‘Race the Train’, Tywyn, 16 August 2008
race was billed by Ian Kennedy as another one of his ‘best races ever’,
however, this time he was right and ‘Race the Train’ lived up to all the
those that don’t know, Race the Train is an off-road race from the small
coastal town of Tywyn in Mid-Wales. As far as practicable the race takes
place alongside the route taken by the Talyllyn Railway on its journey
to Abergynolwyn and back over a muddy and hilly 14-mile course. The aim
as the name suggests is to beat the train back to the start in approx 1
hr 48mins …. sounds easy(ish) – until you see the terrain! Last year
only 65 of the 700 starters beat the train, although this was over a
slightly longer course.
Tywyn Wharf station and the train that
we were trying to race.
Ready for the off, left to right,
Claire, Tim, Kim and Andrew.
Tim, Claire, Kim and myself met up on the Friday night at the campsite
which had just the basic facilities – but what can you expect for £5 a
night. It was typical Welsh weather so we got a damp night’s sleep and
woke early for a Tim Box breakfast in the rain under a tree. We headed
into Tywyn for the 2 o’clock start and met up with Andrew (Ian’s
brother) who was also pulling on the mighty red and black vest of
Wimborne AC. Over 800 runners lined up for the start, and whilst waiting
we bumped into some fellow Wimbornians on holiday who took our photo and
promised to send us a copy (Ian, never missing a trick, also tried to
persuade them to come along on a Thursday). As I joined the start I
looked around to see vests from all over the country and even as far a
field as Holland. The race started and all 800 runners, plus one train
with many spectators on board started off.
first mile was on road and I knew if I was to beat the train I would
need to make good time on the road section. I went off like a train (sorry!)
and soon hit the paths through the fields alongside the railway track. I
didn’t see the train again until the halfway point where it stops to
take on coal and water and then turn around. Unlike the train, I could
drink on the go and the excellent marshals provided lots of isotonic
drinks and support which kept me going. I had been warned that the
second half of the race was tougher than the first, and just after the
turning point we climbed/crawled up the mountainside onto a slippery
single track. There was no way of overtaking unless you were feeling
particularly suicidal as the rain had started to pour, and one slip
would have sent you down a long way. There was a second train that had
set off 15 minutes after the race train and on board was Kim’s partner,
Dave, with his children, and various Kennedys. I tried to look and wave
as it went by me but nearly lost my footing so decided to ignore the
train and tried instead to stay on my feet.
The race relief train at Abergynolwyn
which conveyed our vocal supporters.
could soon hear the race train behind me whistling its departure from
Abergynolwyn station (the halfway point). Once off the single lane
tracks I was able to pass people and began to think about pushing on. I
did take time to take in the beautiful Dolgoch
Falls at around 9 miles.
Tim was so in the zone he failed to
spot Dolgoch Falls on the return leg.
pushing on and was seeing people slipping and falling all over the
place. The course was getting progressively worse as the rain and
runners created bogs of mud, and constantly running on a slope made it
difficult under foot for those with road shoes. Ian had taken the
sensible approach of wearing cross-country studs. With three miles to
go I could hear the train coming up closer behind me. If you ever need
motivation to get running quicker, then download onto your i-pod the
sounds of a steam train coming up behind you, trust me it works better
than words from any coach. I thought, ‘I haven’t driven for five hours
and camped in the rain to be beaten by chuffin’ Thomas the Tank’ so I
picked up the pace.
one mile to go I hit the road and looked behind me to see the train
within 100m of me and steam being pumped skywards. I parted company
with the train as it carried along the tracks and I ran through the
brilliant crowds in the town towards the finish still not knowing if I
had beaten it. A marshal soon told me and others that we had done it and
there were handshakes, cheers and relief all round. I hadn’t realised,
but when I parted from the train with a mile to go it still had one more
station stop to make. It eventually reached Tywyn five minutes after I
had made the normal kinds of excuses about lack of training etc!
was Ian in an excellent 2hrs 10 mins followed by Tim and Kim shortly
after that. Claire came next with a big smile on her face and Andrew
was not far behind her. Everyone agreed it had been a great race and a
goody bag containing a T-shirt, medal and food completed the event just
before the rain started again.
wet and muddy, we all headed back to the campsite for a shower before
going to the pub for the evening. The pub landlord was very welcoming
and when he mentioned he had rooms to rent the chances of me returning
next year were much improved as Claire’s eyes lit up at the prospect of
not camping again (ever).
danger of sounding like Ian, I have to say that this is one of my
favourite races and, given some half decent Welsh weather (i.e. wet and
warm as opposed to wet and cold), it would be a great Wimborne weekend
away next year. Thanks to Ian, Kim, Tim and Claire for a great weekend!
www.racethetrain.com for more details.
Craig Dixon – 1:43:18
509 – Ian Kennedy – 2:10:31
626 – Tim Box – 2:20:56
685 – Kim Jolliffe – 2:28:11
754 – Claire Newby – 2:39:20
760 – Andrew Kennedy – 2:41:08