I’d heard tales of this South Wales Traverse thing. I’d eavesdropped as fellow MDC runners reminisced, if that is the right word, about previous attempts. It sounded like a bit of an adventure. A chance to do a bit of exploring. So when Gary asked if I fancied giving it a go, I said yes, a very naive yes, but a yes all the same. And that’s how it started.
What followed was a slow realisation that I had no idea what I had said yes to. I did what all well informed ultra marathon runners do in preparation for an event and Googled it! 73 miles, 31 “summits” over 610m, totalling 5000m of ascent; all in less than 24 hours. Yikes.
The team of three
There were three of us; Gary the mastermind behind it all who produced spreadsheet after spreadsheet of timings, Chris the long legged one who made the steep slogs up and down look irritatingly effortless and myself. We had raced most of the route on some superb evening runs and somehow managed to persuade a small group of people from the club to give up their spare time to support us.
Some last minute nerves regarding the unusually high temperature (28 degrees in Wales – we couldn’t believe it either!) meant we made a tactical decision to bring the start forward to Friday evening after work to run as much of it as possible in the cooler temperatures.
It’s all a bit of a blur
I always find it difficult, when reflecting back on events and runs to remember what actually happened! It becomes a bit of a blur, the miles mush into each other, the hill that I trotted up at 8pm starts to look a lot like the hill I dragged myself up at 3am. I have a tendency to cherry pick the good bits and conveniently forget the bad.
I remember a few things very clearly. Looking back over the first section with the sun silhouetting the ridge we had just run on as it went down. A very atmospheric, big, bright moon with a wonderful sprinkling of stars as we went over Penyfan. Watching the sun try and poke itself out from a layer of low cloud up over Talybont reservoir. Trying to stop myself from falling asleep whilst running. Seeing sea horses in the hedgerows in one of my particularly delirious moments. Drinking beetroot soup at transition. Waddling along the final ridge, thinking “nearly there, keep waddling” and then seeing the steep descent into Llantony and hearing my knees scream “noooooo” at me. Finishing; the relief, elation, tiredness and pain.
Completed and broken record
We all completed it in 19 hours and 53 minutes, which beat the previous ladies record of 22 hours 40 minutes. Our total distance was 75 miles with 5150m ascent. Physically it was hard going, the hills were relentless and terrain exhausting. 20 hours is a long time to be on the go, and mentally it was draining, constantly having to override that part of you that wants to stop and give up. This was certainly no Sahara desert crossing, but it is all relative, and for me this was my longest and hardest run so far. Aside from all the misery, pain, blah blah blah, it was a brilliant run. I got to explore parts of the Beacons I had not been to before, took in some pretty impressive views and had 20 hours of lovely company!
A week later my swollen knees and ankles are back to normal, I’m still eating for Wales and I have almost much forgotten how much it hurt …..