I’ve been reliably informed that the Penmaenmawr fell raise is the oldest fell race in Wales. Not sure whether this is true or not but is must be classified as one of the most popular – entry is only possible on-line and the maximum 250 places were all snapped up. Taking that into account it was a little surprising that only 196 people actually turned up to Capello on a fine November morning to take part. Maybe the strong northerly wind, sub-zero wind chill, slushy snow and the (low) possible threat of a period of heavy wintry precipitation had something to do with it?
The bracing wind meant that almost the whole field ran with gloves and head-wear – though wildly differing amounts of clothing where apparent on the start line. Some might have required a double-take to differentiate from an Eskimo though a couple of girls from Scotland ran in shorts and vest – very impressive.
The course is over 10 miles and this, alongside the large field starting up a narrow steep road, resulted in a fairly leisurely pace once we were set free to wander the hills. Only the first few minutes offered tough climbing however; the gradient quickly eased and within a couple of miles the majority of the route could instead have simply been classed as “undulating”. Fell running is never that straightforward though; because after the first checkpoint runners had to tackle “the bog”.
The bog was of course wet. Very wet. However it also didn’t really offer any obvious routes – forcing runners to meander across it attempting to avoid more obviously muddy stretches, areas of thick marsh grass and numerous small streams. The effort of running over soggy, spongy and cloying ground verged on the arduous and whilst it only lasted perhaps a mile or so it sapped runners legs significantly. One other consequence of this terrain was the coldness of the water – runners feet often became numb; running when you can’t actually feel your feet is both amusing for onlookers (fortunately mainly limited to sheep) and disconcerting for the runner.
After the bog things got considerably easier. A stiff headwind apart the rest of the race passed without incident. The lack of climbs and drops resulted in the faster runners pulling ahead and those fell runners who revel in “technical sections” -essentially sections of the course where you are most likely to fall and break something – were left wanting.
After around 80 minutes of running Buckley runners started appearing at the finish. Jez’s effort was just two minutes behind Lloyd Taggert for an amazing 4th place overall. The results were:
Jez B – 4th, Simon R – 12th, Simon E – 14th, Andy P – 41st, Hayley E – 52nd, Hazel B – 117th
Following a dunk (legs only) in an icy river and a scrub to remove the worst of the grime the runners retired to the local pub to refresh themselves with the soup and roll included in the entry fee. That fee also give all runners a bottle of “running beer” to take home and free hot dog for those inclined. That entry fee? Just five pounds.