Is there anything as exciting as a marathon? Why, a marathon in Wales of course, and wouldn't you just know it, the Snowdonia marathon only goes and takes place each year in the beautiful surroundings of, yes, Snowdonia! Many veteran marathon runners will almost certainly have heard of the Snowdonia marathon (after all it has been around for 32 years now), but there are a fair few people out there that haven't had the pleasure of adding this wonderful yearly event to their running calendar. So why not read a little more about the Snowdonia Marathon - that's Marathon Eryri in Welsh - and decide whether or not to participate in the most beautiful running event of the year!
The Marathon's History
The first ever Snowdonia Marathon was held way back in 1982, the rationale being that there were already a number of established marathons in place but relatively few alternatives to the main ones that took place throughout the year (the London Marathon to name an obvious example). The Snowdonia Marathon was therefore intended to be a significant contrast to other marathons, many of which are urban in nature with routes that take people through sprawling cities instead of lush countryside.
So what better part of the UK to hold the marathon in than Snowdonia, a gorgeous North-Walian national park with views that would motivate anyone to keep running and running towards the finish line? More specifically, it is the Snowdon Massif that acts as the main focal point of the marathon's route, circumnavigating this group of mountains in a route that begins and ends in a wonderfully quaint village called Llanberis every October.
Its placement in the calendar often ensures that the marathon is more bracing than ones held in the height of summer but conversely means that runners will be kept cool. If the weather is dry the marathon offers ideal running conditions.
Just because the marathon is considered by many (including Runner's World Magazine) to be one of the best marathons in the UK doesn't mean that prospective runners should assume that it is an easy one to complete. On the contrary, the Snowdonia marathon is one of the most difficult marathons in Wales and is notoriously difficult to overcome.
Not only is the route a challenging one (taking runners over some uneven ground including a hill-bound A4068 and fairly sudden ascent to Bwlch y Groes) but in spite of the beautiful scenery that may help you take your mind off the fatigue towards the end of the race, the weather can be significantly colder than many less-experienced marathon runners are used to. For this reason it is recommended that runners take proper precautions like bringing the appropriate cold weather gear if they think they may be particularly susceptible to the chill in the air (it is held in October after all).
The route itself begins in Llanberis and takes runners in a south-easterly direction on the A4068 before heading briefly north and then immediately south where you will encounter the 12-mile marker as you pass the Sygun Copper Mine. At around mile 13 the route then begins to head north once more passing near Beddgelert Forest, towards Betws Garmon, and up to Waunfawr before heading back east towards Llanberis - and of course the finish line - once again.
The profile of the course is what makes the route so difficult, with the race starting at just below 150m and climbing rapidly to well over 300m by mile 4. This is before the race kindly offers a welcome respite that takes runners quite rapidly from above 300m to less than 150m between mile 4 and mile 8. At this point the course remains below 150m until mile 12 where it begins to ascend once again before flattening out once more. The route's final climb (another rapid one) at around mile 21 and continues until mile 24 where another sharp decline in altitude offers runners a final burst of hope and energy as it returns to Llanberis at the end of the 26th mile.
UK's Best Marathon?
There are obviously quite a few marathons held each year in the UK; people here simply love to run long distances! Out of all of these marathons however, the Snowdonia Marathon is considered by many to be one of the best that can possibly be experienced. This set of opinions was given quantifiable merit when the Snowdonia Marathon was officially voted the best UK marathon twice, once in 2007 and again in 2011, reaffirming the feeling that this marathon had more to offer than simply another running track that wasn't the London or Edinburgh marathon.
But be warned: as you may have read above, the Snowdonia Marathon may be beautiful and unique, but it is also one of the most challenging that you will encounter in the UK. Its route has a number of rapid climbs so be prepared for this one: better doesn't necessarily mean easier!
If you are looking to enter into the marathon and wish to arrange for accommodation to stay at before the race and afterwards then it is recommended that you visit this Llanberis Accommodation Page that offers some fantastic hotels and B&Bs to stay at.