I always find autumn a reflective time of year. I suppose, like finishing a year’s worth of training and races, the trees breathe one last sigh of relief before shaking their leaves one last time.
It’s also the time of year I start looking at my calendar for next year and what races I would like to do. The old, the new, something a little different and that one you think of when you least expect it.
When I first found myself lining up at the start of marathons, I used to think bigger was better. There’s no denying the atmosphere of London, the beauty of Paris and the sheer speed of Berlin are selling points in their own right which keep me coming back on a regular basis but it’s the lesser known Snowdonia Marathon which truly has my heart.
By the end of October, autumn has descended across the United Kingdom. There’s a distinct chill in the morning air which you just can’t shrug, the days may turn out to be bright and dry but the landscape glistens from the moisture left behind as the sun crosses the sky.
I’m not sure what keeps drawing me back to Snowdonia. It could be the time of year, the scenery or the relatively small scale of the event, taking only around 2,500 athletes. The intimate atmosphere is a big draw to me. This isn’t a race you do on a whim. Registration takes place from the stroke of midnight on New Years Eve and places are filled pretty quickly. Once you’re over that hurdle, by the time you reach race day itself, there’s the route profile itself to deal with on the day, with around 870m elevation to contend with.
There are moments your legs hurt so bad but all you do is look around at the sheer beauty of the landscape which seems to feed your soul, pushing you ahead and willing you to the finish. One last climb and it’s over but first you need to pass Bwlch y groes. You think it’s all over when you see Llanberis below but those last two kilometres rip your legs to shreds as you drop down the steep mountainside.
Winding through the streets of the town and finally crossing the finish, you realise you’ve given everything. Maybe that’s what it is… knowing there’s a marathon out there which asks you to give it all but gives so much more in return, the opportunity to run through some of the most spectacular countryside this country has to offer. It makes you discover yourself.