I run a lot, but I live in the Cambridgeshire fens so hills and mountains don’t feature strongly in my training. That said I won Snowdon Marathon on Saturday in a time of 3hrs8mins and I am over the moon.
This was my 3rd marathon and my 4th time running in the beautiful Snowdon and I enjoyed every minute of it. I travelled to Llanberis on Friday with my hubby Ian and we stayed in the stunning Seont Manor hotel (I highly recommend it!). We settled into the hotel after the 5 hour drive and made our way to dinner at 7pm. We were pleasantly surprised by the restaurant, it was fine dining at its poshest – not my usual pre-race meal of pasta and chicken. I felt like I was holiday rather than facing a tough race the next day. As the waiter arrived and took our order, we decided to have some wine (they say don’t change your usual routine pre-race and wine featured strongly throughout the training J). Next the waiter approached the table near us and asked if they wanted wine – they replied ‘no’ as they were going for a walk the next day – a walk? No wine for a walk?? Ian and I had a good giggle about this as I sipped on my glass of wine, talking my plans for the race.
The next morning we woke to rain, heavy rain. I can’t say I felt optimistic about the race, I could have easily stayed in the restaurant drinking more tea rather than getting out to run around a mountain in the wind and rain!! I had the loveliest bowl of porridge and toast – I don’t suffer from nerves in the morning, I don’t think my body can be bothered with nerves, I tend to be very relaxed but thoughtful until I get on the start line and then the adrenaline hits.
Deciding what to wear was tricky, I wanted to be warm, but not too warm, and fully covered with my sponsor Merrell’s logo so I decided to wrap a Merrell snood on my head and wear long compression socks.
Arriving at the start line was very exciting and nerve wracking, I saw the lady who had won last year Andrea Rowlands and knew she would be my biggest competitor, unless any other secret speedsters turned up. If I’m honest I was there to win. The day before I tried to tell myself to just enjoy the race rather than trying to win, but I really wanted to win.
Before the gun went off, I had a few words with myself for motivation and settled on ‘run strong, run brave and run happy’. This might seem obvious but when the adrenaline is pumping, its sometimes hard to focus on what you really want to achieve. These words became my goal, I wanted very much to enjoy it and I would need to be brave to maintain a good pace, on my own for 3 or so hours. I also decided I wanted my average pace to be between 6.5min/mile and 7min/mile allowing for ups and downs. In reality I had no clue how the ascents would make me feel – I’m no fell runner and a road runner through and through, but I love the mountains.
As the race started I stayed behind Andrea but felt held back by the pace and so pushed on and overtook her within half a mile. I didn’t particularly want to get into first position, I felt that would be showing my cards too early. I did want to run comfortably though and at that pace I felt too slow. So my first point of bravery was tested and I reminded myself that I had decided I would run strong, brave and happy. As the first mile beeped on my watch I saw 6mins 4secs – eeeeeekkkkkkk too quick stay calm!!! I knew not to worry but that mile had been too quick, I needed to slow down – which I did.
Mile 1 – 6mins 4secs – eek
Mile 2 – 6mins 32secs – perfect
Mile 3 – 7mins 13secs – blah hill
Mile 4 – 7mins 51secs – blinking hill!
Mile 5 – 7mins 58secs – I want to stop now
At around mile 4 I’d had enough to be honest. The hill was rising and I wondered if I could finish the race, let alone maintain first position. This was the only time in the race I felt like this and it was all down to the steep ascent. I plugged on. At this point a cameraman on the back of a motorbike appeared at my side. He asked me if I was first lady, I hesitated to say yes as I didn’t really want him there, the fumes from the motorbike were making me feel sick and a camera in my face was a strange experience. Being filmed makes you question if you’re dribbling and how smoothly you are running. It also says to you, ‘you’re first, don’t slow down otherwise you’re going to look silly having set off so quick!’.
As the top of the hill finally appeared and the descent began I felt euphoric – honestly I felt amazing! Spectators were starting to shout first lady and although I didn’t let myself think about a win I loved going speedily down the hill for a good couple of miles. At this point I knew this race was mine. I knew I could run strong, brave and I was certainly happy. I felt like I was on a trampoline bouncing around the gorgeous countryside. I didn’t care about the rain.
