This athleticism which seems to be essential to both my sons’ happiness and personalities at times leaves me awed, and never more so than Saturday in the delightful, Welsh village of Llanberis. for the Snowdonia Marathon.
The day dawns grey, as forecast. “occasional” showers they said on tv last night, and after breakfast folk hang around the hotel lobby, waiting for a break in the drizzle to take a warm up sprint or make their way down to the start line, which is about ten minutes walk from where we are staying. There are bright patches so maybe there will be “sunny spells” too (it has amazed me this trip how the BBC weather service continues to use the same phrases I remember from years and years ago). It’s almost the last minute and the crowd in the lobby begins to drift out, and off towards the start of the Snowdonia Marathon. Even this short walk is enchanting. I am completely captivated by this fiercely beautiful countryside. Everyone is in high spirits despite the gloom, and anticipation is palpable.
There are runners in all shapes and sizes, excepting overweight, this is no marathon for cissies. The course is largely off road, and considered to be one, if not, the, most difficult in the UK. It’s also, arguably, the most beautiful, and was voted the country’s best marathon in 2007.
Although the skies remain densely grey, the rain is holding off, as 1,500 people gather by the start line. I go as far as I can with Guy, a quick, good luck hug and he shuffles along with the crowd closer to the start, and I blink back tears. The klaxon sounds, and they are off, and we well-wishers applaud these amateur athletes as they stream past. We can see them, as dots on the landscape as they round the first bend, and around the shore of the Lake Padarn.
That’s the last I will see of Guy for around four hours, as I don’t have a car to be able to pop up alongside the route…..next time, though! As I wend my way slowly back to the hotel, taking in vistas and picturesque country scenes I hadn’t notice before, nervous as I was, a faint drizzle starts, so I head back to the hotel and attempt to check emails and catch up with folk, but the connection is terrible, and after a while I give up and read for a while.
As soon as restlessness sets in I “tog up”, as we used to say as kids, and head out for the High Street in search of a pharmacy and the post office. Now the rain is coming down fast, but snug in long scarf, cap, sturdy shoes and an excellent waterproof (cast off of Austin’s) I’m am fearless. I complete my chores and head for the finish line so I can get a good spot, despite the fact the elite athletes aren’t expected for about another half hour. They will run the race in around two and half hours, and Guy is hoping to top his personal best, which was 3:57 in last April’s London Marathon.
I find my spot, but have to retreat to a slightly more sheltered position behind a low wall, as it starts to hail. Hood and collar fully turned up even over my cap, the only part of me which feels the chill are my hands……woollen gloves, I now remember, aren’t much good against wet, only cold. I’m worried about Guy’s dry clothes and my camera, though, which I’m carrying, and thought were well protected enough in bags and then encased in plastic.
The hail clears and the flashing light of the car heralding the arrival of the winner appears up the high street. He speeds past the tape with ease to loud applause. He’s Welsh policeman Richie Gardner, in 2 hours 36 minutes (forget the seconds for the purpose of this little tale!) so extra special win for this race. In fact, of the first 8 past the finish line 6 are Welsh – used to this harsh climate you see!! For the next hour or so, we cheer and clap with enthusiasm as the lead runners speed, jump, or stagger, but always smile, their ways across the finish line.
At 3 hours 30 mins I get my camera out, ready, and take a couple of practice shots. The clapping hasn’t, actually helped all that much, and my hands are damp, despite being pushed in pockets when not applauding. When I spot Guy coming into view, of course, I fumble, the camera slips through my hands and I miss the shot I waited for all this time! I manage to yell encouragement for his final few feet, but he doesn’t hear me in the general din. I completely choke when I look at the clock. His time is 3:48, almost ten minutes better than his personal best, and the final time should be faster, because he would have been a few seconds at the start line.
I race around to the end of the finish area, and find him wrapped up like a Christmas parcel in a foil thermal blanket, and with a smile on his face as big as the Christmas Day smile I remember when he was little. He’s limping a bit, but triumphant and glowing. We make haste to the Community Hall, where the post race care is centered, and he can put on dry clothes, rehydrate and sup his recovery drink, and then have a massage.
That all takes time, and I have lots of time to observe others as they enter the hall. There are the ones who obviously look athletic or sporty, sturdy men, flexing muscle, but there are women who look as if the slightest breeze might blow them over, and the guy who really catches my eye is small and slight, wrapped like Guy in a foil blanket, and looks around 70 years old. I hope I’m not insulting him, that’s an honest assessment, and if he was in the Community Hall before 3pm he’s run a decent time too. Sitting here now I curse not going over to speak to him.
No excuse, I admit to myself for the millionth time, for not getting fitter myself, but today isn’t about me or my fitness, it’s about Guy not only improving on his personal best, but doing so by much more than he hoped. Smiles all around then :=)))