Making a Messi


I read an article in the Independent this week about how, after losing a big game, Lionel Messi doesn’t turn up for training the next day. I love this on so many levels!

I love the fact that if Messi decides he is not going training, then he is not going training. What can his club say? When all the clubs in the world would rip each other apart to buy him.

I love the way the man who has everything, voted best player in the world 4 years in a row, winner of 19 trophies, second highest paid footballer in the world (worth £115m), who is already going down in history, age 25, as one of the best players ever, can still get so upset about losing one game that he cannot bear to face the world the next day.

I love imagining that, deep down under the skin of this perfect professional who conducts himself impeccably against both dirty defenders and pesky paparazzi, is a raging, uncontrollable animal, who locks himself into his apartment and explodes into a torrent of fire and fury after a loss, beating his pillows all night till the feathers fly out.


Nina didn’t want a picture of a footballer on this blog, even though she respects Messi’s greatness. So we came to a compromise, this tiny picture (but you can click to enlarge)

I love thinking that maybe, when everyone around him has been playing full-time professional football since they were 5 years old, when they all have access to the world’s best coaching, fitness advice and technology, then the only thing to seperate him from them, year after year, is not some innate talent, but this unspeakable, insatiable hunger and unquenchable competitiveness. Maybe that is what makes a Messi.

These thoughts kept me entertained while I ran through the Siberian winds and snow flurries this week. After my loss in the Ras Moel Tryfan (see post here), conversely I found it very easy to go training the next day, and the next week as a whole. The embarrassment was like a big kick up the arse and I logged a big 110 miles.

Bwlch Maesgwm 10km, Fell Race

bwlchAfter the mess of last week, I was taking no chances with this race. My parents were up to visit and I thought, what a great opportunity to kill two birds, I can take them for nice hill walk and simultaneously recce the race course.

I went to bed that night confident even I couldn’t get lost. The next day however, we nearly didn’t make it to the race at all. We had taken the high road (high as in elevation, not as in 3 lane motorway) as a short cut. The Met-Office had not forecast snow at all, but the snow didn’t seem to care, snow-roadit was falling thick and fast and, as we were coming down the pass, the cars coming up started to get stuck. They couldn’t go forward, and there was no way back. A transit van was totally stuck, so my dad got out of the car and helped push it to the side of the road. I stayed behind the wheel, officially to save my quads for the race, but really cos I didn’t want to get shown up by ex-rugby player dad. 

We registered in cosy warm cafe, and stayed in there till the last minute. The race organiser explained the course with the reassuring statement ‘if you get lost, there’s something wrong with you’! A request was made for a minute’s silence for the English rugby team, denied, countdown from 5…and we were off.

russell-hillWe started up very steep tarmac road for about 1km, this is actually the steepest part of the whole course. I have often run up to Snowdon this way and found it the hardest part of the mountain, so I thought if I could create a gap here it would be hard to bridge when we took to rough ground.

This worked quite well and by the time I reached the train station I was in a race with myself. The path turned into an icy cold stream and my feet went numb. When we reached the Bwlch (mountain pass) the snow got thicker as we got higher. Nearing the top I tried to recall the race direction I read on the facebook page, but everything was getting jumbled in my head and I couldn’t remember if it was ‘touch the fence next to the marshal’, or ‘touch the marshal next to fence’, or ‘touch the marshal with the fence, do 10 star jumps and sing the Welsh national anthem’.


the marshal in the background, I didn’t touch him honest!

The course was an ‘out an back’, so on the way down I realised I had made a good lead and just needed to avoid doing anything dumb like get lost or trip up and roll off the mountain. I tried to stay focused and go as fast as I could. The view was stunning, the snow covered valley with the sun beaming through low clouds, I tried to take it in without twisting an ankle or banging into someone!

russell-roadWhen I made it back onto the tarmac I found it harder running down than it was going up, I couldn’t get my legs to go fast enough and was glad there were no photographers around as I felt like a tap-dancing pillock. The organiser and cafe owner held the finishing tape for me to break and my mum was cheering loudest. I said beforehand I would be over the moon with under 40 minutes for the 10km course, and so I broke the tape in 39.49.

At the prize giving ceremony I was looking forward to the leg of lamb, as Nina has been the one bringing home the bacon lately, but I was given a very classy Innov-8 rucksack and Nina has happily taken that instead. I was a little sad as I love Welsh lamb, but we have no cooker in Gelli and the weather is not conducive for spit-roast right now.

