‘Sarn Helen On Tour’ over the weekend of Saturday 28th October took in the usual spectacular sights, twisty roads and changeable weather that has come to be expected of the glorious event ‘Brooks Snowdonia Marathon’ or ‘Marathon Eryri’.
With a low mist and a slight chill in the air close to 2500 runners lined up for the starting horn, nearly a mile out of town, while in Llanberis town centre a group of 80 children warmed up for their events, which fortunately did not include the same hills profiled in the main race. Jack Cauklett was the oldest of the Sarn junior competitors and held a great performance to finish 2nd overall. Hari Rivers sprinted hard to place 3rd in his age class with Christopher Readwin finishing high up the rankings in the same class. Sisters Violet, Poppy and Maddie Cauklett were all happy to compete under the Sarn Helen flag, running well while smiling, before anxiously making their way to the finish line in preparation of their Dads second Marathon Eryri appearance.
Kenneth Caulkett was once more the first striped, white vest to travel the final 200m straight to the coveted and well attended finish line. Under enthusiastic applause Caulkett finished in 3:07:50, placing an impressive 43rd overall and 23rd Open male. Having run steady to the Berth Gelert, the half way mark, Caulkett worked hard to stay with a select group which included the leading lady. As the mighty climb of Waunfawr approached and the miles clocked over 20 the slight build of Northampton Runner Hayley Munn began to pull away. Crossing the finish line in 2:57:25, placing and outstanding 18th overall, Munn set a new course record by over 3 mins. Female times such as this have not been seen since the late 80s and certainly not since the slight re-route was made; local Eryri lady Andrea Rowlands placed 2nd lady in a massive PB of 3:01:38.
A total of 16 Sarn Helen Running club members took on the challenge of Europe’s hardest road marathon this year and our small but dedicated group placed itself well in such a talent rich and competitive field. One member however, our oldest man on the start line, shone slightly brighter than all our stars as he once again (3rd time in three attempts) took the title of 1st overall in his age class as well as winning gold in the Welsh Championships. With training grounds as tough as the immense climbs of the Cambrian Mountains and the hard determination expected of a farmer, 67 year old Murray Kisbee finished in a spectacular time of 3:51:09, triumphant in the MV65 class by over 6 minutes.
Also taking a place on the Welsh Championship podium was renowned Sarn speedster Glyn Price as he proudly took home bronze in the M50 class, 7th overall in his class with a time of 3:26:52. Price has taken on the might of the Snowdonia hills every year since 2010 and holds a course best of 3hrs 1 minute.
Daniel Hooper was the 2nd team mate to finish in a great time of 3:17:56, placing 17th M40. Mike Davies was next in a time of 3:18:20, 14th M45, and looking as comfortable at the end as at mile one. Davies is notorious for running well on this course as he holds the 2nd fastest time of any Sarn member, running an astonishing 2:54:15 in 2010 where he placed 2nd in his class and 11th overall; all this despite his just as notorious short gait.
Marathon and distance lover Nigel Davies paced the 26.2 miles well and finished in an enviable time of 3:30:57 with George Eadon running a big PB, nicely ending a year of strong PB’s, with a time of 3:44:57. Steven Holmes ran a steady race, hindered by on-going injury, and was pleased to finish in 3:53:28. Sarn Helens first lady, Eleri Rivers, finished strong and with a substantial personal best time of 4:01:03, placing 15th F40. Eric Rees, who has competed and completed the race for the 24th time, was close behind in 4:03:32.
Uncertain of his form due to an injury just two weeks prior to race day Aled Morgan took well to the hills and ran a comfortable race in a time of 4:15:07. An upset stomach wasn’t enough to hinder 3rd time Snowdonia Marathon runner Mitchell Readwin who narrowly missed out on a PB time with 4:20:54. Uncontrollable circumstances meant a lack of training caught up with Sarns Carwyn Thomas as he finished in 4:24:45; Thomas’ past achievements are staggering and include a marathon PB time of 2:48 in 2008 when he ranked 1st in the UK for U20 and in 2011 he ranked British 5th in the U23s over 20 miles.
For Helen Willoughby Marathon Eryri signalled the start of her ultra- marathon training and her strong run, with a powerful finish, certainly helped to build her confidence. Willoughby ran alongside marathon virgin Delyth Crimes, who took on the challenge with a smile and charged through the finish line well under target. Willoughby ran 4:29:09 and Crimes, 4:29:17.
A performance which time equals her last years effort was made so much sweeter by a totally unexpected and surprising presentation of a truly justified award as Jane Holmes crossed the line in 5:28:10 and went home with the Brooks Snowdonia Marathon Inspiration Award.
Every year this award is given to someone who has touched and inspired the Snowdonia Marathon in some way, and because of Jane's dedication, positivity and fundraising she was nominated for this award by the race organisers Jayne Lloyd and Matt Ward. Jane and husband Steven have been actively raising money for The Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation since Jane herself received a totally unexpected advanced lung cancer diagnosis in June 2014 when she was told the tumour was inoperable and she could potentially not last a year. A massive turn around since then has seen Jane undergo chemotherapy, radiotherapy and an operation in 2015 to remove the primary tumour and a large part of her right lung. Until very recently Jane was overjoyed to be receiving clear scan results but is now awaiting another biopsy and some uncertainty. As well as working hard to keep Lung Cancer awareness in the public eye the Holmes family have so far raised over £20,000.
Jane is a true inspiration and deserving of this great achievement and award, a specially commissioned picture of Snowdonia by a local artist, as she complete the marathon for the 6th time and 3 years in a row post-surgery.
Jane first got her diagnosis in June 2014 (advanced Lung Cancer) with one of the doctors saying it was inoperable and she had a 1 in 3 chance of making it a year. With a change of medical team to Cardiff, and with Jane's fitness, she then had chemotherapy and an aggressive period of radiotherapy - a good response led to surgery to take out the primary tumour and a large part of the right lung in June 2015...quite a year and quite a turn round in terms of outlook. 4 months later as you know we did Marathon Eryri - an amazing strength of mind considering her major lung surgery and rehab. Jane has had clear scans for the last 2 years until last week, so will start the process again of biopsies and hospital trips! As you probably know I organised the Pause for Hope church service last month at St Peters. None of us are religious but the main reason for organising it was in response to the support we have both received since Jane's diagnosis - from the whole community far and wide. Garden club, running club and local village - from burgers and club BBQ to raffle prizes and garden parties we have been overwhelmed by the great and positive support. Understanding and appreciating the support to us, I knew that there were many others that would benefit from the service by coming together etc. All in all we have raised over £20,200 and - one of the reasons that Matt Ward and Jayne Lloyd from Marathon Eryri nominated Jane for the Inspiration prize at this years event - and also that she has completed it every year (3 times) since her lung surgery. Her positivity and attitude has certainly inspired every one she meets and continues to do so (I am a little biased of course!!). I'm not too sure if Jane is doing the Ras y Mast, and I'll be off in Swansea doing the Coach in Running Fitness Course but will catch up at some point.