|By Rob Howard|
After all the talk it was time for action ... but the pre-race briefings were right. This is one of the toughest foot races in the world, and day one is the hardest day, and it had been made harder than it was 20 years ago. As day one progressed, taking runners into Snowdonia and across the highest summits of the week, the true scale of the challenge began to hit home, and despite good weather (much better than in the first race) the retirement rate was high and for the later runners the course was shortened.
At the time of writing (19.20 on Monday night) only a dozen finishers have reached camp having completed the full days route, with the leader Steve Birkinshaw arriving more than 2 hours later than expected, having spent nearly 10 hours running. “That was hard,” he said, “after the first section it’s all very rocky underfoot and hard to get going.” He added, “That route on Crib Goch is terrible and I had an awful time up there .... I’d never been up there before!”
He was followed in by Rob Baker some 23 minutes later who announced, “That was the hardest thing I’ve ever done! I’ve done elite mountain marathons and the like but never anything like that so I’m surprised to have done so well. It might have been hard but it was a great day out, some of the views were stunning and I think I’ve completed my tick list for Wales in one day.”
The two leaders set about sorting themselves out with food and found a two man tent to share, so they won’t be disturbed by later arrivals and can have a lay in! In the morning the latest arrivals start first at 6am (so they get the least rest unfortunately), and the quickest start last.
There are some other runners in camp when the leaders arrived, but they came by minibus having pulled out at one of the first manned road crossings today. These include most of the Spanish contingent of racers, and so far it looks like at least 10 runners pulled out or cut short their day (the full results will be on the race website but it may take while before they are posted.) The Spanish crew seemed cheerful enough and hope to continue with some of tomorrow’s route at least. They had settled down together for the night in one of the big Nordisk teepees.
One of their compatriots Anaime Perez did push on up Tryfan, but when I saw him he said he was feeling a bit sad as the cut-offs were getting closer – I think he had realised by this stage that he couldn’t get around the full course and would have to cut it short somewhere.