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Big battles, record times and smiling faces at Salomon Trail Marathon Wales 2019

The 8th running of Wales’ premier forest trail marathon, the Salomon Trail Marathon Wales, was a resounding success on Saturday as almost 1000 entrants descended on Coed y Brenin in the Snowdonia National Park for one of Wales’ biggest and best trail running events of 2019.

Once again the race saw participants from across the world take on what is now renowned as one of the toughest and most beautiful trail marathons in the UK.

The visitor centres at Coed y Brenin were once again transformed into an exciting race arena with a festival feel, with smiles abundant amongst the runners as they gathered for the race starts, and yet again the resounding feedback from runners and spectators alike was highly positive with many describing the event as ‘brutal’ and ‘stunning’ in the same breath!

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© Sport Pictures Cymru

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© Sport Pictures Cymru

The racing at the weekend had got underway on the Friday evening with the third running of the Salomon Friday Night 5km event and Ras Anifeiliad Bach for under 12s, and almost 130 competitors across the two events kick started the weekend at Coed y Brenin, with almost 100 youngsters sprinting off at 6pm in the junior races.

Salomon Friday Night 5 results can be found HERE, with Ras Anifeiliad Bach results HERE

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© Cader Sports Photography

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© Cader Sports Photography

Saturday morning dawned to bright weather at the Coed y Brenin visitor centre, and the supporters were as large in number as the runners as the marathon race got underway at 9am.

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© Sport Pictures Cymru

After a few weeks of unsettled weather, the runners were to encounter perfect running conditions of around 15 degrees C and light winds. With runners from over 20 countries travelling from as far a field as South Africa, USA, Norway, Germany and Ireland the Salomon Trail Marathon Wales race has truly become an international event.

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© Sport Pictures Cymru

With the likes of GB internationals Tom Owens and Max Nicholls, two-time winner and Welsh international Andrea Rowlands and two-time winner of the Snowdonia Marathon Eryri race Russell Bentley on the start line, racing was going to be fast. Add in Salomon UK athlete Dan Connolly, and a host of fast mountain and trail runners from around the UK, and we were in for a day of top trail racing.

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© Sport Pictures Cymru

From the gun (ranger Iori was the race starter as tradition states at TMW!) Russell Bentley strung out the field, as is his style in many races that he runs. The Eryri Harrier has a road marathon PB of 2hours 20 mins meant business and anyone who wanted to get close was going to have to run really hard to stay with him.

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© Sport Pictures Cymru

Passing through halfway in an incredible 1 hour 23 minutes, Bentley had built a commanding lead of over a min from Tom Owens, with Nicholls in third. The race record stands at an immense 2 hours 53 mins from 2014, when Wales international Alun Vaughan galloped around the Coed y Brenin trails to take the win. But with Owens starting to gain on Bentley as they approached 15 miles, it was obvious that a super-fast time was on the cards.

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Russell Bentley pounding the climb at mile 15 © Sport Pictures Cymru

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Tom Owens chases at mile 15 © Sport Pictures Cymru

The second half of the race always proves hard and the relentless climbs began to take their toll, and it was here that Owens began to make his move on Bentley as the hit the notorious Tyddyn Bwlch climb at mile 20. This is a singletrack meander that rises over 100m in less than a mile!

It was here that things proved decisive as Owens caught and passed long-time leader Bentley, with the Kent man later describing Owens’ pace on the climb as “ridiculously fast”.

From here the Salomon International athlete crushed the final miles and as they closed in on the Coed y Brenin finish line it was very clear that something special was on the cards time-wise. Owens crossed the line to huge acclaim and a big crowd roared him to an amazing 2:48:56, taking almost 5 mins off the event record! Bentley hung on strongly, chasing Owens home in a very fast 2:50:03, also inside the old best time by over 3 minutes.

Behind Max Nicholls ran a great debut marathon, his first race over 27km, with the Tonbridge youngster taking third spot in 3:03:27.

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Tom Owens holds the 2019 Salomon Trail Marathon Wales trophy aloft! ©  Sport Pictures Cymru

In the women’s race, it was to be a very different story as two-time winner of the Salomon Trail Marathon Wales race Andrea Rowlands dominated from the start.

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Andrea Rowlands has time for a wave at mile 6 © Sport Pictures Cymru

The Eryri Harrier is as tenacious and strong as they come, and her first half time an example of her strength as she passed  through the visitor centre at mile 13.5 in 1:45:30, a time that would have placed her second in the half marathon race that day!

