Foel Lus Fell Race

I came across the snow slope we had all been warned about and my first thought was, ‘you must be joking!’ My very next thought was, ‘yeaaaah!’ In a world so wrapped up in Health & Safety regulations I was astonished that this was even legal! An extremely steep and exposed mountain face covered in snow with a path carved right through it by the organiser. This was less than a foot wide, and the snow was really uneven and deep. Saying a slip would be ‘very, very serious’ was an understatement. I couldn’t see the bottom and had no intention of looking anyway. I was being hunted over hostile terrain and my heart was beating through my mouth. My nerves were pinging around in my finger tips as I traversed the snow slope, I was scared as hell but it felt great to be alive!


this, but with 2ft of snow on top of it. I know! Scary!

On Monday I was totally and completely gone to the world. I wasn’t ill or injured or anything, but you know when you’re so tired it feels like you have put on 10 stone. So I had a day off from running, my first for 3 weeks.  On Tuesday morning I managed an easy 10km in the morning and felt less and less heavy as the run went on. There was a Fell Race taking place that evening, I had written off my participation completely after feeling so low the day before, but now I had the smallest inkling that I might be able to pull myself together in time.

I bought the Daily Post (the North Wales daily) and read that the race was going to be a tough one, with Math Roberts (last year’s series winner) and Russell Bentley (that’s me!) competing. Well now I HAD to run, if only for all the fans who would be turning up to watch, I couldn’t let them all down could I! I remember Steve Cram saying that sometimes reading his name in the local paper was all that kept him going through the winter months. Well. If it’s good enough for Steve Cram.

I looked up Math Roberts and found out he has posted some fast road times aswell as representing Wales in Fell Running. I got butterflies in my stomach. Driving to the race that evening I suddenly felt very hungry, the race start was 7.15pm, in 30mins time. I hadn’t eaten anything since noon and I decided I needed abit more energy. I pulled up at a petrol station and they were charging £1 for a chocolate bar, extortionate! I would rather starve! Then I saw I could get a Boost Duo (a kingsize chocolate bar split in two) for £1.05. Perfect, I thought. I could eat one half now and then the other half after the race. I shoved both pieces into my gob before I even made it back to the car.

Pulling up to the event registration I realised I had better not get lost in this race, as I would never be able to pronounce the name of the village I was trying to get back to. Try saying ‘Dwygyfylchi’ when you have just run up a mountain.

There was a record turn out on a calm spring evening, and it was great to see so many junior races taking place aswell. Over 100 seniors gathered round for the race briefing while the mountain of Foel Lus towered ominously above us. The organiser explained soberly that there was a very dangerous ‘snow slope’ up near the top, where a slip could be very, very serious. Walking this section carefully was advised, as were studs in shoes, overtaking strictly forbidden. Anyone who was not comfortable traversing snow slopes could decline gracefully now and get their entry fee back. I didn’t want to be the only idiot to ask what a snow slope was, I would have to find out for myself.

russell-foel-lusThe route went straight up Foel Lus then did a circuit around, and back down the way we came, 5km in total. We were to go up the hill in zigzags, following the markers, but could come down in a straight line, or by the fastest route. Everyone was reassuring me that there was no way even I could get lost, they obviously didn’t realise they were talking to the world leader at getting lost. We set off and straight away I knew I was not feeling my best, my legs were heavy and the Boost bar was not a good idea. Math Roberts and some other guy took the lead ahead of me, and there were others right on our tail. My thighs were aching up the steep road section but I fell in beat with Math and that made life easier, his efficient tempo helped me to relax. I worked my way past Math and up to the leader. We were on rough ground now and he was looking bouncy and full of running, nothing like me! His speed on the flat parts was good and I didn’t want to hang around to find out what his descent speed was like. So I decided I had better get myself a lead before we reached the top. I have learnt that in these up and down races you can often afford to really bust a lung on the uphill, as you have so much time on the descents to recover. I made my move about 500m from the top, it hurt, but I got the gap I wanted. I descended as quickly as I could and at one point there was a 10ft bank that I jumped down in one go, where was the photographer?!

russell-foel-lus-descentAfter the loop I regained the route down to the finish. I remembered that I could run straight down instead of follow the zigzagging way, but my mind could not think fast enough so I just stuck with slightly slower but less risky path. I could hear, from the juniors who had stayed to cheer us on, that I still had a comfortable lead and so didn’t need to take risks.

As I crossed the line I was relieved more than anything. I was still feeling the fatigue from the day before but was so glad I had come and had the experience. I didn’t have to wait long to shake hands with the guys behind me, which was fortunate as I had to take myself away to throw up my Boost Duo. I won a big hamper of fruit and vegetables which I was very thankful for, although it did mean carrying it up the hill to Gelli in the dark on very tired legs.

I walked in the door at about 10.30pm where Nina had a fire going and made me a cup of hot chocolate. I told her all about the race and she was very jealous. It was a truly brilliant event as always and have to say big thanks to everyone who helped organise! We would never have discovered that idyllic little village nestled in it’s pretty mountains if it weren’t for these races.

line-breakPhotographs, and race directions, very kindly provided by Alastair Tye 

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


21 thoughts on “Foel Lus Fell Race

  1. Fantastic photos and story. I especially like the “triangle” mountainside shot. Congratulations on your win!

    And thanks for stopping by my blog!

  2. You seem so ALIVE in this story, or at least I feel that way reading it. I can feel the wind in my hair and the burning in my legs. What a wonderful thing to do, and in such a beautiful place. Thanks for stopping by my blog, it gave me the opportunity to come here and discover what you’re doing.

  3. Great to see you didn’t get lost this time, let’s hope this is start of a new race strategy!
    The snow blob certainly added an interesting element.

  4. Gets to run daily in one of the most beautiful places on the planet
    Still complains about mondayitis.. weak
    Admittedly at least its stopped snowing here in London at least for my daily run

  5. Hey you big tings in Wales now then eh buddy? You as popular and MATH ROBERTS! So jel!

    Got a bit confused with the blog as you began with the a paragraph about the snow slope (misleadingly with no snow in the picture!) at the start and then jumped back to the start of your story. Sorry maybe i’m stupid but I like my stories to be in chronological order none of that Quentin Tarantino Reservoir Dogs s**t for me please.

    And I can definitely do one of those three things… eat the boost duo bar! I LOVE BOOST!

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