This is by far my favourite fell race, and I am pretty sure I will always remember the way I felt on each of the three occasions I have run it. This year was special though. I was still suffering just as badly as in previous years while ascending, and was just as scared coming down. The new feeling was that I was getting better at this and knew how to improve even further.
The race itself was about as dramatic as they come. Martin Cliffe and a guy in a Serpentine vest (Rick Weston) started fast and quickly separated from the rest of us. I was running with Ifan Richards and Dylan Jones early on, and made a couple of poor line choices, which is embarrassing, given how many times I have run up and down this mountain. My plan was to push the ascent, but let the rhythm come to me first. By the time the first two relatively flat miles were over, I felt ready to start working harder, and I gradually pulled away from Dylan and Ifan. I was hoping that Rick, who presumably lived in London, would find it hard to maintain his fast pace up on the mountain, and that trying to catch him would provide some motivation to keep up the effort. In the end, I was just able to jump ahead of him some 10-20 meters before the summit.
Martin, running like a machine
Rick, finally slowing down a bit, and myself lurking behind
Going up is fun, honestly...
Even in the mist
At that point, Martin was probably two minutes ahead of me, whereas Ifan, by far the best downhill runner I have met, was about a minute back. I knew I would be seeing Ifan soon, and he zipped by like a train less than a mile into the descent. I thought that if I could only keep him in sight until we hit the flat ground, I would have a fighting chance. But he was gone, and I mean gone, in just another 3-4 minutes. I thought Martin’s lead was safe, but it turns out I was wrong. Ifan caught him on the tarmac, and they epically exchanged the lead a few times, before Ifan pulled an amazing final sprint and won by a few seconds. What a guy! I felt bad for Martin after I learned what happened, but he handled this with class.
Ifan, flying down in his trademark style
Myself, just holding on for dear life
Ifan and Martin at the finish line.
I found this on Facebook – you can probably imagine the comments…
Back to me, trotting down the hill and lamenting my inability to descend like Ifan, my mental state was deteriorating. I was in third place, which was quite a bit better than I expected before the race, but I felt that I was moving slowly and I was running scared. A particularly pesky memory was the one of Rick running 4-min/mile strides as a warm-up before the race. I knew that if I saw him on the tarmac, my podium finish was as good as gone. Somehow, however, I managed to get my negative self to mostly shut up, ran as fast as I could on my now cramping legs, and even managed to savour the moment of turning the last corner and getting cheered by the spectators. Not a day I am likely to forget…
Welsh 1000m Peaks tomorrow – exciting and scary stuff!