I don`t have many rules when it comes to deciding what races to do,whatever distance they are.Usually it comes down to cost of the race,how easy it is to get there,can I get the time off work,do I need to stay over and are Jaffa cakes freely available in the locality.
A couple of years ago,event director of Birkenhead parkrun (and not the Australian cricket captain) Steve Smith and his wife Jess did the Snowdonia marathon/marathon Eryri. I knew the highlights were on so I watched and I thought that looks interesting🤔 Did nothing about it,watched the highlights again last year and thought again ,that looks good, I could do that 😄
Of course they didn’t show the big hills ,well not much of them last year anyway.They did this year,typical! However,whilst not being the top expert on British hills,I had heard of Snowdon and indeed had been to the top of it a long long time ago.When time to came to enter (in an effective online queue system ,looking at you Mad dog 10k) last December I logged on and to my surprise,after just over an hour,I was in.
After an initial panic about whether I could do it,my marathon and ultra marathon guru, @gemboc1 aka the pink welly lady aka quality friend Gemma,told me to shut up and that I could.Some people pay to get that kind of advice.I realised that yes I could and to be honest with it being so long into the future and having Canalathon,Liverpool marathon,the whistle stop tour and the Chester metric before it,I didn`t think about it too much.After initially booking into a hostel in Caernarfon on the wrong date,I managed to get a b & b on Llanberis high street,not far from the start and 5 minutes stumble from the finish and I also took a 6 month therapy course to cope with the North Wales train system.(Believe me this is needed)
So,I did canalathon (see my Canalathon blog),did Liverpool (it was hot),also Shrewsbury half (I will blog about the three years I`ve done that soon), and the Whistle stop where I was quicker over two races before a headwind meant I was slower overall.Anyway enough of that whiffle,I had 6 weeks before Snowdon after finishing the Whistle stop. Plenty of time.I built up the miles and on Saturday 29th September I decided to do my longest run,about 20 miles.I was going to do it on the Sunday but I felt good after returning home from parkrun and I`d seen the weather was going to be poor so I thought feck it,I`ll do it Saturday.When this happens,it usually doesn’t bode well but for most of the run I was happy,running down the Lever causeway,through Storeton woods and powerposed (#avaraepowerpose) with a cow 👇🏻
What actually happened was that I fell over like a right tit.Which was ironic as what hurt the most in the following weeks was the area just under and to the right of my right tit, I tried to carry on (the last time I did this,2 years ago,thanks facebook for reminding me,I carried on and ran 3 miles home) but after a period of ow,ow,ow,that isn’t good,ooh that really isn’t comfortable,I thought after about a mile and a half,I should do something about it.I popped in to see Gemma (I was passing,it would have been rude not to),she had a chuckle,was sympathetic and told me to go to the hospital.Fortunately Arrowe park hospital was on the way to the bus stop and so I went to the walk in centre.I got there just before the Chelsea v Liverpool game started and I got seen in triage.The nurse asked me about my medical history and for some reason I was immensely proud when I was able to answer yes to the “Have you had surgery?” question.Ok,it was for a hernia but it was like really traumatic (No it wasn’t) She noticed my bleeding knee as I was about to hop back to the waiting room and put the loosest covering on it,I think just so I didn’t bleed on the floor.I got seen by the doctor just after the Liverpool game had finished.She reckoned it was a slightly cracked or bruised rib which I thought it was and she gave me a prescription and I was away.Popped next door to the pharmacist who gave me Naproxen which is the “Quality ibruprofen” ,and got a lift home from housemate Ian.Thanks to Ann “Wirral Campervan Hire” Currie and Stuart “Shorts” Rickers for being lovely and offering to pick me up.Stu even offered to come and sit with me in the waiting room but I like him so I didn’t inflict that on him.The staff were brilliant.There were some proper turdwombles in there,the highlight being the old guy who told everyone what time he came in.I knew there would be a wait as they had 3 doctors and I think one of them went home a hour after I got there.At the end of the day it didn’t cost me a penny whereas in certain other countries…..
Now,after a decent nights sleep (on my side,if you have a rib injury,when you go to sleep get a spare duvet or some cushions,prop it up behind your back and sleep on your side with the hurty rib at the top.Honestly I sleep way better with a rib injury than without,go figure 🤔😂 After a couple of nights it wasn’t too painful,just more of an annoyance every now and then.In fact it still isn’t 100% now but its not like something serious so there’s that.I was very lucky.I read of another runner falling over and fracturing his skull.(My mum had training on how to fall over with her parkinsons.Honestly,it was a regularity unfortunately so she had to be prepared.)
