Strong winds and lashing rain couldn't dampen the spirits of over 400 trail runners on Sunday, as the inaugural Island Trail races took place in Newborough, Anglesey. The event is just part of the sporting legacy of the 2011 Commonwealth Mountain and Ultra Distance Championships in North Wales and presented a festival of running, from 0.5 mile junior trail races to the Trail Half Marathon main event.
The Island Trail races are part of North Wales event company Always Aim High Events' line-up, which includes the Snowdonia Slateman and Etape Eryri, amongst others. Befitting of the quality of the event was the high standard of competition which saw a number of Welsh and English international junior and senior representatives battle it out in the stunning, yet challenging, environment of Newborough Forest and Llanddwyn island.
The start of the Trail 10km
The day started with over 100 junior runners, across 4 races ranging from 8 to 15-year olds, taking part in trail runs from 0.5 to 1.5 miles, all expertly organised and guided by Anglesey Council's Sports Development team. Welsh junior internationals Iolo and Cari Hughes were convincing winners of the under 14 and under 16 races
Amongst the winners in the senior races were top Welsh international Andy Davies, Eryri Harriers' Brendon Rothery and Lydia Sharpe, and South Wales runner Katie Beecham. Starting en-masse the 10k and Trail Half races set off a little after midday and quickly it developed into a fierce battle up-front. As the runners hit the strong headwind onto Llanddwyn, it was Davies along with fellow Welsh international Richard Roberts and Guildford-man Lee Kemp who formed a small working group in the half marathon race.
Not too far behind Anglesey runner Brendon Rothery settled into the lead in the 10k race, gradually building the lead as they exited the island and entered the forest trails and tracks.
As the leading trio of Davies, Roberts and Kemp raced back towards the start-finish area for the second of their two 10k laps, Rothery followed shortly afterwards to easily win the 10k race, ahead of Peter Merritt and Menai Track and Field runner Steffan Sayer. In the women's races Katie Beecher had a clear lead in the Trail Half, ahead of Gill Mead and Welsh mountain running international Anna Bartlett.
Andrew Davies leads the Trail Half Marathon
In the 10k Eryri Harrier Lydia Sharpe convincingly won the women's race. The 17-year old surely has a very bright future, defeating many a seasoned male runner at the event to finish 14th overall.
As the clock ticked towards 1 hour and 17 minutes the lead runner in the half marathon came into view, and it was Andy Davies who had used his redoubtable strength over the second half of the race to pull away and take the victory. The Newtown-man was followed home by Roberts in second, with Kemp taking third. In the women's race the positions after the first lap remained unchanged, as Beecher looked strong in taking the race, and the Run Wales Trail Series title for women with it. Richard Roberts was the men's overall winner of the three-race title.
Following yet another highly-successful event Always Aim High Events' Nigel Kendrick commented:
"We are extremely happy with how the day went for all. The weather conditions were challenging to say the least, with gale force winds and driving rain for much of the event, and I would like to pay tribute to all of the helpers and volunteers who helped make it happen in such circumstances. The racing was also the icing on the cake for us as organisers, as the standard of competition out there was simply fantastic, especially in that weather!"
Report by Matt Ward.