Our off-road-loving duo, Hugh Marsden and Dawn Teed, travelled up to Tywyn in Mid Wales this weekend (20th Aug) to face the annual challenge 'Race the Train'. This race takes runners alongside the Talyllyn railway for 7 miles out before they turn around and head the 7 miles back to the start, all the while racing a steam train, crammed with families, supporters and press crews, in addition to racing against the 900+ other runners. Sounds simple huh? Not exactly...
For runners, no such luxury as a warm, comfortable seat on the train with nice views to admire; they must concentrate and run hard the whole way as the course is multi-terrain, leading them through some rough tracks and paths as well as some very boggy fields, some of which have a steep camber to them. The train takes around 1h47m to complete the 14 mile out and back journey, which includes a 10 minute stop to take on water for the steam engine at the farthest point. Runners hoping to beat it cannot afford to take a 10 minute break; they must press on! This year's race also threw in the added challenge of heavy rain which lasted for the duration of the race. Small wonder then that the race has carved an iconic status for itself amongst the trail running fraternity, and small wonder too that some of the runners who signed up did not even manage to finish. Not the case for our Exmouth pairing, however, who have run this race many times before and who knew what to expect.
Hugh had an absolute stormer of a race. He not only beat the train by over 10 minutes, but his impressive time of 1.36.04 was good enough for 40th place overall (out of a strong field of 918 finishers) and, amazingly, our off-roadster scooped the Male Vet 50 top prize! A massive achievement considering this race attracts some really good quality athletes and the heavy rain this year made the going under foot even tougher.
Dawn seemed a little disappointed in her performance, it being 7 minutes slower than the time she clocked last year. She wondered if competing in a few too many races of late had taken the buzz out of her legs, and also the bad weather will not have helped returning athletes seeking to run a course PB this year. She finished just outside the top two thirds of athletes overall, in 623rd place, and 91st female in a time of 2.17.01. When you consider that the last runner home took a sedate 3.37.48, Dawn has nothing to berate herself for.
The first runner home was Andrew Hunt of Cardiff AAC who ran a blistering 1.21.31. The first female runner was Sarah Ridehalgh of Accrington Road Runners, just behind Hugh in 1.36.59.
For anyone interested in running next year's race, entries are already open and entries online are currently frozen at 2011 prices! Go to: www.racethetrain.com for more information and to sign up... if you think you are tough enough to beat the train!