A host of internationals fill podiums at inaugural trail marathon in Coed y Brenin
After a month of heavy rain, the mountains and forests of Wales provided a wet, lush and vibrant backdrop for the inaugural Trail Marathon Wales, which took place last Saturday (23 June). Wales' brand new trail marathon had been at entry capacity for months and the 600+ runners assembled on the half and full marathon start-lines were in anticipation of a tough course taking some of the most technical and beautiful aspects of this 9000 acres forest in the heart of the Snowdonia National Park.
The start of the Trail Marathon Wales (pic by Neale Lewis-Jones)
The line-up for the first event was graced with international and world-class talent, already rendering the event a success from an elite athlete perspective. The likes of Welsh internationals Andy Davies, Richard Roberts, Andre and Filipe Jones, Tammy Lewis-Jones and local man Ifan Richards were ready to take on England and GB internationals Rob Hope and Chris Steele and the legendary three-time world champion Angela Mudge.
As racing got underway for 9.00am under overcast but dry conditions the full marathon quickly developed into a three-man race as Davies, Roberts and Steele headed affairs and the runners headed away from the Coed y Brenin visitor centre and out onto the route which took in such trail delights as the famous Volcano trail, Ffridd Goch and Ty'n y Groes, which contain the trees from where this vast expanse of forest gains it name.
Of course the lead runners had no time to take in the views as miles were quickly clipped off. In the women's race there was an inevitable feel as Mudge established herself in the top 10 overall. The Scots-based athlete has tasted success around the globe for a number of years, but was to find the demanding tracks of Trail Marathon Wales amongst some of the toughest she has run in the last few years.
Over the next two hours the men's race developed into a two-man battle between 2011 Commonwealth Ultra silver medalist Davies and Cumbrian Steele. At around 18 miles Davies decided to test the Englishman and after what he later described as "putting in a dig" he opened up a gap, the Newtown man never looked back after this and over the final miles opened up a sizeable lead over Steele to win in 3 hours 3 mins and 48 seconds. Steele finished strongly in 3:08:38, with Welshpool's Richard Roberts (3:13:30) taking the third spot.
Men's Champion, Andrew Davies (pic by Gwynfor James)
In the women's event Mudge continued to apply the pressure over the full 26 miles, winning in 3:31:52, well ahead of Emma d'Alton (3:47:09) and South Wales runner Katie Beecher (3:50:57) who completed the podium.
Speaking after the race Davies stated:
"The route was amazing. Even with the changes to the route its was still really tough and a fantastic course. I really enjoyed and think the event will be a huge success in the future".
Steele, who normally runs shorter fell races in the Lakes and fells, is in 2012 venturing onto longer races with a view to selection for the World Long Distance Mountain Running Championships in Switzerland this September, he added:
"It was most definitely one of the best events of the year. I thought the course was very demanding and really enjoyable, really varied and runnable. I will definitely be back next year and bring some more Cumbrians with me!"
5-time British fell running champion Mudge has experienced some of the biggest and toughest mountain and trail races in the world, but found some aspects of Trail Marathon Wales as challenging:
"That was hard", she commented, "All of the hills were runnable which means that you are constantly running hard, and with some of the undulations you never really got time to sit up and recover a bit. But the route was really good, very enjoyable".
Ladies winner Angela Mudge pictured (pic by Neale Lewis-Jones)
The race also doubled as the 2012 Welsh Athletics Welsh Long Course Trail Championships, and meant double-delight for Andy Davies. Richard Roberts took the silver with Ifan Richards taking the bronze after an excellent run which saw the Merionydd runner take 4th place overall. Les Croupiers athlete Katie Beecher added the Welsh female title to her third place in the event.
In the supporting half marathon event, starting at 9.30, the men's race was a three-way race between Aberystwyth internationals Andres and Filipe Jones, and three-time British fell running champion Rob Hope. After a hard fought battle England's Hope pulled away over the closing miles to record a very fast 1:26:35 with Andres pulling away from brother Filipe over the final stages of the 13 mile race to take second.
Welsh international Tammy Lewis-Jones took the ladies race with a fine run in 1:51:42, ahead of Jan Nicholls and Torun Grut from Norway.
Report by Matt Ward.
A race highlights film can be seen via the TMW you tube page here.
Full results are now online at the TDL Event Services page here, images from the event via Sport Pictures Cymru, Fell Running Pictures, Neale Lewis-Jones and Mick Hall Photos.