The crowd were very friendly and we are happy to be getting to know a few of the faces now. Extremely well put together and looking forward to next year, although rumour is they are making it tougher! The cafe owner was very hospitable, pouring me some cold lemonade and offering me a quick shower before the other runners got back! I had to pass to go and watch Nina finish.


nina-downhillI thought it was going to be From First to Last – but for me this time! I was first woman by the top of the tarmac hill – committed to going out hard for a change. I started thinking about all the different ways I could lose the lead – and poof, poof – it was gone. I dropped to 3rd woman and then hung out in 2nd for a good while. I waned on the relentless hill, that I certainly didn’t remember as being a particular feature of our recce the day before. I fell into 6th woman place, and started wondering how many women were even in the race. I hi-fived Russell on his way back down after the half way point, and then clawed back a couple of places by my finger nails.

nina-russellI was practically on my hands and knees through the last boggy uphill. Russell, as always, had run back along the course to pick me up and shout at me, this time he decided to stand on top of a ladder to project his voice all the further. He ran me down the steep tarmac finish, which was quite exhilarating actually, to just under the hour.

But I missed my moment of glory! The prize ceremony was held inside the cafe during another snow flurry and, due to the crowded room, I was out in the corridor. Even though I’d come 4th woman overall, I was awarded 3rd prize because the amazing lady in 2nd was actually 1st woman over 40! And guess what my prize was? A bottle of Snowdon lager, a t-shirt and a 30kg bag of coal – How did they know?


Thanks to race organisers International Snowdon Race

Permission to use some photographs very kindly given by Alastair Tye

For more fell running fun visit Mud, Sweat & Tears and the WFRA


26 thoughts on “Making a Messi

    • Thanks loads Flo! We are really happy to have you on board! Germany is giving us a lot of love at the moment, 3rd highest country for blog traffic. We are very happy about that Danke schön!

    • You obviously don’t know me well enough, as compliments like that will give me a head the size of a balloon and I will float off into space and never be brought back down to Earth to publish anything! Very kind all the same! Thanks for the love

  1. Love reading the Blog, very inspirational as a fell runner myself. I would love to change my life in this way, sounds like an amazing adventure. I raced the llanLlantysilio Fell Race this weekend instead of this one which was also a lovely course an we had a lot better weather than you so well done on the time with conditions and climbing. Hopefully see you around.

    Chris Atherton (Maldwyn Harriers)

    • Thanks so much! Comments like that make it all feel worthwhile mate! We wanted to do that race too but just so many to choose from at the moment. Looking forward to s2eing you at the next one!

  2. Hey Nina and Russell,
    Enjoying your blog so much!!! Running books are the big thing at the moment (two reviewed in the Guardian this weekend) so I’m seeing this blog in a book shape in the future….
    Love Jo

  3. Love your account starting point, Russell, Messi inspiration, and it sounds and looks a fantastic run – some great photos. What time would you have made on a cool spring morning without snow and ice? And what a perfect prize for you both to share – heart and body-warming. xxxmum

    • Wow! High praise indeed coming from such a voracious reader and discerning critic. I was worried about starting with the Messi musing as I thought I would lose ‘non’ sporty readers. Not to suggest you are non sporty ofcourse, err, getting into a hole here?
      Good luck with the mountains in Morocco, really looking forward to hearing about it.

  4. Nina and Russell are selling themselves short. The condiditons were perfect for pulling out and staying at home in front of a roaring fire. Nina is very good at making roaring fires. It was cold and very wet but the people were all very friendly and smiley which makes such a difference. At no stage was it miserable. A very impressive run on a very imprssice mountain.

    • Yes Nina is very good at making fires, and I am very good at making a hearty lunch of eggs and beans (and no fish). Great to have you up to visit, you would be surprised to see the bucket of peanut butter now, there is hardly any left already! Also well done you on training so hard! It was inspiring to see you running around and around that lake in the rain while I sat in the car warm and dry.

  5. I love your prize Nina!! Where else in the world would you a. Get a bag of coal as a prize and b. be so please about it!!!! Well done and see you soon 🙂 xxx

      • I run both road and trail races, which I believe falls under the realm of fell races (ones where you run hills!). Probably not as big as the hills you’re doing out there, but we’ve got some good ones here. And in no way am I posting the times you all are! You all are fast.

    • Hey Forest – thanks so much for the comment, glad you’re enjoying the blog as it gives us a reason to do it! I watched the Annapurna video again last night (as I do now and again!). Now I want to do another ultra. Nina

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