I began thinking whether I could run,I had the Chester metric marathon the following Sunday and I initially definitely ruled that out.As the week went on I thought maybe and I ran 2 miles on Friday and 3 on Saturday but it didn’t feel great and when I slipped getting in the bath after the 3 miler and pulled something in my back I thought no,leave it and work on getting right for Snowdon,fingers crossed (I know,spoiler alert but stay with me).I had a fantastic time along with Brian “Up the Shakers” Shenton cheering on all the runners at Chester especially Jay Walker,Gemma,Ann and Ultan “The Ult” Mulhern (Insert “The Folk Doctors – Silent shores” plug here)
I ran a few miles the following week and it felt a little better and whilst I could run,I wasn’t sure just how far I could go.I didn’t want to be 10 miles into the marathon and have to start walking or pull out.I know some runners like to gamble with their health when it comes to races but I’ll be honest,I ain’t one of them.I want to be able to enjoy my races if I can.With two weeks to go I decided I would have to run 15 miles both to see if I could run that distance and also just to give me the confidence.I’m not the most confident person at the best of times and anxiety can get the better of me on occasions so I rubbed Wilkos £1 muscle cream all around the rib,took a couple of paracetamol (and a couple more for during the run) and set off. Thankfully it went well,I didn’t fall over which was a plus,felt ok on the run and afterwards all was reasonable.I did a couple more runs in the week,10 miles the following Saturday and after a little run a couple of days later that was it.I was set for Snowdon.
Now I worry a lot for some reasons when it comes to marathons. Physically I know I can do them,its just the mental side of things that I worry about,in fact I’m not exactly sure what I worry about,I just worry.No I don’t know either. I was fortunate enough to get top quality support and advice from Gemma and the one,the only @firsthurdle,Ellie.The problem when you tell most people about an injury,sometimes what happens is that although well meaning any “medical” advice given to you is,its your body and you who are the one recovering,rehabbing etc not them.Everybody’s recovery times are different,I didn’t know three weeks out,I was hopeful 2 weeks out but I wasn’t really sure till the last few days.
Anyway enough of that.I travelled over on the Friday via the Welsh trains and got to see West Kirby from Wales instead of Wales from West Kirby which was nice.Spent a hour in Bangor ,45 minutes of which was waiting for the café in Asda to cook a jacket potato and a few beans 😂 The bus ride to Llanberis was fantastic,great views,narrow roads and lots of u turns.Went to my fantastic b & b (Not naming it in case I go back next year) then across to get my number and t shirt.I then went to Pete’s Eats ,a fantastic café which basically sells portions the size of Yorkshire.Loads of great options, I had macaroni cheese and a few chips which was bigger than I would have served myself. Lovely!
I watched Stand up to cancer on Channel 4 and was about to fall asleep when my next door neighbour switched on his “101 sounds of a 747 jumbo jet taking off” relaxation tape.Or he might have been snoring.One of the two.Fortunately I remembered seeing a fan in the wardrobe ,switched it on to drown out the drone and I slept pretty well.The race didn’t start till 10:30 so I had time to shower,eat my porridge and a few Jaffa cakes (just got into them,they are really nice) and headed down to the registration tent to try and get in on the racecheck photo which I was told was at 10 but I couldn’t find anyone so I headed off on the 5 mile (not really) trek to the start.Timed it really well and didn’t have to wait too long before we got underway.
Now I knew it was going to be hilly ,I mentioned earlier about the highlights show and also in the pre race instructions the organisers weren’t shy about mentioning the elevation.However when I studied the route map I wasn’t as scared/shocked/horrified as I thought I would be.Yes you went up,but there was also a lot of coming down and a lot of flattish parts.As long as you split the race up and knew when the mad bits were coming I was well,quite relaxed about the race as we started.
I didn’t take any photos until we were going up the last mountain/hill.The first couple of miles were steady then I was pleased with how the first hill went up to Pen-y-pass.I thought we would reach it just before 5 miles but it was a pleasant surprise to get there at 4.5.Then a nice steady downhill before we went off road which is where I can have problems so I took it steady on the stoney,muddy path till we got back on the road. I saw a few people from parkrun and the local running scene,Matt who went past me after 3 miles,Ben a few times around the course and Jimmy who became an instant friend when he said my run briefings at parkrun were “always funny!” Miles 8 to 13 past Bethania and Beddgelert were good and I think it was then we turned into a headwind although that could have been earlier or later.I’d taken my Thunder Runners jacket in case I needed it.It was warm at first so I carried it then tied it round my neck (You see me 20 minutes into the s4c highlights like that,thankfully from a distance).
