Tough Time in Wales – John Bateson in the Vegan Welsh 3000s, 30miles or so, 15 June 2013

A classic route over the 3000 foot plus peaks of Wales, raced by folk eating only plants (at least for the day), this was a fantastic event run by a small team with a passion for both hills and animals. They’re pretty good about people too, and a lovely friendly atmosphere prevailed throughout. The food stops were well-stocked with food that hadn’t had anything to do with animals, other than the human one who had cooked it, and I heard the vittles praised by more than one confirmed meat eater. The marshals (and their dogs) managed to keep smiling and encouraging despite being in a gale atop a mountain.

Despite all this, a pretty tough time was had… I got lost a few times, fell over many times, and and suffered almost all the time….

The route starts with around a thousand metre climb from the road at Nantgwynantto the top of Snowdon, an ascent that was tough enough to make me wonder if I’d even be able to finish… I climbed decently enough, only losing time to a couple of leaders who were clearly going well, but I then messed about on the rainy, cold and cloud-covered summit climbing on the trig point and trying to find the marshal and the route off. The rain then turned to hail which it so hard that it left welts in my exposed legs. Then my luck changed, and I spied some fellow racers coming out of the mist, and these guys were fully clued-up. (I had a map and compass but I hoped not to get them out, so latching onto a group who knew the route was a job). Keeping pace with the little group over the next peak was easy, and I was very thankful to be following them off the summit. At this point however, with only a couple of miles of the thirty or so behind me, I became reacquainted with my horrendous downhill skills. Unable to keep up, I was on my own again – it was the pattern for the remaining ten hours – the map would have to emerge from my bag after all!


I have slowly, painfully got better at managing myself on these longer, harder races, both in the mental game (it’s not that hard, basically coming down to saying to myself ‘just keep going’) and the physical aspects (food, water, vaseline), but I made an error not taking on more food at the first of three food stations. I suppose I hadn’t yet mentally readjusted to quite how long each mile was going to take me over this terrain. I had gels in my pack, which sustain but don’t satisfy, and so at the next food stop, hours later, I ate too much. I even wolfed down two slices of very fine fruit-laden vegan cake.

Organizer-in-Chief, Kirsch Bowker, with water and encouragement
The drop from Tyrfan – a lovely hill – to the second food station was steep and consequently very tough for me – one fall left me with a bruise on my hip that made sleeping difficult that night, and another fall I feared like I’d really hurt my shoulder muscles. But it passed… I spent some of the descent thinking about what the marshals had told me at the top – the record for the descent is 8 minutes – I didn’t dare count, but I’m guessing I took 45!


But if you keep going you keep getting nearer the end. The next big climb, the last serious one of the day it turned out, coincided with some nice weather – so nice  in fact that I got carried away and went the wrong side of some rocks whilst admiring the views and ended up doing a bit of climbing – it was good to get my arms and brain doing a little work!


The good weather passed once we got near the tops and I didn’t really see any runners. Had some nice chats with walkers and the ever jolly marshals.


Somehow I managed to get in sight of some fellow runners in the last five miles but then somehow lost them again. Despite the fact I was going well, II stupidly reasoned that they’d sped up somehow. The correct reasoning, obvious now I’m sitting in the warm with my feet up, was that they’d followed the route and turned off, whereas I’d just jogged on past the turning and heading in the wrong direction. But I was tired, so upon realising the error, I compounded it by trying to cut cross-country rather than retrace my steps. And I went in the wrong direction… This is becoming a habit, and it again cost me a lot of time and few places.

The end….
Some things you can’t help – the best training for the hill is in the hills, and I just can’t get to them very often. That said, there’s no shortage of slopes where I live and nothing to stop me running up and down them a lot. Equally, the best prep for a run like this is recce the route, but if you are can’t, closely studying the map is always going to be worthwhile. Not doing these things was dumb.


The sun returned for the end, and those already finished were lounging around in the sun. The time didn’t seem to matter much, by this stage (over 11 hours!). I know that two vegans, Simon and Karl finished ahead of me. Karl had done most of the route on a twisted ankle now the size of a grapefruit, but still finished fourth.. The winners in male and female categories weren’t vegan, but they got a copy of Jurek’s Eat and Run in their prize bags, so let’s hope they are converted….


Great event, hope to be back next year.