Brecon Beacons Race, 16th August 2003

Another emailed report to Westies.

Rigby goes supersonic at the Brecon Beacons

‘On yer marks’…

‘get set’……………

133 runners start to shuffle…

‘hang on!!’…

133 runners stumble and start tripping over each other, but some are 20 yards down the road…

133 runners are all thinking ‘What, is this going to be the first ever false start in 3000 years of fell running? We’ll tear him limb from limb…’. The starter sees 133 runners glaring (including Scoffers), and knows he doesn’t stand a chance…

‘Oh, go on then’…and we all embark on the Brecon Beacons race, 19 miles, 4500 feet ascent, and the last British Champs race of the year, with all to play for at the sharp end.

At the blunter end, I was sure this was all going to end in tears – just recovering from 3 weeks of gastric flu, and generally feeling pretty down in the mouth about running. Still, I felt good up the first long climb to Craig Pwllfa, and even better striding out along the ridge towards the central Beacons, and I knew there were cars at halfway in case my wheels fell off.

Mark had stayed with us on friday night, and his top tip was to start eating as early as possible. Now this was music to the ears of a fat bastard, so I was tucking in right from the off. And then my colleague Jon was halfway up Cribyn with jelly babies, banana and drink, so I troughed some more, and nearly let Gavin Bland get away. Jon told me that Mark was in the lead, but being chased by lots of evil-looking skinny beggars, and that I was in 31st place.

What, Gavin Bland? some mistake surely! OK maybe he was having a particularly bad day, but I caught him again at the top of Cribyn and said howdyado, and he kind of looked at me with a look that said ‘jeez now I’m being passed by people I never even seen before from obscure southern welsh clubs’.

At first that banana nearly killed me, wrestling it open while chasing some Newcastle chappy along ‘shrapnel ridge’ – a gradual descent after Corn Du, dead fast but chocky and loose underfoot – I tripped and nearly flew 400m into the Neuadd Reservoir below. But it was all the more yummy for that (though I’m sure Ronnie would disapprove of such performance-enhancing substances), and I soon found that the Newcastle man was none other than Dermot, again a bit of a surprise as I’ve never been within a mile of him in anything. He was feeling a bit shady, so I eased up and we chatted along the old railway track for a couple of miles, then found a great line up Pant y Craigiau passing three or four who got caught in the rough.

Suddenly Talybont reservoir was in sight, shimmering deep blue and distant, and so was Tor y Foel, the final hill, looking a long way away, bigger than I remembered, and suddenly making me wonder what I had left. Softmints!

Dermot had dropped back, then came back at me fast and we were catching folk in droves as we found the good lines through some non-descript hummocks. Dermot had to beat Horwich folk for the team prizes, and we caught two big ones.

Then onto the track, a nasty fast burning blistering 2 miles of track, catching Scoffers and a couple of others, feet burning, Dermot creeping away.

And then the moment of truth – Tor Y Foel, can you run it? Well, maybe half of it, sat on the arse of an Eryri who gasped near the top ‘are you Welsh? are you in the championship?’ and, when I said no, seemed to weep for joy and settle into a plod.

I’ve flown down Tor Y Foel before, but this time it was just too steep, and I busted my toes coming down like a granny with cramp (Mark said he and Simon Booth felt exactly the same), then bursting out onto the Talybont dam for the wobbly sprint to the finish.

And Mark finished 3rd overall, a couple of seconds behind Simon Booth, and a couple of minutes behind Nick Sharp who clipped the old record with 2.28.30. Mark was miles ahead of Robby Bryson and Mark Roberts, and is now the British v40 Champion!

I was around 2.55, about 26th place, not sure yet, but about 20 mins quicker than I hoped for. 1st Lady Sally Newman, around 3.10.

The team stuff was all rather complicated, but I think Ambleside won, with Newcastle dumping Borrowdale into 3rd and taking the Vets prize over Horwich.

It was a great day, a great race, and I’ve almost finished drinking Mark’s prizes.