2019 CONWY MARATHON
Myself and Bill (Diver) travelled to Llandudno on the Saturday morning (arriving in the afternoon) and immediately went on a scouting mission around the Great Orme along the road that we would be running on the following day. It was a moment for quiet reflection as the size of the challenge revealed itself. Back to the hotel which like the rest of the town seemed to still be asleep in anticipation of the Easter holidays then out for some carb-loading before getting an early night.
Despite the forecast, race day was cold and windy. The race start and finish point was on the Llandudno Promenade. Organised by Always Aim High Events, this was a low key event. They were hoping for around 1000 runners but in the end got about 250. The start/finish area was neat enough, no need for penned starts as there was plenty of room and 4 toilets had been installed which was more than enough.
The course itself is the real star of the show. The first mile takes you along the promenade in Llandudno, passing the pier on the right and to the foot of the toll road that goes around (and up) the Great Orme. Over the next 2 ½ miles you climb over 400ft and by 5 miles you are back down again. It’s a long climb but the views are stunning and well worth the effort. I ran all the way up knowing only too well that this would be storing up trouble for myself later on but honestly it was some of the most enjoyable running I’ve ever done.
Miles 5-9 the terrain flattened out as we made our way along the coast through Deganwy and Tywyn. One pathway here had been dug up and cleared ready to be re-laid so was a little uneven in places. Onto Llandudno Junction and the world heritage site of Conwy Castle. It’s at this point you pick up some of the Parkrun course that I had run during the summer. Over the bridge to the castle, along the waterfront, around a cone and back the way we came towards the castle again (high fiving Bill as we pass). Over the bridge again and on towards the country road that would take us across to Penryn Bay. This stretch of about 6 miles came as a bit of a shock. On the course map it looked fairly flat, but in reality it was rolling hills. At the top of one particularly steep section was a lovely chap and all he said was ‘you weren’t expecting that hill were you?’ He was right too! By the time I reached Penryn Bay the legs were getting tired. Up to this point we had been sheltered from the wind, but at mile 16 we turned right on the promenade at Penryn Bay and headed toward Colwyn Bay and oh the wind, unrelenting and spiteful. My left thigh started cramping which started to slow me right down. That 4 mile stretch seemed to last forever. U-turn around a cone at Colwyn Bay and back towards Penryn Bay (high five Bill) and then a stop to try and stretch out the cramp, it worked, I got rid of the cramp but injured my knee in the process, it was really painful to run on so adopted a run/walk strategy. All the way along the promenade back the way we came, wind helping now all the way. Then the sting in the tail, Little Orme is the last climb but it is a leg killer of over 200ft. At the top with about a mile or so to go you can see the finish line below you on the promenade and you set off down the hill to the finish. On the finish line they had a very enthusiastic man with a microphone giving a good commentary on runners as they came to the line. Once over the line you get the shirt and medal along with an assortment of food.
The organisers did an excellent job on this race. The route was well planned with minimal road crossings. Of the crossings that there were, they had deployed their own traffic lights and marshals were on hand shouting clear instructions, I never needed to break stride. I anticipated that the water stations would use little cups for drinks, so took my Camelbak with me, but there was no shortage of water, hydration drinks, gels and sweets and nobody minded if you drank more than one. The T-shirt was the correct size, full length and no chance of my belly button making an appearance, pity it’s destined to end up in a frame on my wall. Even the fact that they moved the date from the 28 April forward to the 31st March was a well thought out move. The 10 mile stretch up and then back down the promenade had its surreal moments, chiefly because I was in the latter stages of a marathon whilst everyone else was going about their business. This mingling together works fine before the holiday season but I think could have been a problem come the end of April.
I would certainly recommend this event to other runners. With over 1500ft of elevation it is a stern test but well worth the challenge.
My first 26.2 miler is in the bag. A tough run for sure and it left its mark. I’ll be icing joints and smearing ibuprofen gel on injuries for a week or two, but that doesn’t matter a jot because now I can say I’m a Marathon runner and that feels pretty good. Thanks Bill.