The 35th running of the Brooks Snowdonia Marathon Eryri took place on Saturday and once again delivered a sporting event that Wales can be truly proud of.
With a superb demonstration of controlled marathon running Team Bath AC runner Daniel Jones returned to Llanberis to take the men’s title in dominant fashion, whilst Northampton athlete Hayley Munn produced a stunning performance in the women’s race, taking over six minutes off the course record and running to within a minute of the 30 year-old women’s race record.
The weather is always one of the hottest topics at this iconic race and as almost 2500 runners set off in light rain, mist and very little wind by race starter Rupert Moon, conditions were certainly not going to hamper the runners on their 26-miles journey. If the weather wasn’t going to be too much of a factor the route certainly was, and some of the toughest roads and tracks in Snowdonia would once again prove why this classic marathon is considered the UK’s toughest!
Tenovus Patron Rupert Moon gets the runners underway ©Sport Pictures Cymru
As the race unfolded over the early miles and the climb to Pen y Pass it was Otley AC man Scott Harrington who started to apply the pressure in the men’s race, setting a steady pace on the steep uphill section, establishing a short lead ahead of 2016 second-placer Daniel Jones and Shrewsbury AC man Paul Jones as they crested the first climb at around 5 miles.
L-R Scott Harrington with Paul Jones and Daniel Jones ©Sport Pictures Cymru
In the women’s event Welsh athlete Emma Wookey held a small advantage over Hayley Munn, as the runners battled to see the feed station in the mist. Behind 2014 women’s winner Andrea Rowlands, South Wales runner Jessica Parry-Williams and Halifax’s Sarah Cumber were beginning to establish themselves in the podium positions.
Back in the men’s race Harrington was by now blasting down the off-road section between mile 6 and 7 and was certainly trying hard to build a lead over Daniel and Paul Jones. With a win at the 2016 Windermere Marathon and a PB of 2:28:05 the Yorkshire man was showing why he was a serious contender for the 2017 title. However, a shape of things to come possibly emerged at mile 7 as Harrington rejoined the tarmac road to Beddgelert he was seen to be shouting for water, and was obviously in need of some hydration at this early stage.
As the men continued on into Beddgelert and approached the halfway point, it was by now clear that Daniel Jones was intent on making his move. The Bath runner drew alongside Harrington and his lightweight, compact style saw him glide past the Yorkshire runner as they started the climb up to mile 15 and Pont Cae Gors – here it was for the first time apparent that Jones was about to take control of the race.
Daniel Jones ©Sport Pictures Cymru
If the men’s race was exciting, then the women’s event was something special. Munn was by mile 10 establishing a comfortable lead having been earlier challenged by local Andrea Rowlands, and what was becoming apparent was the fact that Englishwomen Munn was on for something special, time-wise. As she climbed out of Beddgelert at mile 12 and through the deceptively tough miles of 16 to 19, her time was minutes up on the course record schedule. Could she actually challenge the race record time of 2:56:43 held by June Cowper from way back in 1988?
As the race progressed through mile 20 in the men’s race and onto the wall of a climb that is Waunfawr to Bwlch y Groes, Daniel Jones had established an incredible four minute lead. With a focused look and metronomic style head ate up the climb that rises over 200 metres in just one mile, and all he had to now do was negotiate the tricky mile 25 and plummet into the finish in Llanberis to take this coveted title.
That he did. Coming into the finish line to the rapturous applause of the huge crowd on the Llanberis high street, Jones was about to make history and put his name on the winners’ roll-call, alongside such greats as Jeff Norman and Dennis Walmsley. His time of 2:36:54 was almost immaterial, as the most important things was getting his hands on the famous Michael Forte trophy and becoming the winner of the 2017 Brooks Snowdonia Marathon Eryri.
Speaking to the crowd as he crossed the line, an obviously elated Jones said:
“I am absolutely delighted. That was just as tough as 2016 when I finished second to Russell Bentley. But when you are in the lead the pain seems that much easier to deal with! It all went perfectly to plan and when I made my move at mile 14 I felt really strong. After that it was just about keeping going. It’s such a privilege to be now sat alongside such great runners as Russell as winner of this race”.
Behind the valiant Harrington had by now been passed by a number of runners as he pushed on but ultimately struggled over the final 10 miles. Paul Jones demonstrated his immense strength as he pushed on, into initially second place but eventually third as he crossed the line. Splicing him and winner Daniel Jones was 26-year old Matthew Hobbs who had stormed through the closing miles to take a brilliant second place. The Pudsey and Bramley runner had judged the race perfectly and perhaps showed that he too is a contender to win this race in the future.
Back in the women’s event Hayley Munn was running an incredible race. Her times through mile 20 and 23 showed that she would certainly be able to take the course record, however all eyes were now on the clock to see just how close she could get to that women’s race record.
As she tentatively negotiated the last miles of grassy decent it was going to be very close, however as she emerged onto the high street for the final 200 metres it was by now obvious that she would just miss June Cowper’s time. Unfazed, Munn crossed the line with a huge smile and was delighted to have won the race and absolutely smash the women’s course record with a superb winning time of 2:57:34, taking over six minutes off Joanne Nelson’s 2016 time
Hayley Munn breaks the tape ©Sport Pictures Cymru
A visibly tired, but delighted Munn commented:
“Oh, that was hard. I knew I was close to the race record, but the goal today was to try and get close to three hours, so I am delighted. The last few miles were agony on the descent though!”
2014 women’s champion Rowlands showed her strength and class as she also went under the 2016 mark with a brilliant 3:01:38, her fastest ever time for the race. Sarah Cumber come through strongly in the second half of the race to take an excellent third to complete the podium
Women’s top 3 L-R Sarah Cumber, Hayley Munn and Andrea Rowlands ©Sport Pictures Cymru
Race organiser Jayne Lloyd was as ever in awe of the performances and the support the race had once again received:
“What an amazing event. I was so impressed with Hayley’s run, as that women’s race record is something special. Daniel also proved why he is such a good champion, coming back from second in 2016 to take the men’s title, brilliant.
“As ever though I am overwhelmed by the support and feedback from the running community and local people involved in this race. The effort people put in to make this race happen is incredible, the feed station teams out there made an extra special effort this year and once again the support on the route seems like it has been unbelievable. Finally, I take my hat off to the runners, they are just amazing!”
©Sport Pictures Cymru
Men’s top 5
1 Daniel Jones 2:36:54 Team Bath AC
2 Matt Hobbs 2:42:34 Pudsey and Bramley AC
3 Paul Jones 2:43:45 Shrewsbury AC
4 Gareth Petts 2:45:30 Whitney RR
5 Will Russell 2:46:24 Hercules Wimbledon
Women’s top 5
1 Hayley Munn 2:57:25 Northampton RR
2 Andrea Rowlands 3:01:38 Eryri Harriers
3 Sarah Cumber 3:13:43 Halifax Harriers AC
4 Jessica Parry-Williams 3:15:51 Les Croupiers RC
5 Emma Wookey 3:15:57 Lliswerry Runners
Full results via the TDL Event Services website here
Entries to the 2018 Snowdonia Marathon Eryri are live on the 1st of December 2017, with the 2018 race date Saturday 27th of October