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Great Welsh Marathon 2022 - Rich Byrne

It is with a certain sense of irony that I am writing a race report 5 weeks late, for an event I initially entered in 2019. Back then, around 12 Hoopsters signed up for the full or half marathon, but the interim two years had dwindled our numbers, and it was just Patrick Brennan and I who towed the line on a “nobblin” Sunday morning in Burry Port (Nobblin it turns out is a local word for windy).

But before we get into the race itself it is worth re-winding just a little bit, to address the rather mundane point of how we got to the start line. Planning our logistics somewhat last minute meant we stayed a few miles from the start in Llanelli, and while the town could supply us with a cheeky Nandos for our pre-face dinner, taxis and public transport on a Sunday are not a thing. So we reached out to the local running club for help, and as Blanche DuBois said “you can always rely on the kindness of strangers”, since to our relief we got a whole host of generous offers from the Sospan Road Runners (Sospan means “little saucepan” in Welsh. There's a famous folk song about it they sing at the rugby and everything!). Louise, our driver (with her adorable small dog Henry) drove us to the start, and delivered us on time to get limbered up and get some last minute fuelling in.

And so to the race. Patrick had done some course recce in advance, and true to his word is was a lovely, flat coastal course with amazing views over to the Gower peninsula. One small lap of a country park and then we joined the costal path that would take us to Llanelli and back over 26.2 miles.

It was a race of mixed fortunes for myself. I lost a gel in the first km when unbeknownst to me it leapt for freedom from my belt, dealing me an early psychological blow (there’s a lesson here peeps… always pack an extra gel!), and then as I approached halfway began to feel I wasn’t 100%. Sure enough after 26 fairly consistent Km I cracked, and after a queasy response to taking on water, and a few slower kms I had to mentally re-group to jog-walk it home, with some cramp thrown in for good measure.

Despite this fairly miserable last few kilometres I still managed to scrape a PB by a few minutes, thanks to a boost towards the end by a chap called Ethan from the Rhondda, who I’d run with for a while and who was having an equally tough time of it. I crossed the line in 3:54:54, and after a brief hobble around the field, re-fuel and change, I was able to see Patrick cross the line in 4:48:42.

True to his craft, Patrick was able to put on a show, and in perhaps his greatest performance yet looked like a man who had enjoyed the experience.

Once again our host gave us a lift back to Burry Port, where Patrick and I waited for our respective onward transport in the local pub.

To our delight, a pint of Guinness was £2.50 (two pounds bloody fifty, I tell you). A few of these later, somewhat anaesthetised, we were able to hobble our way onwards proudly displaying our dragon medals.

Marathons seem to be a constant learning curve, and I’ll take lessons away from this one, but the thing that sticks with me the most from our Welsh adventure is that we are part of an amazing community that is always willing to help each other out. Maybe that is the best result of all. Or the cheap Guinness… you decide.


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