Part 1: Top Snowdonia Trail Marathon Tips from Scott Sports Athlete Dan Doherty
The Scott Snowdonia Trail Marathon is one of the toughest races in Europe. Across the Ultra, Marathon, Half & 10k you'll face every kind of terrain and weather imaginable. To help you make the most of this incredible race experience we spoke to experienced Scott Sports athlete Dan Doherty to get his advice and tips on how to tackle this monster event...
Terrain, Weather and Kit
Snowdonia is an exciting and challenging place to race whether you are competing in a short and sharp fell race, a longer marathon or an ultra event. If you are after a taste of what mountain races can offer, Snowdonia has it all.
One minute you can expect to face technical and sometimes challenging rocky climbs with (hopefully) breath-taking views upon the watchful eye of the mountain raven or, if you are lucky, the bearded Welsh feral goat. The next minute you may have a short road section followed by some beautiful tree lined trails coming out onto a beautiful reservoir or natural ice age lake. However, it would not be a Welsh mountain race unless you experienced some genuine organic Welsh grown bog. You can expect a good taste of this too!
You’ll have plenty of time to make up for the time lost in the bogs with some big (and sometimes semi-technical) descents some of which can go on for a couple of miles. You’ll be able to see the finish line for miles but never seem to be getting there, so make sure you are prepared to take your endurance to the next level. Oh and be prepared for a very long descent at the end with 23+ miles in your legs! Would you have it any other way?
No matter what your experience is, Scott Snowdonia Marathon is a tough mountain race and must be respected. You are going to be out there for a number of hours and it’s important you come prepared and known what to expect. This includes:
Weather: Come prepared and expect all types of weather – super hot, super cold, rain, strong sunlight, high winds and so on. These are proper mountains! Remember that you may be running fast on light trail maintaining good body temperature to find you hit a climb that reduces you to a walk where you may be losing body temp and moving into colder conditions. Expect to be climbing large sections of the course and therefore ensure you have a good layer system to ensure you can manage both heat and cold. Do this in training to ensure it becomes a habit!
Kit: As mentioned, make sure you take the compulsory kit at a minimum! You will also need to ensure you have enough water to get yourself from checkpoint to checkpoint. In the summer months after a few hot days there are not many streams to top up from. Also ensure you take enough nutrition with you too. Aid stations are great but don’t simply rely on them and ensure you have enough to get you around the course. Unlike road marathons you will have time (especially on climbs) to eat something a bit more interesting than gels! Play around with what works for you in your training.
The most essential piece of kit is your shoes. Make sure you have solid lugs on the bottom of your shoes to give you the grip you need on the rocks and grassy descents. Light trail shoes and road shoes won’t cut it and will be dangerous. Be prepared to run long distances with wet feet and also ensure you keep debris out of your shoes. A one minute stop to empty your shoes will pay off in the long run!
The best training you can do is to actually get up to Snowdonia, recce the course and get some mountain miles in. No matter what the terrain is you should always try and simulate race conditions as much as possible.
If you can’t get to Snowdonia then try and get out onto your local mountain range to train (Brecon Beacons, Lakes etc.) and failing this find some technical trail or big hills (North and South Downs).
It’s important that you get some solid hours of training in wearing your race kit. This race will take you a lot longer than a road marathon so ensure you get some good time training out on your legs, back-to-back long runs (in all weather conditions) will also help.
Focus on speed climbing (i.e. fast walking up hills) as there will be a lot of this in the race and sometimes a good climb can be very important in your final rankings and time. It will reduce the impact on your legs and leave more in the tank for the faster sections.
Talking of which don’t neglect your speed training! Just because this is a mountain marathon doesn’t mean you should be cutting out the speed sessions. In fact, speed work is vital if you want to perform on the fast trail sections and importantly conditioning those quads on the superfast long descents.
No matter what your aims are. Enjoy. Snowdonia has some stunning scenery to enjoy along the way and it will certainly pose a challenge you can be proud of.
Dan Doherty is a Scott Sports athlete, Irish international trail and mountain runner and course record holder of the Scott Snowdonia Half Marathon. Dan recently broke the Brecon Beacons Traverse record and currently holds the fastest British time for completing the Tor des Geants a gruelling 320km and 23,000m mountain race in the Italian Alps.
Entries for the Ultra Marathon sold out in a matter of days. Extremely limited places are still available across the Marathon, Half and 10k - for more information, visit the Trail Marathon page here.