Trailffest Half Marathon 2019

About to board the train to the start line

What a brilliant race!

The Trailffest Half Marathon is billed as ‘one of the most scenic you could hope to run, with dramatic changes of scenery and terrain the whole way to the finish line’,

I wouldn’t disagree.

Everything about this race, from the steam train which takes you to the start line, the narrow trails which snake their way down the mountain, to the stunning landscape made this one of my favourite races to date.

Don’t get me wrong, it was hard, very hard in fact and a lot more technical than I had expected, (or needed this late into my training plan) but I loved every mile. The course profile is a little misleading, with the race starting at an elevation of 710 ft and finishing at sea level you’d expect it to be mainly downhill, but we still managed to climb over 1,535 ft – for every technical downhill, there was a tough uphill just around the corner. 

I only found out about Trailffest two days prior to the race. A couple of club mates had posted on the club Facebook page that regrettably, due to injury they’d have to pull out at this late stage. The race had been on my radar for a while but I’d never actually got round to running it so I gratefully accepted the place together with Kate, another friend from club who took the remaining place.

As it was such late notice, there was no time to organise accommodation so I decided to drive the 6 hour round trip to Porthmadog, Wales. Registration was between 8am-10:40am; so another early start. I’d agreed to car share with Kate so we met up at 6am to make the long journey to race HQ.

We arrived in Porthmadog just after 9am, allowing plenty of time to register, grab some breakfast, soak up the pre-race atmosphere and meet up with fellow club mates Abi, Rebecca and Claire. We were also handed our goody bag consisting of a technical t-shirt, a bottle of ale from the local brewery and some protein bars.

Pre race photo with Kate, Abi, Rebecca and Claire.

The start line was at Blaenau Ffestiniog which lies at the foot of the Moelwyn mountain range. To get to the start line the organisers had thrown in a steam train ride (for runners and supporters) which takes just over an hour and adds to the charm of the race. The views on the way up were amazing and every now and again we’d pick out race signs within the landscape depicting the route we’d soon be running back.

Once at the start line we were ushered into a start pen and there was a short pre race briefing and head count. It was a relatively small field, approximately 150 runners and before we knew it the race had started to the sound of the steam train whistle; another nice feature!

I had planned to take this race steady, simply enjoy the terrain, take in the views and just have a great day on the trail. The weather was gorgeous with clear blue skies and we were greeted with amazing views of the landscape.

The first 4 miles we found ourselves running trough rugged slate mines, mostly on single file tracks. There was also numerous stiles and gates to navigate which led to some congestion in places. Not a problem for someone enjoying the view and catching a breather but I did hear a few groans from fellow runners which I thought was a little out of hand; each to their own I suppose! The slate was also tricky underfoot and the technical aspect of being mindful of each foot placement meant it was pretty tough going in places and difficult to maintain any rhythm and pace.

Between miles 4-8 the terrain changed again to more woodland trails. This was my favourite section of the race, jumping tree routes, ducking under branches and running along small trails under the tree canopy. I also passed the train at mile 5, which was stationary and full of supporters who gave us an resounding cheer which was a real boost.

The pain is real. Looking up to yet another hill!

Miles 9-11 were mainly though farmland areas and again I found the terrain difficult to navigate. Making our way though farm tracks or grassy areas with hidden boulders or pot holes made it quite tricky and I found myself constantly scanning the ground in front of me rather than enjoying the views. There were sections I decided to walk rather than run in fear of turning an ankle or worse. This decision was later justified when I passed a lady who had unfortunately fallen and was being attended to by the marshals. 

The last couple of miles were mainly on road and were relatively flat. For the first time in the race I felt I could open my legs and maintain some speed. As a result, I found myself overtaking quite a few runners on this section which was testament to where I am in terms of my training plan. The last mile we found ourselves running next to the train line adjacent to the sea wall with the finish line in the distance. It was also very well supported and we were cheered home to a personalised tannoy finish – another nice touch! 

I finished in 64th position in 2:28 but in all honesty, the time and placing was irrelevant.

I finished injury free and had an amazing day on the trail.

Would I do it again?

In a heartbeat!

The view from the start line

Our ride….


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