WITH a full English breakfast inside her, Stratford Athletic Club ultra-marathon specialist Tara Lambert lined up for the start of the Run to the Castle event in Wales.
The race takes runners and walkers from the coastal village of Aberdyfi up the beautiful coastal path, taking in the seafront at Tywyn, the village of Fairbourne, the famous Fairbourne bridge and Barmouth to the castle town of Harlech, which is approximately 40 to 42 miles away.
There is a shorter alternative for those looking to take on smaller distances of ‘only’ a marathon distance, where the runners go from Aberdyfi to Barmouth. There is a time limit of 12 hours for the race and the competitors have to carry compulsory kit with them including rucksack and a minimum of one litre of water, emergency food, a fully charged mobile phone, waterproof jacket, whistle, map of the area, compass and a first aid kit.
The field of participants was smaller than normal because of cancellations due to weather-related travel problems but Lambert was on the start line at 8.45am.
The runners left Aberdyfi to run north up the beach for the first five miles. It was a clear day on the coast but there was a cold wind coming off the sea.
Lambert was near the back but over the course of the race caught up and overtook many of those who started quickly. They came inland at Tywyn and over some muddy, boggy ground to Bryncrug and climbed over some hilly moorland to the village of Llwyngwril.
There was a very steep and rough section on the foothills of Cadair Idris and then a steep descent down to Barmouth where they crossed the long railway bridge over the estuary. Checkpoint three was at Barmouth where the marathon runners finished.
This was an opportunity to refill water bottles and then carry on to get as much of the race completed in daylight as possible as the latter sections are tough to navigate in the dark.
Unfortunately, Lambert’s energy levels dropped at this point which meant her speed dropped which was frustrating as this was a flatter, faster section of the route.
At the final checkpoint there were still nine miles to go but Lambert was revived with a cup of tea and some fruitcake, so put her head torch on and headed out for the last leg. Next was another run up a beach, this time in the dark, then inland through a marshy nature reserve.
This was the toughest part of the run as the ground got very boggy and the path was very difficult to follow in the dark. Lambert managed to fall in a stream, struggle to get out of very cold, muddy water, climb a wall with barbed wire on top and go off course again.
She found a way back on to the coast path but left it too early so ran the last section on the A road into Harlech.
Lambert ran 41.5 miles in 9hrs, 44mins and received a lovely castle-shaped buckle instead of a medal as she had completed the race three times! Fortunately, there was time for a post-race curry in the only place still open in Harlech!