreds of steps in tight formation with over a hundred other sweaty and panting runners a dream though! Again the weather was kind and no serious mishaps resulted over the course of around 6miles this time with 1,700 ft of climb.
Ras Yr Aran
Spring arrived and so did the Ras yr Aran (2nd North Wales race) – a 10.5 mile race with 3,000 feet of climb. This is essentially one very long climb and a return along the same route and was the first high level route of the series. The entrants sweated in the sunshine at the start but had to brave a chilly breeze further up.
A few short weeks later another 10miler – this time the Moelwyns horseshoe. This awesome course normally attracts around 150 runners – this year it was part of the North Wales series, Open Welsh and British Championships – and so the field swelled to over 500. Any chance of scoring well was abolished and instead most of us from Buckley simply enjoyed the atmosphere in the town, the amazing course on a brilliant sunny day … and an ice cream afterwards!
Llanberis welcomed the North Wales series runners in May for the tough Moel Eilio race. Only 7 miles but again with around 3,000 ft of climb. Again graced with warm (slightly too warm!) weather. Fortunately it remained cloudy to limit the impact of the warmth and offered a nice breeze higher up. As usual Buckley were well represented and the weather allowed not only a pleasant race experience but a congenial post-race pint and ice-cream.
June saw the longest and toughest race that combined both series; the Welsh 1000m – essentially a trek from the coast to the summit of Snowdon crossing all 1000m peak – a distance of at least 22m and 9,000ft of climb. Jez, Andy and Steve represented Buckley here and a few others acted as a support team – something definitely needed in the very cold finish line conditions – on the top of Snowdon!
The much more agreeable race of Tal-y-Fan in July was the next in the merry-go-round. This 9-ish mile race was one of several that crossed the Penmaenmawr bog which after years of running across I’ve never found a sensible way to navigate the 1 mile without encountering shoe-sucking bogs, thick marsh grass and deep ravines appearing out of nowhere. That said Buckley found themselves again in high finishing positions.
The Cilcain Show hosted the penultimate round in the North Wales series – a sharp 4.5 miles straight to the summit of Moel Famau and then back round to the start. After the longer races some of us found the frantic short race a bit much – but having a crowd to cheer you in helped a lot! This was another race combined with a village show and runners could mingle consuming food and drink whilst being entertained whislt awaiting the results.
Finally the Breidden Hills – described as an “international” event by the organisers – due to the fact the course crossed into England for a short while! This was the last race in both the North Wales and Welsh series. However it was also being used as the WFRA presentation (so the many top competitors from the South Wales series were running too) and last race in the Shropshire Summer Series AND the first race in the Shropshire Winter Series! The end result was a large field of a very high standard. No matter however; despite finishing further down the field compared to normal all Buckley representatives put in excellent efforts in this varied course which makes the most of the beauty of the location.
Series Highlights (apart from the races)?
- Moel-y-Ci – The soup – a wonderful flavorsome concoction.
- Pipe Dreams – Craig Jones’ action video of the race (including a worrisomely long recording to Steve Toogood’s backside).
- Ras-yr-Aran – The lamb burger – though parting with the almost £5 to buy one was almost harder than the race itself.
- Moelwyns – competing against the best runners in the UK. A fantastic (and humbling) experience.
- 1000m – seeing the runners emerging from the mist at the finish in various states of exhaustion no matter their ability – clearly indicating the immensity of the challenge this race offers.
- Tal-y-Fan – The local group of Indian Belly Dancers was a somewhat interesting counter-point to the usual offerings of a village fete.
- Moel Famau – The great support offered by the crowd at the start and finish though Hayley’s use of obscure categories to win a prize must be a close second (is there really a prize for “first local in fancy dress”?).
- Breidden Hills – John’s valiant effort – despite hardly being able to walk he took on this tough course which in place is shockingly unfriendly to your feet due to the rough terrain some stretches consist of.
So in summary Buckley have performed exceptionally well and all competitors should be proud of their efforts. More than the running through what I’ve enjoyed this year is the strong social element present in all the events – spending time together before and after races just completes the experience and is always good fun.
Open Welsh Results
- Jez Brown, 2nd M40, 6th Overall
- Andy Pritchard, 5th M40, 11th Overall
- Simon Edwards, 8th M40, 18th Overall
- Hayley Evans, 4th Senior, 104th Overall
- Steve TooGood, 10th M50, 64th Overall
- Huw Lewis, 18th M50, 91st Overall
- John Morris, 2nd M70
North Wales Series Results
- Jez Brown 2nd M40, 3rd Overall
- Simon Edwards 3rd M40, 4th Overall
- Andy Pritchard 6th M40, 8th Overall
- Hayley Evans, 1st Senior, 25th Overall
- Steve Toogood, 3rd M50, 21st Overall
- Huw Lewis, 4th M50, 31st Overall
- John Morris, 2nd M70, 70st Overall