With a little over a week until the 34th edition of the Brooks Snowdonia Marathon Eryri final preparations are being put in place for what will once again be a jewel in the crown of Welsh marathon running.
Reckoned by many to the toughest in the UK, considered by many to be the most beautiful, the 2016 Brooks Snowdonia Marathon Eryri is ready to once again welcome over 2500 runners on Saturday the 29th of October, as they take on the might of this race which has grown to be one of the iconic sporting events on the Welsh sporting calendar.
The race is once again set to provide some captivating drama, with a wide-open men’s race and a women’s event that sees no less than three former winners taking to the start line. The 2016 race will also see Wales and British Lions rugby legends Shane Williams and Ryan Jones taking on the challenge, and with the usual one-hour TV highlights package on S4C, the race will be a memorable occasion.
There are few marathons in the UK that can claim to have the same history, and the marathon proudly boasts to have had some of the greatest battles and performances over the years, from some of the UK’s top mountain and marathon runners. Names such as Jeff Norman, Martin Cox and Lizzy Hawker have graced the event, with Norman’s time of 2:28:02 from 1985 surely ranking as one of the great marathon performances in the UK from the last four decades.
Continuing their association and headline sponsor partnership in 2016 is the headline sponsor of the event are Brooks. Race co-ordinator Jayne Lloyd comments:
“We are so pleased to be continuing our partnership with Brooks. Sara, Steve and the team have a real understanding of the ethos of the race, and will be present once again this year and will have a presence that will enhance the runner experience. The team will be bringing the Run Signature Tour truck with them to the race and they will also be working with another long-standing partner in Pete Bland Sports to bring some great offers and showcase their products at the event too.”
From an event perspective Lloyd is confident the marathon will once again showcase all that the Snowdonia National Park has to offer in terms of splendour for the thousands of visitors that are expected across the race weekend:
“It’s a fact that the visitors who come to the event year on year do so for more than just the marathon. Snowdonia’s beauty is a big attraction to people, from across the world, and the fact that we are able to show this off by coupling it with a race is fantastic. This is my 12th year of organising the marathon, and I can honestly say that my enthusiasm for that role gets stronger with every year that passes.
“Once again this year we are at the capacity of 2500 entrants, which were snapped up in less than 12 hours on January the 1st. This continues to be seen as one of the premier marathons in the UK now, and demand for places is getting more intense every year!”
After a year of adventure former Wales wing Shane Williams continues his year of racing this summer which saw him recently compete in Ironman Wales. The Ammanford flyer will also be starting the race at 10.30am. On the prospect of competing in his first Snowdonia Marathon, Shane told us:
“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my year of running and triathlons here in Wales. I have to admit to still feeling the effects of the Ironman, but I am thrilled to be having a crack at Eryri!”
Former IRB Player of Year, Williams will be joined by around 10 of his friends, raising money for the Velindre Cancer Centre in Cardiff. Shane will also be joined by former Wales captain Ryan Jones, and fittingly Ryan will wear number 8 and Shane number 11 for the race.
When it comes the racing, 2016 is another year that is wide open with regard to race contenders in the men’s race.
Following his storming win and course record in 2015, Kent man John Gilbert misses the race through injury. However, fellow Kent man and now local runner Russell Bentley has stepped in a taking John’s spot in the race. Eryri Harrier Bentley has had an excellent 2016 season, with a 2:26 clocking at the London Marathon and a 9th-place finish at the Snowdon Race in July he will be looking to add this iconic event to his list of race wins.
After finishing 2nd in 2012 to 3-time winner Rob Samuel, Math Roberts is back at one of his favourite events. The Llanberis resident knows this course as well as anyone, and his fell and mountain running prowess coupled with his redoubtable road speed means that Roberts will provide a stiff challenge to Bentley.
Another man who knows the area and roads of Llanberis and Snowdonia well is Callum Rowlinson. Having recently moved back to the Manchester area, Rowlinson has had a very good 2016, which saw him take second place in the Snowdonia Trail Marathon in July. Though this will be his debut in this race we can expect Callum to be challenging for a podium place at the very least.
Other runners to keep an eye on are Swansea man Matthew Rees, Eryri regulars Rob Bridges (2nd in 2013) Phillip Eccleston and John Ford, and Australian Andrew Tuckey.
In the women’s race 2015 winner Tracy McCartney is back. The Nene Valley runner romped to the win last year with apparent ease as she crossed the line all smiles in Llanberis. 2016 could prove a sterner test for McCartney as race legend Andrea Rowlands will be out to regain the title she won in 2014. The Eryri Harrier has had a very good season on the trails and mountains once again, winning both the Trail Marathon Wales and Snowdonia Trail Marathon crowns in the summer.
Following a superb 2nd place in 2015, Darwen runner Joanne Nelson returns to also try and make it to the top spot of that podium. Along with McCartney and Rowlands, the ladies race will be a race to savour.
Looking to upset the party will be 2011 winner Kelly Morgan who returns to the place of her dramatic victory some 5 years ago now. The South Wales policewoman loves the event and will look to improve on her 6th place finish of 2015 too. Other women who will be in the mix are Welsh TV personality and accomplished elite marathoner Angharad Mair, as she looks to replicate the form of her 3rd place finish in 2014, and race regular Mary Grace Spalton.
Race evergreen Iorwerth Roberts will also be back in 2016 for his 34th race, as the 73 year-old is the only runner to have competed in every single event since 1982.
Race-day also sees the continuation of the highly popular junior races which will take place in the village centre, finishing on the same high street location as the marathon and will be sponsored long-term, partner Buff and by race merchandise providers Cowbois.
Other event sponsors returning once again for 2016 are headwear specialists Buff and High 5 Sports Nutrition, who will keep the runners fuelled over the gruelling 26.2-mile route, along North Wales BMW and Mini dealer Halliwell Jones who will provide the race with lead vehicles. The race once again partners with cancer charity Tenovus and they will be bringing their mobile unit along for participants and spectators to learn a little more about the fantastic work they do.
Jayne Lloyd adds:
“The racing should be very exciting as ever at the Marathon and you can expect some surprises to be thrown up yet again this year! We will have extensive TV coverage again too, with a one hour highlights programme on S4C on the Sunday (30th) evening produced by local TV company Cwmni Da.”
Regarding the ‘community effect’ Jayne concludes:
“Every year people return to the event, often bringing family or hoards of supporters and well-wishers with them, so for us t’s all about putting something back in to that local community as they use the local hostelries and eateries over the weekend. The local people and businesses have to endure the inconvenience of our traffic management during the race and continue to give us the support we need to make this event work and we as organisers are very grateful.”