In short: Snow! In full: I last did this race two years ago in beautiful spring sunshine. Saturday's race couldn't have been more different! After a grueling ascent to mile 6, thinking I'd worn too much we descended into a snow 'storm' which not only spoiled the outstanding view but sapped your energy and will to live! However, on everyone plodded, eyes squinting and hands unusable. It was definitely character building out there!
Crazy weather aside, this is a really great race, through fantastic welsh countryside. Parking, race HQ, the start and finish are all within a stones throw of each other and you get a nice tshirt upon finishing. Ample pubs are nearby too to reward yourself and for watching certain rugby matches.
I'll be back next year and will hope for that spring sun again! Date of review: March 18, 2013
In short: It's a twenty-miler, Jim, but not as we know it. In full: This had been one of my favourite races of 2010. I missed it in 2011 because it fell on the same weekend as the San Domenico 20, but the dates in 2012 were more favourable, so it was back on my calendar of essential pre-London twenty-milers. Would it live up to my memories of 2010?
[First, a quick plea to Runner's World. Please sort out the linking of events in different years. At the time of writing, this 2012 entry is not linked to earlier years and so it is not possible to view previous years' ratings without searching for a completely separate instance of the event.)
The event website is workmanlike and includes all the essential details on how to enter. I entered by post and received a printed information sheet by post several weeks before the event. It confirmed my running number, which was to be collected at registration on the day. No problems so far! On the day, with a two-hour drive to get to Rhayader, I left early and, with plenty of time in hand, enjoyed a lovely drive through Abergavenny, Talgarth and Builth Wells on quiet A-roads. I arrived early enough to bag a parking place in the Leisure Centre car park and duly collected my number. I must say that I didn't get the impression that parking would be a problem for later arrivals either. Everything went very smoothly indeed.
The race start is just a couple of hundred yards along the road from Race HQ and we were led in a gaggle to the start. A short wait while the official photographer (local press?) mounted his stepladder in the middle of the road for a group photo and then we were off. There had been a couple of minor changes to the course since 2010 and I think the opening couple of miles round the town were slightly different, but in essence this was still a gentle two miles with a few undulations to get everyone warmed up for the climb.
We left the town and reached an innocuous-looking country junction. Shortly after this, the big climb, which continues on a pretty steady gradient from mile 3 through to mile 6, began. There was a water station part of the way up, which was good news. This is a long hill climb and probably puts some prospective runners off. It need not do so, because the gradient really is very constant - with only one short steeper pull near the top, and so you can settle into your chosen pace (hopefully running rather than walking!) and plod on up.
There are a couple of immediate rewards when you reach the top. The first is a fantastic panorama of open moorland and the second is a very fast downhill through mile 7 towards the first of the reservoirs, after which there is a continuous downhill trend, but not without one or two undulations along the way.
There wasn't quite so much support along the course as there had been in 2010, but the water stations were all very well organised and marshalled. They were ideally spaced out too. Thanks to the organisers and marshals! Also a round of applause to the locals who were out in force in the last 400 metres of the course in the centre of Rhayader.
The course descends gradually along the chain of reservoirs and is an absolute joy to run. I settled into a good pace through the middle stages and thought back to the 2010 event, when I had teamed up with a runner from Aberystwyth at about mile 15 to finish the race at a canter. Imagine my surprise when, at almost exactly the same point of the course, I saw a familiar looking figure up ahead. It was the same mystery lady from Aberystwyth! We remarked on the coincidence and ran about three miles together. Then, at mile 17, a new and sneaky little slope positioned just after the final water station proved to be one climb too many for me - and she sped off over the horizon. Calf cramps hit and the last three miles were slow and painful. To be fair, I had probably pushed a bit too hard in mid-race too. As a result of the cramp, I was three minutes slower than in 2010, but I achieved exactly the same WAVA score, so can't complain!
And so to the finish. This is positioned in a large market yard right opposite the Race HQ, so really could not be better. Race results are printed and posted page by page on the wall of the HQ, which is a nice service. Good changing facilities and showers and there's a counter where you can buy cakes, sandwiches and drinks in the Leisure Centre, so everything you need immediately after the race is right on hand.
All in all, an excellent race. It was every bit as good as I had remembered and so I will say - again - I hope to be back! Date of review: April 7, 2012
In short: Scenery would be absolutely breathtaking if that mountainous incline hadn't already taken it away!!!! In full: First time at Rhadayer and had not read any of the reviews so was woefully unprepared for the 2.5 mile incline up the side of the valley, however that may be an advantage as that was one nasty hill!!! However, don't let it put you off because the view from the top (especially behind you) is glorious. The descents, on the whole, are pretty runnable without putting too much pressure on the legs so can catch the time back up. After you have got the first 6 or so miles out of the way, the course is pretty flat (well mid-wales flat!!!) and not too testing and the scenery is varied with lots of local sheep, cattle and wildlife to help the miles fly by. Organisation was great, good number of water stations, yes it is in cups but your never going to get bottles on this type of race, so it was expected!!! Relatively quiet but very smiley marshals, few supporters dotted about and as you came back into Rhayader it was great to see the whole town getting behind their local race and really cheering us on for the last couple of hundred metres. My personal preference would be for a medal and not a T shirt but you can't have it all can you!!!
One thing that I know they can't enforce is the banning of iPods, however a few signs at the start discouraging their use might have put a few people off. I have nothing against them in general, use one (1 ear only!) for training and no ears for logging my miles when racing, however on this course you needed to be able to hear what was going as its not traffic free and some of the roads are very twisty, despite this common sense did not prevail for a minority and despite several yells of 'Car' individuals continued to run on oblivious to the vehicles behind, I'd rather not see a fellow runner get squashed flat so perhaps a few gentle reminders at the start to just take an earphone out might help.
All in all top notch race, will definitely make this part of my spring marathon training plans in the future, shame you can run another 20 miler as prep for Snowdonia!!!! Date of review: March 18, 2012
In short: Amazing run and organised by a fantastic friendly and supportive group. Can't wait for next year it has completely changed my view on long distance running In full: The event was brilliantly organised and the supporters and organisers were so friendly and welcoming. The run is through the most beautiful surroundings and the atmosphere is relaxed and friendly. The local residents/organisersd put a huge effort in supporting the runners and even though remote there were supporters driving around the route cheering us on at different places. We were provided with jelly babies, mars bars and dextrose tablets along the way and it was carefully planned out where they were ie at the top of a 6 mile hill. We finished by coming back into the village of Rhayader to wher supporters welcolmed us back and cheered us onto the finish line. This is the first run i've done where there has been no queues for toilets, faclilties easy to hand at begining and end and no hold up at the begining.Rhyader demonstrate how to organise and support a run properly. It was lovely to do a run where there was no pressure and I could actually enjoy the surroundings. Well done Rhayader Date of review: March 18, 2012
In short: best race I've ever done! In full: This race is not for the feint hearted due to the shear number of hills! This is made up for by the absolutely stunning scenery, the friendly nature of the race and the great support along the race- mars bars and jelly babies at every water stop- brilliant! Quite simply this race is tough but brilliant! Date of review: March 18, 2012