Mile 6 – 5mins 53secs – thankyou downhill you’re the best!
Mile 7 – 5mins 57secs – did someone say hold back? No thanks I’m going for it
Mile 8 – 6mins 29secs – perfect
Mile 9 – 6mins 29secs – perfect
Mile 10 – 6mins 26 – bit quick for now but ok – took a gel
Mile 11 – 6mins 44secs – perfect
Mile 12 – 6mins 42secs – perfect
Mile 13 – 6mins 34secs – perfect
The next few miles were great, I spoke to some fellow runners, one of which had completed the race in 3hrs3mins last year so I knew I was holding a decent pace. We chatted and discussed the upcoming hills while the camera filmed us almost constantly. We went through pretty villages with amazing crowds. I tried to put my thumbs up to anyone cheering but my hands were frozen and didn’t move as much as I wanted them to. All the while I kept counting down the miles, right from the first mile I told myself ‘only 25miles to go, only 24miles to go’ etc. It kept me focussed and kept me positive. I remember at mile 14, when we started a horror climb on tired legs that I only had 12 miles to go, and that was ok wasn’t it? I imagined all the 12 mile training runs I did and pictured how short and easy my training runs were.
When I run I try to do the following:-
– Belittle the race by breaking it down into chunks. For this race the chunks were 3 big hills
– Keep positive and tell myself I’m doing well and feeling good (might seem big headed but if you tell yourself you are good you will be good).
– Remind myself that any slight twinge/ache/tired feeling will go away. I once asked my great running friend Ruth Jones for a tip – she told me ‘some bits will be hard but then it will feel easier’. Its always helped me and its true, sometimes you feel rubbish (hills) sometimes you feel great, so don’t worry about the hard bits.
– Picture the finish and write this blog in my head.
Mile 14 – 7mins 43secs – blinking hill
Mile 15 – 8mins 12secs – killer hill wheres the top??
Mile 16 – 7mins 13secs – getting there
Mile 17 – 6mins 36secs – bliss! Took a gel
Miles 16 to 22 are a complete blur. I know that my legs went completed numb, because of the rain and cold. I thought my shorts had ridden all the way but as I went to push them down (cameras darling lets not show ourselves up J!) I realised my shorts were in the same position I just couldn’t feel them – weird! I forced myself not to worry about the hill at mile 22. I actually wasn’t sure where the hill was but I’d heard everyone say it was bad – walkable bad – yikes.
Mile 18 – 7mins – perfect
Mile 19 – 6mins 55secs – perfect
Mile 20 – 6mins 53secs – perfect
Mile 21 – 6mins 56secs – You’re getting there
Mile 22 – 7mins 31secs – horror hill!
Mile 23 – 9mins 33secs – I mean horrific!
Mile 24 – 9mins 40 secs – dying
Mile 25 – 8mins 9secs – treacherous descent but lovely!
Mile 26 – 7mins 47secs – I should have gone quicker
When it came I was shattered, my breathing was all over the place as I climbed up on tired legs. When I reached the top I was ecstatic, I knew I had to hold my position through a steep downhill section all the way into Llanberis where I would see Ian. The downhill was tough though, my legs were tired and I used all my power to concentrate on staying upright over wet grass and rocks. It was impossible to relax but as I saw Ian’s lovely face at mile 25 I let myself believe I might win. I shouted a quick ‘I love you’ to my lovely Ian and went on.
Once on tarmac I knew this race was mine. I hadn’t killed myself with my first mile (phew) and a quick glance behind me showed no other women. I came round the last corner to the loudest cheers I have ever heard – I cried, I smiled, I cried, I smiled and I enjoyed the feeling of winning after running a positive race. As I crossed the finish line I stopped, wondering what to do with myself and feeling euphoric. With cameras right in front of me my marathon brain decided some Tigger jumps would be the best thing to do!!
It’s not all about winning its about doing all you can to achieve your goals, mine were to run strong, run brave and run happy.