Penmaenpool Trail Running Festival

I try to convince myself that I don’t like racing, but in reality I’m competitive enough that testing myself once in a while is a bit of fun. 

With the current aim of running 250km in 6 days in the Sahara my training is focussed on long steady load carrying running. But some sessions have to be speed work, so why not make that a race.?

Traditionally the “Pen 10” stayed on the flat of the old railway bed, and I never ran it. But this years race was re thought and re branded and now there is a Trail Running Festival that has a 1.8 mile Junior Race, a short course trail race of 3.6 miles and the long course of 8.9 miles. It’s still organised by Meirionydd Running Club and draws runners from quite a wide area.

In the last 7 days I’d run 64 (ish) kilometres and so I wasn’t really looking at this as a competitive race, more a training session that was quick. Naive! 

I jogged down to Penmaenpool from home, my Achilles warming up gently. Dolgellau was warm and sunny, but by the time I got to race HQ it was windy, drizzly and definitely a little cooler! 

Signing in was in the building alongside the old railway signal box and at £8 a fairly reasonable entry fee for a trail race. I watched my youngest daughter head off on the junior race.   They’d driven down and grabbed some parking really close. Helpfully there are also toilets in the car park so no sneaking off into the bushes needed.

I dropped my rucsack into race HQ and tootled off down the Mawddach trail to warm up. A few stretches and little springy runs and all felt okay. A quick race briefing was carried out ny Kev Jones and I’m guessing the 40 or so long course starters were ready to get going

With a quick toot of an air horn we were off with the first mile or so down the wide trail beside the Mawddach. This gave ample chance for everyone to get into an order without too much jostling on single track trail. First turn is through a gate in the stone wall and onto the trails that wind around Coed Gwynant. An undulating trail winds through the woods and after a water stop spits you back on the Mawddach Trail for a flat blast down to Coed y Garth. By now I was running with a Warrington Runner, we were passing one or two people, I seemed to be quicker on anything down, and we were pretty evenly matched on the flat and ups. Into Coed y Garth and a 3.7 mile loop of un marshalled track, the signage was good and the running reasonable. As we dragged up one longer slope Warrington chap said “as long as we don’t blow up no one will pass us.” Some of the trail had been flailed recently so there were some softer bits but otherwise everything was good going.

We looped back on to the Mawddach Trail again and ran back towards Abergwynant. A quick glug of water and we climbed back round towards the main trail. My legs were starting to run out of uphill power. Warrington runner pulled out a lead of about 35 metres on one climb and I just couldn’t get this back. The final descent back to the trail has a few cleaved oak steps, which turn out to be quite slippery, gave me the only windmilly arm moment of my race as I skimmed down three steps on the heel of my left foot. All got gathered up again and I found a rhythm to run into the finish.

All in all, for the first year of the new race was really fun, well organised and friendly. A nice way to get a trail race under your belt if you’re thinking about trail running.  If you’re looking for a weekend away, this would make a good race on the Saturday before heading off and exploring other trails in the area-Coed y Brenin has miles and miles of them.

I gathered up my bits from race HQ, chucked on my rucsack and ran back home. Back in Dolgellau, still no cloud cover, so the estuary was doing it’s autumnal thing of having a little micro climate. 

As a pace work session it was really great training, and nice to let a little of the weeks frustrations out with a bit of competitive running with Warrington Runner! 

Thanks to all the organisers and supporters who made the race what it is-brilliant! 

*EDIT* Warrington Runner was Nik Avraam and results are here and as it’s a new race I go the M35 club record.

Here’s the Strava of the long course:


When can you call yourself a runner?

I’ve had a bit of a rest time from the high volume training, I needed it! A great family holiday away from work, phones, emails and running has done my head a lot of good. I’ve still got a few aches, but in general I’m doing okay. This week was back to running and I put in a reasonable 83 km.

This week I’ve seen an inspirational style picture somewhere. The simple logo, “6 minute mile or 16 minute mile, you’ve still run a mile”. 

This resonated with me a lot.  I dislike the “I’m better than you because…” type statements at the best of time. It just stops people having a go. We all start running somewhere, it’s hard. The commitment and motivation you need is easy to knock at the best of times, but before you’re “in the groove” or find the enjoyment it’s something that can stop you dead.  This blog really is in response to a story I heard from someone I know, I hope it’s a reference point that undoes some damage that some others have unthinkingly caused.

When someone can run a long way, or run fast (or both) I think it’s amazing. But when you hear some stories I can’t help but think that the struggle is the same whether you’re a top athlete or a beginner. Sure the results are different, but the effort can be much, much more.

I hope I never look down my nose at other runners, I try and remember that their battle could be much harder than mine and at the end of the day they aren’t sat at home. Being a runner is a label, I know that, and I was taught labels aren’t important. I spent a long time not really thinking of myself as a runner, I often still don’t think of myself as a runner. But I am.

Running, especially distance running. is a psychological sport. Fitness is actually relatively simple to attain. It’s often the mind that stops you. There are lots of reasons to stop and being mis-labelled or judged can be a very powerful brake. 

Think to Mo Farah’s race at the Olympics, Farah’s’s training partner Galen Rupp is a handy runner. Their preparation for the Olympics was identical, the same coach, the same programme. Their genetics are similar and their ability is nearly identical. So why when Farah kicks does it stick? It has to be belief, one that he has grown. Once labelled the best in the world, or second best in the world the you’ve got a big psychological boost, or brake depending on where you are. When you are in a place that other people comments hurt or distract you then the label can be important. It helps you get back up.

Running can be competitive, running can be therapy, running can be for health, running can be fun. Running should be fun, go look in a playground at children running just for fun. When did you last feel like that? Running means lots of things for lots of people, and all of them are as valid reasons. 

Run to be social, run to be competitive, run because you’re being chased. It doesn’t matter. If it makes you happy then don’t let someone else put the brake on! 

Often it’s our peers, or people who inspire us, who can hurt us. An overheard word about someone being derogatory about someone else can be really damaging. Remember though, those who are criticizing others must be insecure themselves. Ignore them. Don’t let them get inside your head.

My answer to the question – the moment you use running as a form of movement, you’re a runner. That first moment you choose to run 20 steps, you’re a runner. You might not feel like a runner, you might aspire to more, you might have goals, some goals may seem un-achievable but you’re a runner.