Rat Race Man versus Mountain is a 20 mile race with a small pack of essentials, starting from sea level in Caenarfon, North Wales, up and over Mount Snowdon, then back down in Llanberis to tackle the slate mines and finally an abseil and some water obstacles.
I signed up in January 2015, first of all to cure my itchy feet, but mainly to take advantage of the considerable discount from booking early. I needed a challenge, I’d never run 20 miles before. But 20 miles over Snowdon? I must have been mad to sign up and those that I’d invited along (politely) declined and so must have thought the same thing.
As the months rolled by and the training got harder and harder, I decided that I was going to run for Zoe’s Place Baby Hospice. Zoe’s Place does some amazing work to provides respite, palliative and end of life care for babies and their families.
I was lucky enough to visit the Coventry branch. The team there couldn’t have been more lovely. As I was showed around the enormity of what they do and why they do it hit me. I’d certainly chosen the right charity and I don’t mind admitting that the whole thing bought a lump to my throat.
It was now September and the rain had been hammering in the velux all night. Nothing new for Wales. The signs were ominous and it looked as though the weather would make the race twice as tough. As we left my parents home near Colwyn Bay, we crossed the Conwy valley towards Caenarfon and thankfully the weather calmed down. By the time we’d made it to the start line at Caenarfon castle everywhere had dried up.
I remember the biting chill though all around the castle grounds but there was a buzz of excitement as hundreds of competitors waited for the off. My warm up consisted of climbing one of the castle turrets to look out at the stunning views over Menai Straits.
I was in the second wave and as we set out everyone gave the start line inflatable the obligatory slap for good luck. After 50 yards we were forced to queue to get out of the castle, but after that we soon stretched out as we made our way out through the town. A few well wishers standing by to give us some encouragement.
The course rose steadily and the scenery became more rural as we moved away from town. Apart from being warm and having to roll my running tights up – the first 7 or 8 miles were actually pretty uneventful. I was running at a nice, enjoyable pace, the rucksack was fine, the gels were going down well and I felt great. The course marshals and the way markings were brilliant.
The first drinks station wasn’t far beyond that. I stocked up on Jaffa’s and dutifully queued up to take a piss in an abandoned cottage. After that we really hit the mountains and soon I got my first glimpse of Snowdon. I’ve been to this part of the world almost every year of my life and quite frankly I don’t recall ever seeing it. Pretty sad really seeing as my folks only live down the road.
I could see the snake of competitors making their way up the side of the mountain along the Ranger Path towards the summit. The temperature dropped considerably about half way up. Forcing me to strip off and put my compression top on. The ground was really a mixture of large steps and scree and some runners were struggling with the ascent. It was hardly unexpected, but it did mean that in some places you couldn’t pass and could only go as fast as those in front. I’ve never been a super fast runner and I was never concerned with my timing for the day, but I still had plenty of energy and the single file approach was a bit annoying.
But I got there in the end and the views from the summit were stunning and it was a beautiful clear day. I was surprised by the amount of day trippers so I got my photos and set off. In any case,, I couldn’t hang around for fear of stiffening up and getting cold.