37th Snowdonia Marathon Eryri 2019 – Race Preview

As the countdown continues to one of the UK’s most historic and inspirational marathons, the 37th edition of the Snowdonia­ Marathon Eryri is ready to welcome 3000 runners from all over the world who are set to descend on Llanberis this Saturday, October 26th.

Each year sees a new chapter in this classic Welsh event unfold. 2019 sees a record number of entrants from over 25 countries, each taking on some of the most testing terrain imaginable for a road marathon as they ascend and descend through the scenery of Bwlch Llanberis and Nant Gwynant, and the arduous wall-like climb to Waunfawr, before the final descent into Llanberis.

There are few marathons in the UK that can claim to have the same history. The race proudly boasts to have had some of the greatest battles and performances over the years, from some of the UK’s top mountain and marathon runners. Names such as Jeff Norman, Martin Cox, Andrea Rowlands, Rob Samuel, Russell Bentley and Lizzy Hawker have graced the event, with Norman’s race record time of 2:28:02 from 1985 surely ranking as one of the great marathon performances in the UK from the last four decades.

2018 and 2016 winner Russell Bentley will be sitting out the race this year, however the event promises to be one of the most exciting races for years, as no fewer than four of the leading men have a sub-2 hours 40 mins predicted time. 

Two big contenders for the title this year, and possibly a tilt at John Gilbert’s 2015 course record of 2:33:38, are GB international Tom Evans and former local runner and Salford athlete Callum Rowlinson, as both have personal bests for the distance of 2 hours 26 minutes. 

Evans clocked a 65-minute half marathon earlier in 2019 and has been one of the world’s top trail runners in recent years, winning the CCC race in France in 2018 and placing 3rd in the World Trail Championships in the same year. However, he comes to the Snowdonia Marathon after a summer season blighted with a knee injury, but after a strong rehab in the last couple of months the Belgrave man is ready to take on one of the UK’s toughest marathons on Saturday.

Rowlinson, a former Bangor University student, knows the roads of Snowdonia well. Having raced at numerous events in the area over the last few years, Callum notes the Snowdonia Trail Marathon amongst his notable wins and ran a strong 68-minute half marathon time at the Lake Vyrynwy event in September. However, it must surely be his 2:26:30 clocking in London this year that places him firmly amongst the favourites.  

2018 runner-up Martin Green returns in an attempt to make it onto the podium once again. The North Wales Road Runner ran a perfectly judged race last year, running strongly in the second half to record a 2:43:16 clocking behind Bentley. His 2:30:53 clocking at the London Marathon this year underlined his class, and some impressive and solid performances at a variety of distances in the lead up to the race this year shows that Green will most certainly be amongst the contenders come Saturday. 

Welsh international Tom Roberts makes his marathon debut at the race. The Meirionnydd runner has a half marathon PB of 69:12 from earlier in 2019 and has been training hard under the tutorage of Russell Bentley this year. Most recent performances include a sub 70-minute clocking as he won the Shrewsbury Half Marathon in early October. Tom has predicted a time of 2:35, has prepared well for the race and will certainly have the pedigree on the hills to go with the front runners.

Other runners to keep an eye on include Mercia Fell Runner Dan Connolly, who also predicts a time of around 2:35 and has had a great season on the mountains and trails of the UK and across Europe.

Meirionnydd runner Alun Williams also makes his marathon debut at Snowdonia, and after solid 76-minute performance at the Cardiff Half Marathon earlier this month the mountain specialist will revel in any difficult weather conditions. Former third-placer from the 2014 race Harvey Wharton also runs, along with winner of the 2019 Trail 10K Wales Jamie Evans from Tywyn, who has recently returned to Wales from Japan.

One very interesting entrant to the 2019 race is former major championships GB international on the track James Thie. Making his marathon debut, James is a sub 4-minute miler and is the current World Masters indoor Champion in the 800m, 1500m & 3000m. The Cardiff-based man is also one of the UK’s foremost coaches, training an elite group out of the Cardiff Met University set-up. Thie also coached Cardiff AC runner Mike Kallenberg to second place in the 2015 Snowdonia Marathon. 

Speaking ahead of race James stated:

I’ve always wanted to run the full marathon distance but knew I wouldn’t have the time to train for a normal city one. The appeal of Snowdonia is the scenery and less focus on my time. When chatting to good friend Lowri Morgan almost a year ago, it seemed a good idea to make the plunge! 

“It’s going to be a huge challenge, but also as a coach I’m looking to learn a little more about the distance. I’ve had advice in drinks from Michael Kallenberg who I coached to 2nd in 2015. Plus last year’s champ Russell Bentley has advised on gels, so I’ve got some good advisers! 

“How competitive I can be is unknown, I’ve covered 35km as my longest run, but with other commitments I’ve never had a huge volume week of miles. The fear of the unknown though is quite appealing! As for next Saturday, if I finish it will be longest race and run of my life, and most likely the hardest. I’ve no real idea if I can be competitive upfront, 2:50ish is my goal-time which can see you inside the top 10 – so either side of this would mean some success – but then so could just finishing!”

