The Welsh Castles Relay is a 2 day, 20 stage team relay event from Caernarfon to Cardiff running past 24 castles in Wales. Each team has 20 runner, and each runner can only run one leg. The stages range from 6 miles through to 14 miles. There are six mountain stages: and a prize up for the king and queen of the mountain for the fastest man and woman on these legs! This year for the first time, I was running one of these legs: stage 7, which is 5.5 miles of incline, 1500 feet of elevation, before a sharp decline and eventually a steady descent into Dinas Mawddwy. Why was I doing this again?

 In the other legs, the non mountain legs, the fastest Man, lady and vet get the infamous  and much prized yellow jersey. A title never won by one of our runners. Over night the teams camp in Newtown. As your team runs, you follow them down the path in minibuses, and generally shout support/abuse at each other. 

The event is brilliant, Wales is breathtaking, the atmosphere is fantastic. I have done it twice now, and I honestly could not recommend it enough.

So, here is my review.

What a beautiful day for a running relay. I got to our local pub at 7am on Saturday morning in pouring rain and cold. I have to say, reluctant as I was to get up at 0630 on a Saturday morning, the option of being up at the crack of dawn to get to Wales seemed infinitely better than sleeping on the floor of a leisure centre as we did in 2015. Our team had 9 buses and I was on bus B, and as soon as we got going, that was it music was on, who cares about the rain, we are from Manchester, party time!

Caernarfon’s weather was no better than Manchester’s, we parked up and battled the elements to wish good luck to the runners in the first stage before we quickly headed off to the start of stage 2 with our runners. Stage 2 has one of the most scenic of starts, a round about… So we huddled up again in the rain to watch the Stage 2 guys set off and cheer the Stage 1 runners in. Despite the cold, cheering my team mates in, really cheered me up, Welsh Castles had really got started!

Next up, we drove on to see our stage 2 in Criccieth. It was great following them along the route and cheering them on, my team mate Andy had a cracking race and was second vet, so close to getting the yellow jersey, next year! The weather was now getting really grim, and despite my best efforts to bring enough layers, I went blue with cold! Thank you so much Ian for the hoody, you probably helped me not get pneumonia.

In our mini bus we followed the route along to the start of stage 7, my leg, cheering on the other runners as we drove past them. I was super nervous about having one of the mountain leg, there aren’t too many hills around the roads of South Manchester, so I had no idea what to expect of 5.5 miles of 1500 feet of incline. In hindsight I probably shouldn’t have studied the course profile in the week before and just taken an ignorance is bliss approach to the run. The rain was still going but as we lined up we were optimistic that the conditions may at least improve for our mountain leg, they didn’t.

So in the rain in Dolgellau Colin, Paul and I lined up for Stage 7. I was so grateful for the CR buses that had made it to cheer us off at the start. The race shot off, all the runners seemed to speed off, I thought to myself, no one is going to keep this pace up. Apparently clubs put some strong runners in Stage 7, because they kept up that pace. Paul and I stuck together for the first couple of miles, oh my gosh my lungs were gasping. Then there was the first of two steeper sections of hill between mile 2 and 3, all I could do was keep plodding on.

I ploughed on up, somewhere between 3 and 4 miles came 600m of a downhill, this was a welcome relief. Then I could see looming in front of me the final ascent between 4-5 miles. By this time the supporting minibuses were going past, I can only apologize to anyone I may have glared at who cheered me on. Finally, finally we reached the end of the up hill, and what goes up must come down. So at 5.5 miles the descent started.

Now, I am actually scared of heights, so coming down hill like that was pretty frightening, A martial told me to get closer to the side of the road to avoid the oncoming cars, and I think I shouted something at him along the lines of “ I can only run where I can run” sorry martial that’s not very Chorlton of me.

When we reached 7 miles the gradient started to level out. Finally, I felt like my legs could open out and I was back in familiar running territory. I managed to make up ground on runners that had gone past me on the descent. In the end, sadly no yellow jersey or queen of the mountain for me (next year) I think I finished in the bottom third of the field. But I definitely gave it my all that hill really is something else.

After I had run I was  on such a high! And felt able to relax and enjoy the rest of the day, kudos to anyone who runs on day 2. I don’t camp, so after our stage we drove along the course to watch stage 9 and 10 and cheer runners on before making it to Newtown to get the train home.

What a fantastic day! Thank you Chorlton and Wales. The support, as always, was fantastic for every single runner. Who would have thought a race that involved sitting in a minibus and cheering people on in the rain could be so fun. But it can. Until next year J

written by

Elisabeth Kilcourse

Doctor from Manchester

Club: Chorlton Runners

half_marathon 10k marathon
half_marathon 10k marathon


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