Outdoor Fitness Magazine's Editor Jonathan Manning about his experience of last year's Man vs Mountain event
Fall off your bike or tumble from a horse and the advice is universal – get back in the saddle straightaway. The longer you leave it the harder it becomes to face up to your fears. Well I’ve managed to leave it six months since my bruising encounter with Mount Snowdon before confronting my demons.
The last time I visited I couldn’t wait to get away. Everything hurt from the soles of my feet to my calves, thighs, hamstrings, lower back and even the palms of my hands after a careless trip. Man vs Mountain had broken me. I’d underestimated how hard a mountainous challenge can be, and the peak in question had bared its teeth.
I’d anticipated the difficulty of running from sea level to the summit. There’s no easy way to run a height gain of more than 1,000 metres. What I hadn’t expected was how bitterly cold the top of Snowdon would be in September – within a minute my hamstrings had frozen, my fingers were too cold and numb to force into gloves, and my energy levels plummeted. Caught up in the excitement of the challenge I’d failed to follow basic commonsense, and paid the price with a painful, stiff-legged descent from the summit.
So half a year later I’m suffering a dose of weekend warrior’s post-traumatic stress as I glance up at Snowdon’s peak to see snow, ice and menacing clouds. The mountain weather service warns that above 750 metres the paths are frozen and passable only with ice axes and crampons. It’s a timely reminder that this is a proper mountain. It’s also a caution - I’m wearing running kit!
The consolation is that this is a photo shoot to preview 2014’s Man vs Mountain race, and I can wrap up warmly as I put three Merrell ambassadors through their paces for the cameraman.
The three runners strip off their insulating layers and transform from Michelin Men to racing snakes, then fly up and down hill, using the snapper’s instructions as an opportunity for an impromptu interval training session. Sean McFarlane, Jake Thompsett and Lowri Morgan just seem to float over the landscape, perfectly balanced, light footed, enviably swift. They’re confident, sure-footed and always seem to be accelerating, even in the savagely steep slate quarry that hosts the event’s infamous Vertical Kilometre.
I watch and learn… where they place their feet, the line of their sight, the length of their strides. And I make a silent promise – this year I’ll prepare better, train harder, and make wiser decisions during the event. I’m not going to fall off the saddle again.
This year’s Outdoor Fitness Man vs Mountain, powered by Merrell, takes place on 6th September. For more details, see www.ratracemanvsmountain.com