In the women’s race 2018 winner Anna Bracegirdle returns in an attempt to retain her crown. 26 year-old Anna stormed through in the second half of the race last year to take the win in 3:05:33 to the delight of the large crowd in Llanberis

The Liverpool-resident races lightly and her 2:52:39 PB performance in Manchester earlier this year and recent win in Aintree show that she is in form. If last year’s victory was a surprise for the Anglesey-woman, this year will see the media attention focus firmly on Anna as the reigning Snowdonia champion!

Runner-up to Bracegirdle in 2018, Emma Wookey was set to return to the race this year. However, a recent injury to the Lliswerry runner has meant that she has had to pull out in the last week ahead of the race.

Snowdonia Marathon legend and former winner Andrea Rowlands is looking to take yet another women’s crown. The Eryri Harrier has had another strong season over marathon and ultra-distances and is a brilliant judge of pace in this race, whether this will be enough to overcome Bracegirdle remains to be seen.

Other notable runners who should be battling for one of the podium spots are Tewkesbury AC’s Shona Crombie-Hicks who possesses a marathon PB of 2:38 from 2005 and has consistently run under 3 hours in recent years for the distance, Eryri Harriers Nia Gwynn and Nia Albiston – who placed 7th at the 2018 Snowdonia Marathon – and Glossopdale Harrier and trail specialist Lucy Wasinski, who recently completed the Chester Marathon. 

The 2019 race will be started by Gwenllian Boyns who the organ donation charitable fund Cronfa Elen / Elen’s Fund

It’s an honour for me to be asked to start the 2019 Snowdonia Marathon and have this opportunity to share the reasons why Elen’s Fund, and the subject of Organ Donation, are so important to me. 

“Elen’s Fund was set up by our family in memory of my mother, Elen, who was a gifted and much loved teacher and musician who died in 2012. My family wanted to make sure that those who give the gift of life as my mum did are remembered for the magic that they brought to other people’s lives both in their own lifetime and in giving their organs, rather than by the tragic way that they lost their lives. Three people die every day in the UK because they have not received the transplant they need to stay alive. One donor can save or transform up to 9 lives.

Elen’s Fund aims to raise awareness of the need to talk about organ donation. The fund also helps people who need an organ donation and donor families through supporting the following in North Wales: equipment and facilities; education and training; research and special projects, for example, support networks for donor families.”

The race once again partners with cancer charity Tenovus and they will be bringing their mobile unit along for participants and spectators to learn a little more about the fantastic work they do.

Patron of the Snowdonia Marathon Eryri charity partner and former Welsh rugby star, Rupert Moon will once again be working hard in Llanberis. 

Rupert was the special guest starter at the race in 2017 and stayed until the very last runner crossed the finish line, handing out drinks and foil blankets. Last year saw Rupert running as the race sweeper, however 2019 will see him support the event at the start and also through working with the Tenovus team present at the event for the whole weekend.

The 2019 race will also see the usual one-hour S4C TV highlights package on the Sunday evening, and with social media reach at an all-time high for the race, this year’s marathon is set to truly reach a global audience. There will also be a Facebook live feed to view and supporters will be able to keep up-to-date with their chosen runner via the TDL Race Tracker.

Race co-ordinator Jayne Lloyd takes command of her 16th race in 2019 and from an event perspective Lloyd is confident the marathon will once again showcase all that the Snowdonia National Park has to offer in terms of splendour for the thousands of visitors that are expected across the race weekend:

“It’s a fact that the visitors who come to the event year on year do so for more than just the marathon. Snowdonia’s beauty is a big attraction to people, from across the world, and the fact that we are able to show this off by coupling it with a race is fantastic. This is my 16th year of organising the marathon, and I can honestly say that my enthusiasm for that role gets stronger with every year that passes.”

The 2019 race sees event retail partner Pete Bland Sports assume premium partner status as the Kendal-based business will be supplying event staff with shoes and jackets and also contributing over £2000 in race prizes. 

Race-day also sees the continuation of the highly popular junior races which will take place in the village centre, finishing on the same high street location as the marathon and will be sponsored by long-term event partner Cowbois.

Other event sponsors for the 2019 race are High 5 Sports Nutrition, who will keep the runners fuelled over the gruelling 26.2-mile route, along North Wales BMW and Mini dealer Halliwell Jones who will provide the race with lead vehicles once again.

Regarding the ‘community effect’ Jayne Lloyd concludes:

“Every year people return to the event, often bringing family or hoards of supporters and well-wishers with them, so for us it’s all about putting something back into that local community as they use the local hostelries and eateries over the weekend. The local people and businesses have to endure the inconvenience of our traffic management during the race and continue to give us the support we need to make this event work and we as organisers are very grateful.”