Ras Y Moelwyn

The race course as seen from Gelli. Moelwyn Mawr on the left, then across to Moelwyn Bach on the right

The race course as seen from Gelli. Moelwyn Mawr on the left, then across to Moelwyn Bach on the right

I have been looking forward to this race for a long time, literally, looking forward to it. Every time I walk out of Gelli the course is right there infront of me. The race traverses from Moelwyn Mawr to Moelwyn Bach and the ridge can be seen so clearly that I could almost plan my route between the rock formations whilst having breakfast.


Me in my red beloved Kenya vest, I only wear it on special occasions, plus it matched my shoes

race-posterThere was a great atmosphere at the starting line with music, a bouncy castle (I was not allowed on it) and stalls selling homemade cookies (I was allowed on these). I was feeling nervous and unsure of myself before the race. I had been overcooking my training the past month, and felt so burnt out I had to take 3 days off running completely. Nina’s parents were up for the weekend and I had never won a race infront of them. Also, the course record holder, Welsh international and awesome descender Tim Davies was in the lineup. I raced against him in December (read blog post here) and had to bash myself to bits to keep up! This race would be 10 miles over 3 mountains, and I decided I needed to build a big cushion before we hit the first and biggest of the three, Moelwyn Mawr. I set off with intent through the relatively shallow slopes of the slate mine.

The course went through a valley and then up up up onto the boggy mountains. I was trying to cut corners across the winding beaten track but kept running into deep bogs that completely killed my momentum and sapped my energy. I hoped the guys behind me were making the same mistakes, and that I was too far infront for them to learn from mine.

As I got nearer to the peak of Moelwyn Mawr it got steeper and steeper. Many fell runners will break into a forced march when it gets this steep, and you really have to work hard if you want to keep running, otherwise you won’t be any faster than walking pace. Of all the contests I have been in, track, road, cross country…none have induced as much gut wrenching pain as racing up relentless mountains like this. The burning in the thighs and calves would be unbearable enough, but is overshadowed by the crazy, lung bursting breathing. It was while I was in this state of duress, making a switch back on the steep path, that I saw a glimpse of a yellow vest behind me. I was in so much pain that I hoped I was just hallucinating, but then I heard the pursuer blow his nose and I realised Tim Davies was hot on my heels.

For me, the entire 10 mile race came down to the next 1 second. In the first half-second I found a thousand excuses to quit…

Well I have thrown everything I can into this mountain, I have failed to create the gap I needed, it isn’t my day, I shouldn’t even be racing anyway, I’m never going to be able to beat Tim on the downhill, why carry on hurting like this for nothing? Better to give in now and save myself more suffering

The next half second I thought to myself…

there are still two more mountains to go, anything could happen. If he wants to beat me he’s going to have to hurt as much as I am, I can’t get beaten again infront of Nina’s parents, just get to the top of this hill first

I put my head down, quickened my tempo, and found some more breathing capacity from somewhere. I reached the top infront, and even though I felt like collapsing, was panting like a dog and hurting to my bones, I was gobsmacked by the breathtaking vista. The sea yawning out into the horizon and Snowdon standing above all the other mountains proudly showing off it’s sparkling snow cap. I didn’t have the time to take it all in as I was already heading down the other side towards the dreaded descent. This was Tim’s territory I was in now, and so all I could do was try and take in the advice of Mike Blake (Vet fell runner descending whizz) and concentrate on not falling. At the beginning of this video you can see me heading off the peak with Tim following close behind. His descent speed it something to behold, really an incredible talent…

I made it down, across, and up to Moelwyn Bach, and was relieved to still be in the lead. There were spectators all the way around and they thought they were so funny (and they were, in retrospect) shouting ‘you’re a long way from Kenya now’ (In reference to my Kenya vest).


the local baker crossing the dam and cheerfully bringing up the rear

I realised from the gap between their cheers that I had made abit of breathing room for myself and I thought, if I can just get off this mountain and reach the dam still in the lead, then I can win this race. At the dam there is a half mile stretch of flat road, my territory. I hammered it with all the road speed I could find.

I was very happy to get down and off the mountains to the easier terrain of the quarry. My tired legs were beginning to make mistakes and I had slipped and fallen off the last mountain a few times. I kept concentrating all the way to the line and crossed in first place, although I was in too much pain to act cool about it. At least I didn’t throw up like last time, there would have been nowhere to hide either!

We stayed around for a while to soak up the atmosphere of a gorgeous sunny day. The race started and finished in Blaenau Ffestiniog, which is synonymous with slate so it was great of the organisers to give out engraved slates as prizes. A stunning race that I took a lot of positives from, finally winning infront of Nina’s folks, feeling good after a hard week dealing with fatigue, but most of all, being able to gaze across the valley from Gelli every morning, look the Moelwyns face to face, and know that, in that one second, I didn’t give up.

After the prize giving we went for some icecream at Nina’s work, I had the blue bubblegum flavour that Nina said was nasty and only kids ordered. Of course I loved it! We then skipped pebbles by the beach in the last of the evening sun and Nina’s dad joined me for some paddling, to help sooth my calves, it didn’t work.

line-breakPhotographs very kindly provided by Alastair Tye and Gwynfor James 

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


27 thoughts on “Ras Y Moelwyn

  1. Pingback: Ras Y Moelwyn fell race – Russell Runner

  2. Congratulations on an impressive time and win. I really enjoyed reading your account of the race, particularly that second! I very nearly didn’t get there with a back injury but was very glad I made it. A perfect day for a great race and that view on summiting Moelwyn Mawr was just amazing.

