Race the Train, Tywyn, 20th August, 2022

The Rotary Challenge 14 miles

The crowds gather, expectation is in the air! 5 minutes to go says the announcer…steam rises from under the bridge…10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 – the train whistle blows and we’re off!

Almost 500 entrants are trying to beat the Talyllyn steam train from Tywyn out to Abergynolwyn and back, and if you beat the record, there’s £500 in it for you!!

This was my 10th time at Race the Train.  I have enjoyed the run every year, even when we had 50 mph winds coming at us, with rain like needles pricking our skin!  This year was very different as the rain stayed away, and as the country has been undergoing rather a lack of water, the ground was extremely dry and hard.  It was taking place for the first time since before Covid so it was lovely to be part of the running community once again.  It is organised by the Rotary Club of Tywyn who raise lots of money for local causes.

Laurie and I met Ruth before the race and had the compulsory “before” photo.  Ruth is a quick runner so we told her to start nearer the front than us and that we would see her at the end (No chance by the way!)  To beat the train, one needs to run less than 1 hour 48 minutes for the 14 miles.  Not a problem, I hear you say, it’s only just over a half marathon – very attainable.  But did I say it is a TRAIL and a TOUGH one at that?  Only the first and last miles are on the road, the rest is over fields, through farms and gardens, along very stony paths, up hills, down hills, up steep rocky steps of differing sizes, along a narrow sloping sheep track on the side of one hill, and did I mention the bog?  Normally, this comes up to your knees, but this year because of the dry weather it only just covered your shoes.  Quite disappointing really.

But despite this, you run through beautiful countryside, with wonderful views of the coast and the falls at Dolgoch are stunning.  There was great support as normal from the marshals, locals and folks on holiday. 

And of course, there is the steam train.  Talyllyn is the home of Thomas the Tank Engine, Gordon and others and who knows which one will pull the carriages along.  The route goes alongside the track in many places and you are always sure of shouts of encouragement and lots of hand waving from the passengers.  Many of the runners’ friends and relative take a trip on the train to “help” you along.

Ruth did very well – I believe it was only her 3rd train race – and although she didn’t beat the train, she wasn’t far off it.  About 50 runners do beat it, but no-one this year beat the record.  Laurie and I finished feeling very happy to have completed it.  This is now the last time for me – I know I seem to have said that every year but I really do mean it this time – but why don’t you have a go?  It’s a great weekend away in Wales, there are other distances available beside the Rotary Challenge of 14 miles, even a Toddlers’ Trot     and there’s such a great atmosphere all over.  You’re also near the beach and the sea so what’s not to like?  So go on – have a go next year – Race the Train in August 2023.

Valerie Hall

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