Wednesday, September 26, 2007


As soon as Lesley emailed Lin the link to the Sleepwalker Midnight Marathon we knew that navigating 20 miles of steep rocky trails in the Brecon Beacon National Park at night was the perfect way to spend the first Saturday evening of the Autumn.
After an afternoon carbo-loading we started at 9:00pm, near the front of a field of 53. The pace seemed very fast, and a group of 3 or 4 runners pulled away, leaving us in a group of 5 or 6. Running at night is not something completely new to us, but we usually keep to the better paths or roads, and this was really rocky and uneven, and most of all, fast.

At first we were able to follow the lights up ahead, but after 2 or 3 miles they were no longer in sight and we were forced to do some navigation. I think we may have gone a bit off track in places, but we must have been more or less right because after 6 miles we came out on a brief road section where the first checkpoint was set up. We gave our numbers and pressed on behind a group of (Axe Valley) Runners who had opened up a gap of 100 yards on us, but kept stopping to check their maps allowing us to almost catch up.

This continued for while until they slowed a bit and we joined them. Although technically a race, this felt more like a long night-time training run, and apart from a mile or two in the middle we were always running with at least three others.

Nearing the halfway mark we still had the steepest climb ahead of us to 2000 feet. This was made more interesting and difficult by taking the wrong path (not my fault!) and having to negotiate hundreds of feet of boggy hillside including barbed wire fences and a stream or three.

The descent off the mountain involved a very tricky section where we dropped a thousand feet and a couple of the AVR team, and having reached the second checkpoint , and unaware of my well-deserved reputation for getting lost, the 3 remaining with us seemed to be quite happy to let me do the navigation. Luckily in most places the trail was fairly obvious and visibility was OK with our high-powered head-torches.

The main problem was maintaining a good pace without tripping or slipping on the steep rocky paths. Fortunately by the time we started to get really tired we were down off the mountain and the final 3 miles was on roads and finally the (seemingly interminable) towpath to the finish. By the time we finished at 12:39am (in joint 4th place, thanks to a sporting gesture by the two AV runners who waited for us at the end) we were on a real high.

What a great event, I highly recommend it! Maybe next year we can send an MNR team? It was an exciting adventure, and not exactly a walk in the park, but it was so well planned and marshalled that it was not dangerously difficult and would be achievable by most with a bit of preparation, common sense and plenty of determination. If it had been held a day later in the storm that blew in on Sunday it would have been a lot more challenging, maybe next year...