    • Well done for powering through with back injury, you are obviously a real fell runner. Road runners pull out if their little toe has been stubbed! Yeah it was a perfect day, although a tiny bit boggy after all the snow thawed! I have to complain about something. Hopefully see you at the next one, hope that back is getting better, thanks for comment!

  3. Hey Guys, Thanks for stopping by Tales of Pigling Bland I know I don’t write much about running, but as someone who loves it and just did their first London Marathon it was great to find your site. You have huge respect from me. I’m rather scared of trail running – I feel comfortable on tarmack. I had to run in the snow over Christmas and it works such different muscle groups.

  4. My God Russell what a horrendous struggle? The video shows a completely different race. The notion of what the race entails is so naive.
    As I said what a struggle?

  5. What an amazing result. Well done! This was my favourite blog post yet. And well done on all the other recent wins too. I can’t help noticing that all of the recent blogs have been from Russell though and that Nina has gone quiet — is she doing more eating of ice cream than running now?!

    • Great to hear from you Penners, your first comment still keeps us warm on the cold nights! Yes Nina has been dodging the races lately, due to a combination of training for marathon and standing at work for hours on end. She has been very good at avoiding all the free cake at her shop though, and is planning on posting on the blog tonight! So watch this space, lovely to hear from you hope you’re well

  6. I love how you somehow get all these amazing photos and vids to go with the text. Who’s actually capturing all of these? Nina? Randoms? if so how do you end up with them?

    “slipped and fallen off the last mountain a few times” What exactly does this entail? Don’t you sort of die if you slip and fall at the speed you two maniacs were going down the mountain?

    Don’t worry you’re a beast(that doesn’t smell) you never give up as long as i’ve known you, but isn’t another positive to take out of it that you beat that Tim Davies dude? (I concur with others you need to be a little less modest with the actual coming first at the end bit!)

    Damn you guys genuinely love that beach and ice cream place huh?

    ps.never knew you could view all pics in slideshow mode just by clicking on them… nice!

    pps.Good luck in Derby 10K on Sunday! Hope you get a good result on your birthday!

    • I know we are really lucky to have some pro photographers on the course, whose websites we link to at the end of the posts. Tony took some great ones aswell so we had loads to choose from this time.
      Luckily the last mountain wasn’t as steep, just really wet and boggy, so I got my Kenya vest dirty!
      Haha yeah we really do love that beach and icecream shop! I would be there right now but it’s closed, so I’m here with you.
      Yeah, the slideshow thing is great, don’t know how to tell people about that function, as I don’t think most people know about it. Can you think what we can do?
      Sorry never got back to you re birthday. Yeah will be in Derby so hopefully can get a good result there

  7. Oh Nina i do feel sorry for you. You must really love Russell. Other racers are going home to a bath, shower. Russell can’t and I know how bad he smells.

  8. What a wonderful read to start the morning with. It wasn’t just that one second either you were so close to not doing the race at all. As Frank would say “when you can’t go any further just keep going” or words to that effect you surely remember what i am talking about.
    I agree with Mikey the most dramatic post yet…

  9. Wow – the most dramatic post yet, made even more dramatic by the dramatic music of the dramatic video (mine was followed by a video of a forest fire, which can only mean more drama, but then by some badgers cavorting in the dark to classical music… soothing). Unfortunately my parents had already ruined the end. It was still the most exciting thing I’ve read all day, and I read the Daily Mail Online. The ending feels a bit War of the Worlds though – can’t you big up the first place a bit? You always relegate the actual coming-in-first to a sub-clause and it’s the *best bit*. Just an exclamation mark or two. I mean, you beat Tim Davies. And the course record. By 4 minutes wasn’t it? And you didn’t give up after he blew his nose, which would’ve thrown anyone. I think all that deserves at least one ‘!’. And maybe some bold, underlined yelling of sorts… Congratulations anyway!

    • Great comment had us laughing the whole way through! To be honest when I cross the line in first, it is never a sense of elation, exhiliration and joy that I feel, but just a relief that I can stop running and try and get my breath back. The sense of achievement and proudness seeps in later when everyone has gone home and it’s too late to give an impromptu but passionate and inspiring acceptance speech (thinking Gwyneth Paltrow). I think your dad might also be exaggerating my performance slightly, I didn’t get the course record. I was very happy to beat Tim, but he is a really nice guy so didn’t want to gloat. Also I don’t want to make him angry and have even more to deal with next time. Yes Nina said I should take the nose blowing bit out, but when else can someone blowing their nose send chills down your spine?! Thanks loads Mikey, see soon

    • Tony and Helen did lots of running, running around after me! A very busy weekend with lots of walking and healthy food so, after Morocco, they are both looking very fit and brown. Thanks for your comment. You guys are always so encouraging and we really appreciate it!

  10. Hey Russell it was a privilege to witness your fantastic achievement – you were too modest to reveal that you won by four and half minutes – that’s about 3/4 of a mile. Wow

    • Yes I am too modest to admit that, but you are obviously aren’t! It was great to have you, I am always moody on race day and you both put up with me very well. I can see where Nina gets it from! We have sent submission to TrailPorn, look out for new post soon…

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