Parker repeats and Betts is best at Buff Winter Trail Wales 2020
After a week of storms Coed y Brenin was restored to perfect mid-Winter weather on Saturday as almost 650 runners took on the Run. Coed y Brenin season opener, Buff®Winter Trail Wales – the sixth edition of this classic winter trail half marathon.
®©Sport Pictures Cymru
The event arena at Coed y Brenin once again looked superb as the stage was set for competitors from 14 countries who toed the start line, and it was to be Shrewsbury man Michael Betts and Mercia Fell Runner Rachel Parker who emerged clear male and female winners
Advertised as the ‘summer’s best trail half – in winter conditions’, still, cold conditions greeted the runners, with PBs and records set to be broken across the day. The runners headed out at the customary 10.30am start, the air of camaraderie which is synonymous with Coed y Brenin was very apparent. Runners clapped, danced and waved their way out of the visitor centre with 13.4 miles lying ahead of them.
The race route is just part of the fantastic offering that Coed y Brenin now has in terms of trails for runners. The estate is managed by Natural Resources Wales and the stunning Half Marathon route is just one of 5 trails tailored to trail runners needs.
©Sport Pictures Cymru
The men’s race was a close battle with Betts and Wrexham runner Joel Gomes battling it out. The gap between the two never grew to more than minute, until the last mile when Betts pulled away on the long final descent to cross the line in 1:30:11.
Clearly delighted Michael commented on how the tough the route had been, but that the views “simply stunning, especially on the top part of the course” . Behind Gomes finished in 1:31:15 to claim second and young Meirionnydd runner Euros Evans (who had only turned 17 in late 2019) took a fantastic third place, his maiden podium at a Run Coed y Brenin event, in 1:32:43
Michael Betts breaks the tape to take the 2020 Winter Trail title ©Sport Pictures Cymru
The Buff Winter Trail Wales women’s race has always been graced by some of the UK’s top trail and mountain runners, and this year was one of the strongest as 2019 winner Rachel Parker returned, along with serial podium runner at Coed y Brenin Faye Johnson, and 2018 winner Megan Ball.
By mile 6 it was clear that Parker was in determined mood to repeat her victory of 12 months earlier as she held a lead of over 3 mins.
Rachel Parker ©Sport Pictures Cymru
Behind Eryri Harrier Faye Johnson was holding a strong second place and was on target to smash her 2019 time on this route by almost 5 mins! Hannah Jones from Mickleover was running strongly behind in third.
Up ahead Parker was on her own, running so quickly that she was inside the top 10 places overall. Heading into the last 1-mile section at the Coed y Brenin arena it was clear that her time was a fast one, crossing the line in 1:39:19, around 60 seconds down on her 2018 time.
Rachel Parker takes her second women’s win ©Sport Pictures Cymru
Johnson stormed around the second half of the route to take a brilliant second with Jones holding on for third.
Within the event again in 2020 was a timed section of around 500m on one of the toughest sections of the race, the notorious Sting in the Tail. The Alan Lewis King and Queen of the Stingawards had been commissioned in memory of long-time Run Coed y Brenin events member and marshal Alan Lewis, who sadly passed away in 2017. It was simple – the fastest man and woman from the bottom to the top would take the prize.
For the women it was Johnson taking her third victory, flying up the climb in a new record time of 4:48, 11 seconds quicker than 2019. Professional Welsh cyclist Gruff Lewis underlined his climbing engine in the men’s event with an excellent 4:34 on the Sting.
As the mere mortals made their way around this beautiful forest in their hundreds, the smiles were broad as runners from across the UK ran PBs on the course.
©Sport Pictures Cymru
Event organiser Matt Ward was once again very pleased with the day’s proceedings, stating:
“I’m always so humbled by this race. It’s at a time of year when people are just starting to emerge after the Christmas holidays, but I guess it’s a great kick-start to the season and the Winter Trail seems to have really caught the imagination of trail runners from all parts of the country.
“As ever there was some great racing out there today, and the performances by Rachel and Michael were brilliant. A big congratulations to all of the runners, they were amazing, and the amount of smiling faces as they crossed the line was inspiring.
“I’d like to once again take the opportunity to thank the amazing marshals, staff and all who were involved in the race logistics, as the race went very smoothly – we are very lucky to have this amazing ‘family’ at Coed y Brenin!”
Top 3 Men
- Michael Betts (Shrewsbury AC) 1:30:11
- Joel Gomes (Wrexham AAC) 1:31:15
- Euros Evans (Merionnydd RC) 1:32:43
King of the Sting – Gruff Lewis – 4:34
Mens top 3 ©Sport Pictures Cymru
Top 3 Women
- Rachel Parker (Mercia FR) 1:39:19
- Faye Johnson (Eryri Harriers) 1:45:32
- Hannah Jones (Mickleover RC) 1:50:33
Queen of the Sting – Faye Johnson – 4:48
Womens top 3 ©Sport Pictures Cymru
2019 Buff Winter Trail Wales champions Michael Betts and Rachel Parker ©Sport Pictures Cymru
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