Cresting 15 miles Rowlands had a 10 minute plus lead, but behind North Wales runner Stephanie Ellis-Williams was running a fabulous race, looking comfortable in second.

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Stephanie Ellis-Williams © Sport Pictures Cymru

As the miles wore on it was becoming clear that Rowlands was extending her lead mile by mile and was set to come home winner. As she emerged from the Animal Trail section at mile 26 in full flow and crossed the line to take her third win at the event in 3:37:03.

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Andrea is all smiles as she crosses the finish line © Sport Pictures Cymru

Behind Ellis-Williams ran a brilliant race to take the second podium spot in 3:50:47, with Jenny Laing (South Derbyshire) taking third in 4:01:30

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The women’s marathon podium  ©  Sport Pictures Cymru

In the supporting half marathon race 2018 runner-up Dan Connolly was back to try and take the title. Since his second place in the previous year’s event the Mercia Fell Runner had gone on to score a number of notable victories and in doing so earned himself a sponsorship deal to become a Salomon UK athlete in 2019.

Up against him was Notts AC fast-man Ben Livesey and the two battled is out running stride for stride over the first 12 miles of the race. Connolly’s redoubtable descending skills then came into effect as he pulled away from Livesey to take the win in an incredibly fast 1:22:09, less than a minute outside of the course record from 2016 held by GB international Andy Davies.

Behind Livesey took a sparkling second place in 1:23:14, with local man and Welsh international Alun Williams taking the final podium spot in 1:29:09.

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Dan Connolly takes the Salomon Trail Marathon Wales 2019 half marathon win ©Sport Pictures Cymru

In the women’s race, Welsh International mountain runner Katie Beecher returned to Coed y Brenin after competing in the marathon a few years back. The South Wales-based runner chose the shorter half marathon distance this time, and it proved to be a good decision as she led from gun to tape to take the win.

Her time of 1:43:34 was good enough to take the win by over 4 minutes from Zara Fowell (1:47:55), with Sarah Cronin finishing third in 1:56:55.

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Katie Beecher wins the women’s half marathon © Sport Pictures Cymru

Reflecting on another highly successful event race organiser Matt Ward stated:

“I am sure that I say this every year, but I truly feel that this is one of the best-ever Trail Marathon races we have seen at Coed y Brenin. The atmosphere at the event was infectious today, and I saw so many smiling faces. Equally the racing was fierce, especially in that men’s marathon race – Tom’s time for the 26 miles is utterly fantastic, and hats off to Russell too for a valiant effort!

“There are so many people to thank. I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to Salomon, who once again this year had been incredibly supportive to the event and have helped us make the whole weekend a great experience for the runners. Also all of the Natural Resources Wales staff and team here at Coed y Brenin, who every year immerse themselves into the event and really help make it what it is. So, I’d like to thank all of the staff at the Coed y Brenin visitor centre too who have been fantastic this last few weeks in helping make the event a success.

“Finally, the incredible team we have at the Salomon Trail Marathon Wales event who work tirelessly to help us put on the event, the dozens of marshals, feed station staff and local volunteers and lastly all of the runners who make this event what it is”.

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© Sport Pictures Cymru

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© Sport Pictures Cymru

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© Sport Pictures Cymru

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© Sport Pictures Cymru

————-

Top 3 Full Marathon results:

Men
1st Tom Owens (Salomon UK) 2:48:56 (New CR)
2nd Russell Bentley (Eryri) 2:50:03
3rd Max Nicholls (Salomon UK) 3:03:27

Women
1st Andrew Rowlands (Eryri) 3:37:03
2nd Stephanie Ellis-Williams 3:50:47
3rd Jenny Laing (South Derbyshire) 4:01:30

Top 3 Half Marathon results:

Men
1st Daniel Connelly (Salomon UK) 1:22:08
2nd Ben Livesey (Notts AC) 1:23:14
3rd Alun Williams (Meirionydd) 1:29:09

Women
1st Katie Beecher (Les Croupiers) 1:43:34
2nd Zara Fowell 1:47:55
3rd Sarah Cronin 1:56:55

Full results are now online at the TDL Event Services website for the Half and Full Marathon.

Images from the event via Sport Pictures Cymru

The 2020 Salomon Trail Marathon Wales event will take place on Saturday 20th June, with entries opening on September 1st, 2019

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