Williams and Ball conquer a very wintery Buff Winter Trail Wales
Almost 600 runners descended on Coed y Brenin last weekend as the 2018 Buff Winter Trail Wales took place hosting a record number of entries in cold, wet and snowy conditions.
Advertised as the ‘summer’s best trail half – in winter conditions’, the weather didn’t disappoint as Coed y Brenin awoke to a morning of rain, with snow showers forecast. However, this did little to dent the spirit of the runners who had traveled from across the UK to take part in the fourth annual edition of this fast-becoming classic winter trail half marathon.
©Sport Pictures Cymru
After an unsettled few weeks weather wise in the region, hopes of perfect underfoot conditions were slim and gloopy trails were to be the order of the day with many runners wearing full kit for the event.
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
As 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 for the visitor centre with a muddy, wet and chilly 13 miles lying ahead of them.
The runners get underway ©Sport Pictures Cymru
Alun Williams had been touted as one of the race favourites in the build-up to the event and as the race got underway the local runner hit the front, along with MDC’s Dave Lawson. The two Welshmen established a comfortable lead as they hit mile three and began the long descent to the Mawddach river bridge.
In behind was 2016 and 2017 Lakeland 100 winner Mike Jones. The Salomon UK athlete was using the race as a build-up event to the upcoming 3 Peaks ahead of his foray into Europe for a season of ultra races.
As the race wore on there was nothing separating Williams and Lawson as they duked it out through the single tracks and forest roads of this famous forest and as they hit the super-steep Sting in the Tail at mile 11 they were still locked in battle.
Alun Williams on the Sting in the Tail ©Sport Pictures Cymru
The race was going to come down to the last mile and Williams dug deep and used his speed as they came off the final singletrack descent and into the Coed y Brenin Visitor Centre finish line to win by just 8 seconds in 1:32:16
Lawson (1:32:24) could feel rightly proud of his race, and looked satisfied with second place, though possibly knew how close he had come to the win as this prestigious race.
Behind Mike Jones ran a strong solo race to take the final podium spot in 1:34:25
Speaking after the race Williams stated:
“It was a great race with Dave and I wasn’t sure I could win until the last 400m. The weather was so cold out there and I couldn’t feel my arms after the race, I’m just beginning to warm up now!
“What a great race though. It’s my first time racing the half marathon course here at Coed y Brenin and I loved it – hard, but runnable.”
Williams breaks the tape ©Sport Pictures Cymru
The women’s race saw a huge battle as 2017 Winter Trail Wales winner Sian Lloyd Williams was back to defend her title. Liverpool Harrier Megan Ball came into the race with a background of road and cross country running and was making her first visit to race on the trails of Coed y Brenin.
When measured up to Williams’ mountain and trail pedigree, few would have favoured Ball versus the Welsh international, however as the race entered mile 6 it was clear that Ball was a big contender and more than a match for Williams.
Sian Lloyd Williams leads Megan Ball at mile 6 ©Sport Pictures Cymru
For the next 7 miles the two women battled hard, as Ball stretched out on the flatter, faster sections and Williams used her descending prowess on the downhills. With less than one mile to go there was merely 5 seconds separating them and it was only in the 300m run-in that Ball began to dominate, pushing hard and opening up a 50 metre gap as she crossed the line in 1:45:31.
Megan Ball takes the women’s win ©Sport Pictures Cymru
Hebog runner Williams crossed the line 24 seconds later, exhausted, but satisfied with her run after a period of what she called “not a lot of running“. For Ball, this was a breakthrough win and could be a springboard to even greater things on the trails.
South Wales runner Faye Johnson was 4th in 2017 and went one better in 2018 to take the final podium spot, visibly delighted as she crossed the line in 1:48:35.
Within the event for the first time 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 Sting awards were 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, who flew up the climb in 5:06. Chris Perez took the men’s award with a very swift 4:43.
Event organiser Matt Ward was extremely satisfied with the day’s proceedings, stating:
“There was some great racing out there today, and the snow showers made for some superb images by our photography team from Sport Pictures Cymru. A big congratulations to all of the runners, they were amazing, and the amount of smiling faces as they crossed the line was inspiring.
“When I woke this morning and saw the weather I knew we were in for a challenging day. However, it’s testament to the amazing marshals, staff and all who were involved in the race logistics, that the race once again went very smoothly – we are very lucky to have this amazing ‘family’ at Coed y Brenin!”
Top 3 Men
1. Alun Williams 1:32:16
2. Dave Lawson (Mynyddwyr De Cymru) 1:32:24
3. Mike Jones (Salomon UK) 1:34:26
King of the Sting – Chris Perez – 4:43
Top 3 Women
1. Megan Ball (Liverpool Harriers) 1:45:31
2. Sian Lloyd Williams (Rhedwyr Hebog Runners) 1:45:54
3. Faye Johnson (Pont y Pwl District) 1:48:41
Queen of the Sting – Faye Johnson – 5:06
2018 Buff Winter Trail Wales champions Alun Williams and Megan Ball ©Sport Pictures Cymru
Full race results can be found via the TDL Event Services website here
The 2019 Buff Winter Trail Wales race will take place on 19th January with entries live on October 1st, 2018.
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