Ras Tal Y Fan Saturday 13 July 2019
Friday, the day before the event, the mist was low and the rain was light but persistent as a few arrows and marker canes were being put out along the course where runners had a history of making navigational errors. A bigger problem was the missing stile, where we would normally put a sign near Bryn Derwydd, there was now only a gate, and lots of sheep on either side of it. The issue, where to find another marshal at such short notice. Stuart McDonald, who had been recruited as “Sweeper” was phoned, he was now on the gate; and I went to find my fell shoes and bum bag; so much for an easy afternoon on the carnival field eating ice cream!
Saturday dawned, the mist and fog were still down, with little breeze to blow them away quickly. We certainly did not need a water station setting up at the first checkpoint, if the weather continued it could become a bog-snorkelling race. By 1pm runners were arriving at registration, and for the first time we had over 60 entries. Headcount done, and warnings about cows given, the race started. The leaders rocketed off, reaching checkpoint one in 15 minutes, while the tail-enders were still walking up the hill to the youth hostel. However, the marshals reported that the quick leader was navigationally challenged, and that they had been yelling at him to follow the path, and not to head off left…
Up towards the summit, and into the cloud. The footpath gave a good indication of the way to the trig point, but you could not see the top, even from the preceding false summit. Checkpoint two reported all runners were accounted for, but as we left the summit, the visibility was about 50m, so no there was no opportunity to take a visual on the stone circle, it was going to be a grid bearing or memory of the route across the open moorland bog.
With the tail-end runner close behind me, I led down the hill. For a minute we could see Mike Blake with the penultimate runner ahead, and then he was gone, hidden by a dip or the mist. Following narrow sheep paths we headed to the stone circle. Checkpoint 3 reported 6 unaccounted for. The prior tail ender was sent off along the course, as a group of five came out of the mist having gone a long way left, more towards Llanfairfechan than Penmaenmawr. That left one runner unaccounted for. Neither Mike nor I had seen anyone. We started to check the check point list to ascertain the number of the missing runner. Then out of the murk, a shadow appeared. The runner had gone too far right, but knew when he found telegraph posts that he needed to double back to the checkpoint.
With a big sigh of relief, we headed off along the North Wales Coastal path. The farmer was out on his quad bike checking sheep, so it was good to know all the gates had competent marshals. We stopped for a brief chat with the marshals, and continued along the course, now picking up arrows, and canes as we went. All the runners had passed the footbridge, and the cloud was starting to lift. We passed another marshal, with jelly babies and water on offer, before up the last hill, down to the last checkpoint and back to the road.
Heading down into the village, the mobile rang – have you a runner with you? Where are you? By the time we reached the village the tail ender had been located. Maybe he had stopped off for a beer, but he was safe. All accounted for, it was presentation time.
Up at the front, Josh Hartley (Blackcombe), Neal Crampton (Pudsey), Lloyd Taggart (Manx), Jack White (Norwich) and Mark Davies (NWRRC) had had a close run race. Russell Owen broke the V60 record, finishing in 14th place in 1-19-02. The Ladies were brought home by Hayley Evans (Buckley) in 1-26-15.
Thank you to all our marshals, registration team and runners for making it an enjoyable afternoon.