I often wonder what exactly is the secret recipe for developing a popular trail/fell race. Sometimes seen as a little niche (particularly fell running), some races whither and die over time for no obvious reason. Others thrive – such as the Beast.
If memory serves me correctly (I don’t bother with a race diary) I’ve ran the Beast now six times having completed the 2016 edition. Only on two of those occasions do I recall the course being the same! Over the years the course has been tweaked, modified and a few years ago completely overhauled.
So was the case of the 2016 rendition. However the new hosts, CRR, took the devilishly fun course designed by our very own John Morris and tweaked the return leg – leaving the rest – including the actual main climbs intact. This meant runners still had a fast run-out from the edge of Maeshafn through the beautiful Big Covert woods woods before attempting the steep climb of Bryn Alyn. This climb is short but tough and steep enough to bring a tremble to the gnarliest of legs.
The lower part of the climb continues through some woods but then eventually leaves the foliage behind and the runners gain views of the surrounding hills. However most attention must be paid to the ground at first – with tussocks, rocks and gorse bushes vying for the runners concentration. Near the top there is no option of running, two small scrambles are required to arrive at the summit.
The race is fairly short and so there is no respite; instead runners work hard descending (mostly) to the start of the second major climb of the race. Whilst this is shorter than the first climb it it probably steeper and more difficult. The hazards of gorse are replaced by thick ferns, slippy rocks, mud, tree roots, low branches, brambles and nettles. Fortunately the steepness means that it is either a walk or a very slow jog – allowing plenty of time to negotiate the obstacles.
Once tackled the runners drop down to the start of the first Bryn Alyn climb and start to work their way back to the finish. Every year from this point on inevitably some runners miss a marker and spend more time running that strictly necessary. No names given to spare the blushes!!
The altered run-in through the woods added a little extra climb compared to previous years but allowed the race to finish outside the pub door – a definite bonus allowing the faster competitors to cheer in their club mates. Previously hosted by Buckley’s John Morris this race has always had a fair number of Buckley Runners present. However this year it was elevated to another level! So many faces of all ages, backgrounds and abilities wearing their blue vests with pride.
It goes without saying Buckley put in some strong competitive results – but I remember the night more for the enjoyment we shared after. It was definitely a good night all round and one I will remember for a long time. Come and join us next year!