It was annoying me but then I had a brainwave of zipping it half way then putting my arms in the sleeves.Perfect! When the wind hit I had it on properly though.I don’t mind headwind though,it concentrates the mind.I got my head down,focused and miles 16-22 were really good.We want past the Snowdon youth hostel at mile 18 .Those miles flowed by.I chatted to other runners and I think I did my quickest mile at number 20.
Now two things.I was actually relaxed about the last part.For some it might be a worry but I felt if I got that far I knew I wasn’t that far away from a beer and a jaffa cake.The other was that I was chatting to a fellow runner in Pete’s eats the night before and he’d said treat the race as a 22 miler because the last 4.2 you won’t be racing.It was excellent advice.I’d noticed the elevation but its not until you turn right and see the never ending view upwards at Waunfawr.You go up one bit then another and you know what point it ends because you’ve studied the route map so you know there’s more to come.Having said that I actually marched most of it (The First Hurdle Shrewsbury march) and I had negative splits after the first mile of it.
Then we got to the top and the terrifying (for me) descent.Now as I have mentioned I can fall over for my country on flat ground. I’ve had several tumbles since I started running and I don’t need help.It was grassy,muddy,stony and steep.Some people were haring down it and I heard one runner said he wouldn’t like to be chasing a time on this part.I’d imagine the quicker runners took this last section into account and went quicker early on. I saw the leaders on the highlights going up the last hill and they didn’t seem to be going all that fast themselves.
I got back onto levelish ground ,back into Llanberis and a sprint (of sorts) finish took me over the line.Had my customery last mile/post race teary moments thinking about my mum (I didn’t race in my parkinsons shirt because I had been a bit worried about not finishing when I went to put it on.Plus it was a bit tight over the baselayer.I had it with me though and put it on when I got back.Anyway at the end I got a nice flying feet photo as well.Got my coaster slate,a lovely bit of foil from a nice marshal (one of those blanket things) and a few minutes later I was in one of the lovely showers back at my b & b. I loved everything about the organisation of the race.It was friendly, a lot more personal than at some big races and simple at the end.No messing about,no mad queuing and to be relaxing so soon after finishing was really good.
After I had my shower I put on all my compression gear,watched the football scores and stretched a bit.My rib had held up nicely.It was aching a bit but my baselayer and the muscle cream had helped and I hadn’t needed to take the paracetamol I’d taken with me.A couple of days later on the Monday I was walking around like Albert Steptoe as that final descent took its toll on my back but the co-codamol I had from my last back episode sorted that out 🙏😊 I had a nice trip out into the village,stocked up on pizza,cake and a couple of beers and relaxed.Had a good night,then a fantastic cooked breakfast before I got the bus at the safle bws,back to Bangor.(I’m so fluent in Welsh now….not!)
The train was packed.Apparently everyone seemed to be leaving North Wales that Sunday,then I got on the Merseyrail to Rock Ferry and had my ears chewed off by an 8 year old called Caleb.That was traumatic.I can still hear his voice.🙉
I’d recommend the marathon 100%. Its just not like other ones that I’ve done.For me it was more like an ultra in terms of the planning, the approach,the actual race and the realization that you had to walk in places.You had to preserve your energy early on to help later.I was very proud of the fact that I got quicker as I walked up the last hill.I certainly wouldn’t have gone quicker if I’d tried to “run” it.Its such a friendly race.Looking in the programme it listed all the runners and the times they’d done it. I will come back and do it again.Maybe not next year as I want to do Chester marathon but having said immediately after that I’d never do it again,I am now seriously considering it. I loved the going away part, the lovely place where I stayed ,Llanberis (if I lived there I would so have a stairlift) and of course the race itself.Probably the toughest race I’ve done but definitely in the top 3 or so of the most enjoyable.I did a review on racecheck as well so you can read that if you want.
Waiting for the bus.
Finally,a big thank you to everyone who sponsored me for Parkinsons uk,I’ve got to £550 now which is £1850 overall (I think) since I started raising money for Parkinsons.It always humbles me that people will sponsor me and I know the money goes to helping people similar to my Mum and I know she’d be pleased to hear that.
Thanks for reading 👍🏻😉