Snowdonia Marathon - earning XP

I knew Snowdonia was going to be tough, but I didn't think it'd be that bad.

I trained at running up and down hills, because I live a relatively flat part of the world. The nearest steep hill I've got is a couple of miles long, with a maximum gradient of 20% - whereas the three Snowdonia ascents get up to nearly 30%. So I trained with ankle weights on.

I'd heard that for marathons, it's better to run three days of 10 mile runs than to do marathon length runs as training - so I did that.

I'd been told that the Snowdonia marathon was mainly road, with a little bit of track and path - so I mainly trained for road, with a little off road.

On the day, I slogged up the first ascent and down again without much trouble. The long down hill and flat section was steady, then the second ascent went reasonably well.

Some loon who thinks he can run
More loons
It was about 20 miles that I started to really tire out. My feet ached from pounding down the hills as well as the long distance. I had to stop for a moment and massage my legs and rest my feet - just for a moment. I spent the rest of the flat section shuffling slower and slower.

The last mountain was where I picked up the pace again - going up hill puts less pressure on your feet. I'd trained and trained at the uphill running. From mile 23 or so, I climbed about 200 metres in single run, then as the ground was just levelling out, I had to slow to walk. The road turned into a rocky path, all uneven footing and sharp edges. My knees and all the fine-control muscles hurt like hell, and my feet ached.

When I'd made it to mile 23, I'd been on track for a personal best marathon. If I'd had that bit more stamina to manage the flats and the hard terrain at the top, I'd have managed it.
As it was, I still made a respectable time for my first Snowdonia - just under 5 hours. I'd been hoping for under 5.5 hours. I'd have been happy with under 6 hours.

My brother, the rugby-playing runner, by contrast - he passed me at the top of the last climb, and bounded down the rocky descent.

So - the lessons:

  1. Train the long distances till they're routine.
    I want to run marathons fortnightly, so I'm prepared for those last six miles.
  2. End on bigger hills, including the descents.
    Going downhill when you're tired is hard. I need to condition myself to run down hills after a long tiring run.
  3. More off-road.
    The surprisingly tough surface at the end ofthe run threw me. I do a fair bit of off road running, but I should have done more long distance off-road for this one.
The subtext here, of course, is that I'll be back - Snowdonia is an amazing marathon.

They print your name on your number sheet, so everyone calls it out as you go past - "Come on, Alastair! You can do it, Alastair!" That's still with me - but my knees don't hurt anymore.