Race the Train – 21 August 2010

Lesley Pymm reports from Tywyn on one of the more unusual fixtures on the race calendar.

Well, it was that time of year again for the annual trip to Wales to Race the Train. The morning was fairly warm and I had sunscreen on as I watched the people running the shorter distances as they were taken off to their starts (either by train or by coach) and then – after coffee and welsh cakes for me – they returned, muddy, smiling and wearing medals and T-shirts.

As it got nearer to my start, the clouds gathered. By the time the runners were waiting on the bridge above the train for the start there were a few spots of rain – nothing too much.

After what seemed to be a lot of hanging about, a whistle went, the train hooted and we were off. Running out of Tywyn it seemed very warm and the first water station seemed a long way off. I know that I am never going to beat the train, so I put my partner in the second train so that he at least has the chance to see me during the run, which he wouldn’t if he was in the first train.

There is a spot where the runners go downhill towards the railway line and then run alongside it for a couple of hundred yards – my challenge is to get there at the same time as the second train so that he can shout and I can wave (it’s so stressful being a runner isn’t it!?) This year I got it spot on and happily ran alongside the train whilst photos were taken – challenge accomplished.

Soon after that the rain started coming down a bit heavier and it rained constantly for the rest of the event. The route was changed slightly since last year and I thought it was a bit harder. We used to run/stagger up a steep hill at Dolgoch and then through some woods to then go on towards Abergynolwyn.

This year we went up towards the falls and then through the stream and under a bridge before going up some steps to run on the other side of the woods and then over Quarry Siding and back to the course we know and love. The good news was that the farmer had not ploughed the field just before the turn point this year as he did a few years ago.

The run back is harder than the run out. After running along a fairly easy path we drop down and over the stream again then under a bridge and climb up an embankment which is always tough and this year was really slippery as well. The second train came past me again at this point but Mike did not capture the image of me struggling up the slope as he slipped on the wet carriage and missed the shot! When we get to the top we run along a contour for a while.

The track is a sort of sheep path so you can’t overtake easily and a number of people are reduced to walking as they have the wrong shoes on – most will step aside to let other pass when it is safe to do so – in my case they always come back past me again, but probably not for another three miles or so, so it is best to get past them or it would make a real difference to my eventual time.

We then head off back to Dolgoch Falls – more steps, I really do hate steps! Sometime after that – it all goes into a bit of a blur – there is the bog. We were also warned of a dead sheep on the course. There are some good views of the sea from along here if you are able to look up for long enough. Eventually things start to look very familiar and it is the reverse of the way we went out and then back to the road. We passed runners who had already finished at the Halo Ice Cream Factory Shop sampling their wares, and then into town and up to the finish.

It was a good run as usual – I was a minute or so quicker than last year. The rain kept runners cool but was not so good for marshals who were out there for a very long time.

Lesley’s time was 3:04:39. Full results here.