I’m a huge fan of trail running and without doubt my favourite UK trail races are those put on by the guys at Maverick Races.
It’s been a tough year in terms of fitting in all the races I’d like to have done but when I realised on Thursday evening there was a Maverick Race not too far away on the coming Saturday, I jumped at the chance to get stuck in. To be honest I was kicking myself I hadn’t checked my diary properly. 2 races within the space of 6 days, a total of 41 miles and when I saw this advertised as one of the top 3 toughest races in the series I thought myself… ah what the hell, a few more miles and 3000 feet of climbing won’t hurt…
Way back in 2015 I ran (and somehow won) the first Maverick Race at Quantock Hills in Somerset. Since then the company has come on leaps and bounds and has grown into one of, if not the leading trail race company in the U.K. It also means way more competitors and so my chances of ever winning again are now slim to none! But as many people who take part in trail racing will tell you, it is FAR less about the time it takes and the position you come and a lot more about the enjoyment, the freedom of being outdoors, the variety and the hugely entertaining element that is what makes these races so appealing.
So on less than 48 hours notice Friday evening came, I packed up the LandRover, drove to Llangorse Lake in the Brecon Beacons National Park, camped in the back of my truck and got up early to cook breakfast on my little gas cooker by the Lake. Waking up in the wilderness with nothing but wild horses, sheep and birds of prey for company always excites me and looking up to the mountains I knew we would be running up excited me even more.
When the race kicked off at we were immediately greeted with about 2km of vertical running, straight up the Welsh mountains and into spectacular scenery. The one thing about these races is that they ALWAYS deliver in terms of scenery (and hills). Ben and Justin (the owners) have spent countless hours and time away researching and implementing races with the absolute best of the British countryside on offer. It just adds another reason to run – seeing so many places that you probably would never do otherwise. I grew up in Wales and I covered miles of ground in this race that I would never have seen and for me that is worth the entry fee alone. On top of that you have a very well marshalled course, feed stations, a medal, free beer, coffee and even the chance to race in a pair of ionv-8 trail shoes to make sure you get the most out of the mud. Maverick races certainly know how to put on a day out not just a race.
I was pretty happy to come home in just under 2 and a half hours considering how tired my legs were on arrival. As soon as I hit the first hill my back and hamstrings tightened up and I knew I was in for a tough day out. My mindset wasn’t to race and I know what I’m good at and what I’m not. I’m awful at uphill running and people usually pass me in flocks on the way up, however I’m ok at downhill running and this is where I knew I’d make up some ground. I had no idea what position I was in nor was I really bothered, in fact I quite often stopped just to admire the scenery and take a few snaps on my phone. Finding out I had finished in the top 10 was a bonus but not the reason I entered.
Packing the right stuff is essential for a good race, especially when the elements can quickly change and the weather can turn against you. I always bring a variety of clothes in my car and check the met office weather on the morning of the race to see what’s in store. If I had to give one tip for a road race it would be that you want to be waiting to start the race a little bit chilly but not freezing. This is because if you’re standing there all warm and toasty just think how hot you’re going to be 5k into the race and you’re trying peel layers off. If you think trying to undress in the dark the you’re drunk is hard try doing it on the side of a mountain when your eyes are watering from the wind and one wrong foot position and your face down in a bog!
The good thing about trail running is it’s normal to carry a camel bak bag (water and clothes/gels/phone storage). On top of this you’ll need a good pair of shoes and away you go. Personally I use these inov-8 shoes and have done for all my recent trail races and ultra marathons: inov-8 Mens Mudclaw 300 CL Trail Running Shoe, Black/Blue/Red, 5 UK and if you’re looking for a great lightweight running camel bak bag then my personal favourite is the Salomon, Lightweight Racing Backpack 12L, Dimensions: 45×22.5×13.5 cm, AGILE 12 SET, Black/Grey/White (Black/Iron/White), L37375100 which has stood the test of time over every long distance trail race I’ve run thus far.
At the Maverick Races you can expect a short, medium or long course that all encompass hilly, beautiful, sometimes very muddy and always exciting routes with a bunch of other great runners all of whom who’ve turned up not just to race but for the enjoyment of being out in the open with like minded people in a fun and supportive environment.
If you like running, love the countryside, don’t mind a bit of mud, want to get fitter and explore the world a little bit deeper than the Maverick Races are the one to put in your diary each year. Their next race is coming up in 2 weeks time in Oxfordshire and you can see the details by clicking here.
All of the photos in this blog are my own and If you’d like to see some more of my photo’s from the day (I grabbed my camera for 5 minutes after I’d finished my race and got showered) then check out the little album I put onto my photography Facebook page here.
Happy running, thanks for reading, see you on the mountains!