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Buff Winter Trail Wales 2016 – Race Report

The weather was kind and the smiles were abundant as over 500 runners took to the trails of Coed y Brenin in Snowdonia on Saturday to take part in the second annual Buff Winter Trail Wales. The quality of racing was high as ever, and the masses were boosted with the excitement of running alongside former Wales and British Lion Shane Williams MBE, who was running in Coed y Brenin for the first time.

In 2015 the event put winter racing on the map at Coed y Brenin with 300 plus runners taking part. As the trail running boom continues in this part of Wales the 2016 was full to a capacity 600 runners within 20 days of opening in October and the clamour for spare places continued right up until race week.

After an unsettled few months weather wise in the region, hopes of perfect underfoot conditions were slim, however light winds and a dry, overcast situation ensured that racing conditions were excellent for the runners on race day.

Rob Samuel had been touted as race favourite in the build-up to the event and after winning the summer Trail Marathon Wales half marathon event in 2014 the Eryri Harrier knew what was to come. As the runners wound their way through the race arena and past the award-winning Coed y Brenin visitor centres after the 10:30am start it was clear the Welshman wasn’t waiting around.

Samuel is getting back to fitness after a troublesome 2015 with injury, but now running freely he quickly established a one minute lead by mile 3, this had turned into 3 minutes as he descended the stunning gladed area of Mynydd Penrhos and into the Ty’n y Groes feed station at mile 10, and by the finish his lead was to be almost five minutes as he crossed the line in 1 hour 25 minutes and 5 seconds – just 4 seconds shy of Matthew Robert’s race record.

Behind there was some great competition as last year’s 9th place runner Adam Newton improved by almost 5 minutes to finish second in 1:29:45. The Swansea Harrier had come through strongly in the second half of the race to overtake Gareth Wyn Stephens who finished a solid third in 1:30:27.

Speaking after the race Samuel stated:

“I love running here! The environment is just amazing, trees, hills, steep ascents and descents and the sound of the rivers, just superb. I was really happy with my run today, I felt strong and it felt good to run that sort of time of this course too, as it was pretty muddy in places. I just went for from the gun really, as I wanted to test myself and when you are on your own for 13 miles you need to concentrate, but overall I’m pleased. The event is fantastic, really well organised and I’ll be back for sure!”

The women’s event was full of quality. Added to last year’s winner Vic Walls who was running once again were GB and Wales international mountain runner Gina Paletta, Welsh international Anna Bartlett and winner of the 2013 Trail Marathon Wales winner Mary Grace Spalton. Again, however, it was to be a gun to tape victory that took the day, as Paletta stormed around the course to win in 1:37:41, to smash Wall’s 2015 course record by over 7 minutes and finish a superb 10th overall.

Behind Bartlett continued her return to form as she claimed second place, also inside the course record, in 1:44:30. Victoria Walls ran a strong race to claim the final podium spot in 1:47:38.

Commenting on Facebook, Gina said:

“Holy legs. Today’s first race back after ten months at the Buff Winter Trail Race reminded me that nothing beats being healthy and spending time in the Welsh mountains with friends. Coming in first lady and 10th overall in a new course record was a huge bonus. Biggest thank you to Matt Ward and all the volunteers for an amazing event”.

Rugby legend Shane Williams MBE was at the Buff Winter Trail Wales race for the first time, making the trip up from South Wales with his brother Dean and a number of Ammanford running friends. The former Wales and British Lion took on the Winter Trail as part of a year of adventure, as later in the year Shane will take on Ironman Wales in Tenby and finish off his year of challenges at the Snowdonia Marathon Eryri in Llanberis.

Running with what appeared to be a permanent smile, Shane danced his way around the trails with the aplomb which saw him become one of the worlds greatest try scorers, finishing in a very respectable 2:17:47 on the demanding 13 mile route.

Speaking to race commentator Stephen Edwards shortly after crossing the finish line, he said:

“That was hard, but really good fun. I thoroughly enjoyed it, even the notorious Sting in the Tail!! A very tough but enjoyable race and brilliantly organised. Thank you for the warm welcome from all of the team in Coed y Brenin and of course the runners and supporters on the day, I can’t wait to come back.”

The race route is just part of the fantastic offering that Coed y Brenin now has in terms of trails for runners. The estate is managed by Natural Resources Wales and the stunning Half Marathon route is just one of 5 trails tailored to trail runners needs, designed by Coed y Brenin Recreation Ranger and Trail Manager Graeme Stringer.

Graeme commented:

“Thanks to Run Coed y Brenin, the marshals, supporters and of course the participants for a fantastic running event this weekend. Coed y Brenin made its name as the UK’s first Mountain biking Centre and now we are blazing the trail yet again by creating the UK’s first dedicated Trail Running Centre. This has really opened up the woods to so many more people to enjoy every day and it’s great to see it all come together on mass events like Buff Winter Trail Wales.”

Organiser Matt Ward was rightly pleased with what was once again a memorable event, stating:

“I don’t think it could have gone much better to be honest. Of course after every event we analyse where we can improve, but other than the odd tweak needed, it all seems to have gone to plan. We have a great team working on the event, and I am eternally grateful for all of the support we receive from the local volunteers, organisations and fellow runners. It was great to see Rob and Gina back running strongly too, and to have two GB and Wales internationals winning the event is very pleasing from a competition point of view. 

“I’d like to thank Shane once again too. A humble guy, considering what he has achieved personally and for the country of Wales. He had so much time for everyone, fans, fellow runners, the selfies were endless! Most of all I would like to thank all of the runners as without their efforts on the trails and their warm feedback and energy at the race, we wouldn’t have an event.”

Race Results

Top 3 Men

1. Rob Samuel (Eryri Harriers) 1:25:05
2. Adam Newton (Swansea Harriers) 1:29:45
3. Gareth Wyn Stephens 1:30:27

Top 3 Women 

1. Gina Paletta (Cardiff AAC)  1:37:41 – (new women’s race record)
2. Anna Bartlett (Shrewsbury AC) 1:44:30
3. Victoria Walls (Spectrum Striders) 1:47:38

Full race results can be found via the TDL Event Services website here

The 2017 Buff Winter Trail Wales race will take place on 21st January with entries to the 2017 event live on October 1st, 2016.

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