Trail running is the winner at biggest-ever Salomon Trail Marathon Wales
Top class competition and worthy champions were the order of the day at the 4th edition of the Salomon Trail Marathon Wales last weekend, but it was the almost 1000 participants who were the real winners as large crowds flocked to Coed y Brenin Forest Park, in North Wales. The enjoyment factor of this event was raised yet another notch this year as the enthusiasm of the runners flowed, in overcast, damp conditions early in the day.
The visitor centres at Coed y Brenin Forest Park were once again transformed into an exciting race arena with a festival feel, and yet again the resounding feedback from runners and spectators alike was highly positive. In 4 years Trail Marathon Wales has grown to be one of the UK’s premium trail marathons with runners traveling from as far a field as the US, Germany, Spain, Sweden and Ireland, and it is easy to see why the race, which take in some of the most technical and beautiful aspects of this 9000 acres forest in the heart of the Snowdonia National Park, has cemented itself as one of the top events on the UK trail running calendar.
As racing got underway at the traditional 9.00am, the mist clung to the tree tops for the first hour or so of the event and the atmosphere was a large contrast to the hot and sunny conditions of the race 12 months earlier. 2013 winner and 2014 runner-up Andrew Siggers was prominent, along with south Wales athlete Harry Jones and local Aberystwyth runner Ken Caulkett. Both Caulkett and Jones were also familiar with the Coed y Brenin trails – Jones as the runner-up at the 2015 Winter Trail race and Caulkett as the winner of the recent Goldrush Trail race.
After keeping close order for the first half of the race, Jones followed Siggers through 13 miles, with the Kenilworth runner around one minute to the good as they passed under the race arena at halfway. However, as the relentless miles of the second half of the race wore on it was apparent that Siggers’ strength and course knowledge was unbeatable, and the 35-year old crossed the line in 3:01:46 for a famous second win at this event, over nine minutes ahead of Jones (3:10:02) by the finish line. Caulkett ran a strong race to take third in 3:12:58.
Siggers obviously loves the area and the race, commenting afterwards:
“I’ve really enjoyed the TMW over the past three years (shame I missed the 2012 – wish I’d known about it then too!). The course was testing as ever – completing the ‘Sting in the tail’ was a mission even though there was another 14 miles to run beyond. Both the courses have a good mix of forest roads and single tracks which keeps you on your toes. I loved flying down the narrow paths, battering my quads in the process – they’re still sore five days on!”
“The marshals and race officials were very enthusiastic which rather sums up the spirit of this event – everyone involved, runners and helpers, are all out to have a good time and are passionate about trail running. The organisation and care taken to consider so many details makes this event stand out. The course bridges the gap beautifully between fell and road running/cross country and would add an excellent further dimension to any club runner’s race calendar looking for a challenge!”
In the women’s event 2014 winner Eryri Harrier and Welsh international Andrea Rowlands was back after a record breaking run at the Welsh 1000m race a couple of weeks earlier, and led early on from TMW newcomer Samantha Amend race regular Mary Grace Spalton. As the first half wore on it was clear that Amend meant business though, edging past Rowlands, and by halfway had a 2 minute lead on Andrea.
With the two locked in battle is was fascinating that over the ensuing second half they remained at a steady gap, showing the strength of the two runners. Amend, a seasoned road runner, extended her lead to just over 3 minutes as she rounded the last bend and headed up to the finish line to take the applause, victory and her first Trail Marathon Wales ladies’ title. Rowlands finished well to take second, with Mary Grace adding third to her win of 2013 and second place last year.
Speaking after the event Amend commented:
“That was a real lung-buster! The trophy is in its well deserved place next to the mantel piece at home and I love it! Coed y Brenin is such a geat race, with great marshaling and one of the best as far as atmosphere and location is concerned. See you next year!”
In the supporting half marathon event, TMW favourite and winner of the 2012 marathon and 2013 half marathon, Andy Davies was back. The Mercia fell runner has been in sparkling form in the last 12 months, with cross country victories over Olympic champion Ali Brownlee amongst his performances, and as the race rolled out at 10.00am Davies took up the lead immediately.
He was followed by training partner Jon Bowie, who himself has been in great form, and as they covered the first 3 miles in record time, it was only Bowie who could match Davies. However, as the race wore on Davies opened a gap and extended it as the miles elapsed, coming home in a new course record 1:21:41 over two minutes clear of Bowie (1:23:49). Calder Valley runner Jason Williams completed the podium in 1:26:11.
Shrewsbury triathlete Zoe McLennan was back at the race and looking ready for a repeat of her 2104 win. Also toeing the start line were seasoned performer Lisa Grantham and relative unknown Rachael Parker. Though McLennan improved on her winning time of 2014 by almost three minutes, her 1:46:32 was only good enough for second in 2015 as Parker romped around the 13-mile route in a very swift 1:44:50, easily taking the win and one of the coveted Trail Marathon Wales ‘way marker’ trophies which each winner of the half and full marathon races receives. Grantham ran strongly for third in 1:50:17.
After the event race organiser Matt Ward was obviously delighted with how the day had gone, both from a racing and organisational perspective:
“Trail Marathon Wales has been memorable yet again. This natural amphitheatre of the Coed y Brenin visitor centres works so well for all concerned and the atmosphere for the start of both races this year was electric. One aspect which we aspire to at the event is that European feel of a village coming out for a carnival, and I think we have achieved that once again.
“Most of all the real winners this year are every one of the competitors who run this event. Their enthusiasm, infectious laughter and sense of fun, which seems everywhere on race-day, really does make for an event which makes you smile. There were tears of joy, pain and massive releases of emotion as runners poured over the finish line here today, and I am proud as to what we have achieved at this event.
“I’d like to thank all of the staff at the Coed y Brenin visitor centre who have been fantastic this last few weeks in helping make the event a success, all of our valued event partners especially Salomon, who have signed a three-year partnership with the race, the fantastic team I have who work tirelessly to help me 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”.
Top 3 Full Marathon results:
1st Andrew Siggers 3:01:46
2nd Harry Jones 3:10:02
3rd Ken Caulkett 3:12:58
1st Samantha Amend 3:29:21
2nd Andrea Rowlands 3:32:29
3rd Mary Grace Spalton 3:43:36
Top 3 Half Marathon results:
1st Andrew Davies 1:21:41
2nd Jon Bowie 1:23:49
3rd Jason Williams 1:26:11
1st Rachael Parker 1:44:50
2nd Zoe McLennan 1:46:32
3rd Lisa Grantham 1:50:17
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