by Paul DALTON

A recent convert to running, my friend Shawn contacted me a few months ago to advise that he had obtained a place, free of charge, in the Anglesey Half Marathon. Shawn lives in South Wales and it turns out that he was on good terms with one of the event’s sponsors. One cheeky request later, and I too had a free entry into the race, so a long weekend break in North Wales was planned.

After meeting up with Shawn and his wife, Julie, on Saturday morning for a run out at the idyllic Penrhyn parkrun and a post-parkrun coffee, Clare and I drove to Menai Bridge village to scope out the arrangements for the following morning, and then headed down to Caernarfon for a spot of sight-seeing, before heading to Betws-y-Coed to enjoy an evening carb-loading (Spag Bol!) with Shawn and Julie. As the girls weren’t running the following day, they also managed a few sociable drinks, though, being the finely tuned athletes that we are, Shawn and I remained sober.

Sunday morning arrived and we woke to dry, but overcast conditions, however that was as good as it got. About an hour before the gun went off at 9am, the rain started. And never stopped. Those who ran the Ravenstonedale 10K in 2015 will have some idea as to the conditions. The Welsh weather, huh…

The race starts on the iconic Menai Bridge, and is run entirely on roads or tarmac, so ideal for a fully paid up member of the ‘Roadrunners Union’ such as myself. Once across the Menai Bridge, the route doubles back under the bridge itself and the through the back streets of Menai Bridge village, before joining the A545 along the coast to Beaumaris. On the start line I looked for any familiar Club vests, but none were to be found. Instead of New Marske Harriers, Elvet Striders, and Aycliffe Running Club, I was surrounded by runners from Eryri Harriers, Cybi Striders and Liverpool Running Club.

I initially settled into a small group containing runners from North Wales Running Club, Manchester Triathlon Club and Cheadle Running Club, however by the third mile the pair from North Wales and Manchester were pulling away having eased themselves into the race, and Cheadle was starting to drop off.

I ran the next two miles or so alone, but as the route looped around Beaumaris Castle and started to head out towards Llanfaes, I was joined by a runner from 3M Gorseinon Road Runners (a lovely green running vest I noted). This was where we also met the first of the three ‘hills’ on the route. ‘3M’ pulled away from me on the hill, however I caught him again on the subsequent downhill, and this set the pattern for the next couple of miles.

At the next hill at Mile Seven, ‘3M’ pulled away again only, for me to overtake him on the subsequent downhill. By this time we were heading back towards the coast road. The route took us back through part of Beaumaris, and down to the coast where the Beaumaris RNLI were manning the water station. ‘3M’ had tucked in behind me at this point.

Mile Ten saw the final hill on the course, and ‘3M’ inevitably passed me again. Unfortunately, I couldn’t respond as readily on this occasion, and ended up yielding the place. The final three miles were on the undulating road we’d come out on, with a downhill finish into Menai Bridge village. I was passed by a fast finishing Penny Lane Strider, who also sailed by ‘3M’ just ahead of me. This gave me fresh impetus to try and regain a place, so I dug in hard in an effort to catch ‘3M’, but I’d left it just too late. We crossed the line together and were credited with the same time, however ‘3M’ took the place just ahead of me.

The race is sold as being undulating, but quick. It is certainly undulating, with three decent hills to climb at Mile Six, Mile Seven and Mile Ten, and whilst some may appreciate the undulation, I found it difficult to maintain momentum on the route. Perhaps I need to take inspiration from Shawn’s running club, Cwm Ogwr Running Club, whose club motto is ‘Hills Are Friends’!

The race is also described as ‘the most scenic Half Marathon in the UK’, and whilst I’m sure on a clear day the views across the Menai Strait would be spectacular, the weather put a bit of a dampener on that this year.

Would I give it another go? Certainly – it’s nice to get away and run a race somewhere different once in a while, and obviously it would be a great excuse to catch up with friends again.