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GB Mountain Running Champs

I have struggled with my running since the ON Snowdonia Trail Marathon. It was probably the best opportunity for me to qualify to run for GB, but I blew it. I wrote an honest blog about it (read here), hoping it would give me closure, and it kind of did. But also kind of didn’t.

I had gone into a deep dark place up on Mount Doom (Snowdon) that day. I had to wring my brain that day. I promised myself all kinds of things to just finish that race. I called myself all kinds of names. I had to bend my will and my body to just keep going, rather than just give up, collapse and transform into a blob of steaming hot dung.

I got off the mountain, uninjured, unhurt, my family still loved me, the sun was shining. But as my muscle soreness healed, my mind soreness didn’t. I found it hard to commit to training, hard to withstand any sort of pain. I dropped out of Ladywell 10,000m cos it was hurting a bit. My training was sporadic and quite unfocused.

I had tried to pick myself up, get motivated, YES! I am back! Then I would sleep-in the next morning.

I get the email confirming I have been selected to run for Wales in the GB Mountain Running Championships, I am scared to do it. I had poured my heart into the Trail Marathon, and wound up 10th. Here is a race I hadn’t been training for at all, against the best mountain runners in the country, I could really embarrass myself.

The race is in Snowdonia, I have done the course before, it is a stunning route. I moved here to do races like this. To be running for Wales, injury and illness free, it should be the most amazing opportunity ever. I can’t turn this down due to fear.

I resolve not to think about it. Not to focus on it, just to roll with it.

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Race day is beautiful sunshine, not a cloud in the sky. I’m not that nervous, training has been going a bit more consistently, and although I haven’t done anything on the mountains, I am looking forward to it.

It is a hot day, and windy. Watching the juniors finish is like something out of Apocalypse Now. One lad falls on his bum and can’t make it 10 meters to the finish. Runners are lying in the field crying, and some have collapsed with heat exhaustion on the mountain. The seniors line up. We are told that the top 2 are picked automatically for the World Champs in Argentina, with 2 more discretionary places. We set off.

I am feeling pretty bad almost immediately. I hang on with the 2nd group, but it’s hurting and we haven’t even left the tarmac yet. By the time we get up onto the fells, I am all wrong. I have to really practise my ascending, it does not come naturally. I have not been practising. It is NOT coming naturally.

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The climb up to the first peak, Eilio, is a long hard slog. I am hurting. Every time someone overtakes me, it feels like I gain a stone in weight. I had been secretly hoping to come in the top 10 here, and be first Welsh Man home. I am now slipping down into the 20s, and am the 4th Welsh man, the field pulling away with every step.

I have totally lost my head. I want to quit. I am trying to think of an excuse. I can’t. I am in a Welsh vest. I already quit my last race. I have given myself total permission to just go out and enjoy this one. There are no excuses here. Then Emma Collinge comes past. A very fast woman who I saw finish 2nd in the World Championships a few years ago. It shocks me. I am angry with myself. I want to quit again. How can I compete with the fastest men if I can’t beat the fastest women?

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It’s a bad day. So what am I going to do? Drop out because it’s hurting? Because I’m getting beaten by a woman? Let’s draw the line now. No more talk of dropping out. Finish the fucking race.

I manage to tag onto Emma, and, gradually, sort my head out. The pain subsides and I get my breathing back. It is windy and Emma tries to wave me infront to take some of the load. I refuse. I am giving Emma my total respect here, and therefore we are in a race against each other and I’m not interested in helping her one bit. I wouldn’t shield a guy from the wind either.

I stay behind, I can feel myself coming out of the hole. I know that once I get to the top of Eilio, everything should swing in my favour. I just have to believe it. That’s exactly what happens. I launch off just before the top, and am instantly gaining on the field. The visibility is perfect and I can see everyone stretched out infront of me. From thinking ‘when will this ever end?’, to now ‘I hope I have enough time’.

The ridge is a wonderful rollercoaster of ups and downs. I’m flying past people on the downs, and grinding past them on the ups. Two guys in front of me stop for a second to get some water off a spectator, I forgo the water so I can pass them both cleanly.

Dyfed at Track Tuesday, has advised me to jump one particular stile instead of the next, I do it, it gets me past Max Nichols (excellent mountain runner), Dyfed is right there cheering! My confidence is soaring. I have pulled myself near to top 10, and am now the 2nd Welsh man. I have so much support on the mountain it is brilliant. Everyone roaring that I am looking better than the guys in front. A few guys even shout that I could make it onto the plane. I just focus on the next guy, and the next guy. We leave the ridge and now there is just one long gentle downhill all the way home. It is perfect running for me and I am trying trying trying. I zoom past runners like they are not moving. I’m getting hot, my thighs are burning, my feet are on fire, I don’t care, I wish there was more road. I can see flashes of Math Robert’s red vest impossibly far ahead. I am closing him down, meter by meter, he is looking behind, I am about 10 seconds away. I can’t get there. I finish 8th.

I am enormously happy with that. Maybe my best ever performance on the mountains. I beat lots of excellent mountain and road runners. Ofcourse now I wish I had specialised a bit more, done a few more hill sessions. But, more than the result, I’m thrilled with my awesome self for clawing out of a hole. I turned the momentum around and got a very unlikely result, top 10 in the country.

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Great run from Math and a royal battle. We are having the rematch next weekend at Newborough parkrun if anyone fancies a go!

Thanks loads to everyone who came out to support, Welsh Athletics and the team, and to Arwel for picking me!

Great photos as always from the guys at SportPictures.Cymru

16/09/2019 AM PM
Monday 10 REST
Drive to Wales
Tuesday REST 2 miles in 10.50. 5 laps, 4 laps, 3 laps, 2 laps, 1 lap, 200m, 100m (lap jog rest). 6.05, 4.47, 3.33, 2.19, 65. 10 miles total
perfect weather for track and great group
Wednesday 5tm 10
Thursday 5tm 10min @20kmph tm. 8 miles road. 10 miles total
10min effort feels good, doable!
Friday REST 5tm
Saturday 5 @7min miling GB Mountain Running Champs. 10 miles total
8th place. Very happy
Sunday 18 miles @6.10min miling. 23 miles total REST
morning run with Tom and Cal Rawlinson, great little long run
TOTAL: 93 miles tm = treadmill

Non-Running Related Highlight of the Month

Straight after Mountain Race on Saturday, knock back a chocolate milk and walk up Moelwyn Mawr with my dad. Epic day.

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Thing I’m Digging This Week:

Just love Lana Del Rey. This music video, the effortlessly cool style, the lyrics;

“F##k it, I Love You” – genius.

Best Thing On The Internet This Week:

Latest episode as Kipchoge trains to break 2hr marathon. A gold mine of useful stuff here. Love the way he finishes mammoth track session, few high fives, and chill on infield, no yelling, no prostrating on the track, no theatre. Job done, go home.

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Russell Bentley
Russell Bentley
Track runner. Trained in Kenya, Won the Snowdonia Marathon 2018, PB Berlin Marathon 2:20:20

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