Race Report: Race The Train

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Guest post by Efe Avan-Nomayo giving her Race the Train race report.

I’d never heard of it before my friend mentioned it. Essentially you race against the steam train on the Talyllyn Railway in North West Wales. It’s pretty multi-terrain, starting in the town of Tywyn and meandering through places I can’t pronounce.

Initially all I heard when my friend explained it to me was ‘train’ and ‘pretty.’ I thought to myself, “I like trains. This sounds like fun.” It was only after I signed up and that truly appreciated what I had signed up for. I didn’t mind that it was 14 miles (I’d done a half marathon so in my mind it was just a little further). But then it hit me that I would be CHASING the train. Trains aren’t known for travelling at walking pace. It also occurred to me that being in North Wales, there may be the odd hill. Living in London became a distinct disadvantage.

Looking back on it, it was a great race and I definitely intend to do it again. There were many lessons learnt though:

–      Prepare for rain. I had been training in our lovely heatwave and was not prepared for the torrential downpour that hit me an hour into the race. I was so soaked I didn’t need to blink for half an hour. There were stunning surroundings but I couldn’t see any of it.

–      Prepare for hills. I thought I had done this, but I had only prepared for running UP hills, not on the SIDE of hills. Very different sensation. I thought I ankles were going to give up on me.

–      Fell shoes are probably best. I ran in my usual running shoes and there were definitely points where I wish I was wearing something more substantial. However, I’m not sure it would have helped me get though the particularly soggy parts, where I sank into the mud right up to my knee.

–      Accept the isotonic drinks offered along the way. Much has to be said about the excellent water stops along the path. I wished I had taken advantage of it more.

–      Don’t worry if you don’t see the train. Two trains are sent out, one 20 minutes after the other. I only ever saw the second train. And when I couldn’t see it, I could hear it. Along with all the shouting/screaming people onboard.

–      Enjoy it. Yes, it was painful and I almost lost the will. But there are supporters pretty much all along the path. At one point, a father and his six month old were standing halfway up the mountain, shouting encouragement. Also most of the participants were very friendly and I spend a lot of time randomly chatting to people as we traversed the tricky terrain. It almost took my mind off the fact we were traveling along a narrow path with a steep drop to the side of us.

–      Don’t give up, because at the end of the race, you get an awesome goody bag. Considering how small this race was, the goody bag was amazing. I got a nice race top (plain cotton, not a running top) that was actually in my size! There was also some little snacks, teabags and a sachet of bath oils to relax the muscles after an exhausting run. Also, the medal is pretty substantial.

I was nowhere near beating the train, but quite a lot of people did. This is definitely a race for the super-fit. The race closes after 3 hours 15 minutes, so you need to be relatively quick. Probably not a race to decide to do on whim, but certainly enjoyable.

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