Under-prepared. Overexcited. Blown away. Then, exhausted. There are plenty of ways that I could describe running UTS 50 (Ultra Trail Snowdonia) last month but now the dust has settled. But my main takeaway – I fully get the ultra trail hype now!

I, like many, many others have been swapping tarmac roads and pavements for trails and off-road running over the past year now. Always eager to have a target in mind to help stay motivated with training and consistency, I entered this May’s UTS last autumn and have been on a bit of an ‘ultra running’ journey ever since.

Getting the running bug

Back to the beginning. Last summer, having done a fair bit more consistent running than I’d done before following the birth of our first child, I wanted to get a proper endurance challenge in the diary once again. It’s hard to miss the growing conversation around trail running, ultras and UTMB in particular over the past few years. So a quick Google search for the UK’s UTMB World Series event brought me to Ultra Trail Snowdonia … and the entry page and payment portal quickly after. A 55km route with over 3,300m altitude gain including two ascents of Snowdon was the new reason for (more) running.

After our son was born, I quickly realised that running was way more time efficient than cycling. Personally, I need some form of exercise most days otherwise I don’t function as well and, apparently, get grumpy without it. Running quickly became my new thing. Initially just road running and parkruns, then longer adventures soon beckoned. So with UTS in the diary this gave my running a whole new purpose and motivation.

Having goals and setting targets is something we apply at PaceUp too, working towards them to achieve success for both our client partners and the agency too. This adventure was a perfect next step and helped me get a big part of my personal life aligned with everything else.

The race itself

Come race day, I had put a decent amount of work in but still felt wholly under-prepared technically and for the altitude as well. Yet with the rest of ‘life’ still needing its place in the daily routine, I was as ready as I could have been.

UTMB Snowdonia Trio

I’d never been to Snowdon before, didn’t know what running poles were and decided they wouldn’t help (lesson learnt!), hadn’t run more than 1000m altitude gain in one run, and had muddled my own way through a rough training plan to get there.

As seems often the race with running events, the excitement got the better of me and I got off to a flyer, too much so, eventually suffering big time on the second ascent of Snowdon in the heat. The climb itself was humbling, but the support from the other runners each having their own battle yet taking the time to support one another, including an often contorted me as cramps bit hard. Seeing the support and assistance everyone afforded one another along the way throughout brought the real community aspect of the event, and trail running generally, to life for me. Something I’d heard a lot about but had never truly appreciated.

Having managed to recover over the third of the four climbs I had a second wind and managed to finish in OK shape, crossing with a finish time of just over 10h40 for the day.

My learnings…

  • I massively over packed when it came to food, but under ate. Partly due to the heat but also not being disciplined with it
  • Running poles do make a difference and I’ll be investing ahead of the next one
  • Running downhill for a long period of time really is tough! Now I see why people say it’s harder than the uphill
  • Training on short climbs on the south downs is no real preparation for long distance, steep ascents like Snowdon was
  • More running with a pack on is needed to get the lower back used to the load
  • Snowdon is a busy mountain!

I went to a few dark places along the way, did some soul searching, unpacked and repacked a few heavy thoughts in my mind during the day, nearly packed it in after the second ascent of Snowdon, and battered my knees and quads more than I’d ever have expected. But there’s always something special about being up in the mountains that takes your mind off the matter at hand to provide enough momentary relief to get back into the rhythm.

UTMB Snowdonia Trio

A new love for long distance trail running

Much as we’ve seen in the cycling world over the past few years now with gravel, more and more runners are searching for adventure over average speeds, PBs and splits. It’s undeniably an amazing way of getting away from the stresses of life, discovering new landscapes and generally being free.

Long distance and ultra running is the next step too – an alluring combination of pushing your limits for hours on end, whilst exploring beyond your doorstep at the same time.

I’m now being inspired by names like Jim Walmsley, Courtney Dauwalter, Tom Evans, Jasmin Paris, Christian Meier and many others too. Geeking out on the latest running apparel and equipment, and plotting new adventures around the south downs and further afield.

Running at PaceUp

Despite having built strong foundations in cycling from the off, at PaceUp we’ve always been connected to the running industry too, working with the likes of the London Marathon, Janji, Soar Running and more over the years. But this has now become a more prominent focus for us as part of our drive to be the leading endurance and adventure sports PR & Marketing agency.

Much like with cycling, our passion to work with and propel forward brands, events, teams and athletes in running and all other sports comes from a pure passion for these activities. So ensuring we have the time to practice what we preach will always be important to us as an organisation.

I’m fast discovering a whole new side to the sport from within now and it provides invaluable insight into how best to connect with the consumer, to speak their language and do better for our client partners.

Recent additions to our list of client partners such as Fractel and Acid Running, with more in the pipeline too, is hugely exciting for us and sets the pathway for us playing a bigger role in the space with lofty ambitions too.

What’s next?

With the little one at home and agency life still very much moving forward at a fast pace, being realistic with what time I’ve got available is important and the 50km category is definitely my sweet spot. Plus, racing 100km or 100 miles still seems utterly ridiculous to me!

I’ve entered CMG Girona 50 this November, run by the organisers of The Traka, which presents another opportunity to test myself but also to explore the terrains in the region and the Gavarres massif more intimately than I have before. 51.5 kilometres, with over 1700m of climbing, from the coast to Girona. And I can’t wait! The goal is to run a much more measured race than last time for starters, then hit a more realistic target time than I had in mind for Snowdon.

If you’re intrigued by the trails and the longer distance stuff too, I’d wholeheartedly recommend getting yourself entered into one of the growing number of adventure runs and races. UTMB has a huge global series of events each offering distances from 25km upwards, but there’s plenty more events closer to home too, from organisers such as Ultra X, Threshold Sports, Maverick Race, Endurancelife and more. You might just find your new ‘thing’ too.