Earlier this summer I did an excellent one-day beginning fell running for women run by Ruth Pickvance, a former GB fell runner, based down near Crickhowell. Through this I heard about the Black Mountain Trail Race that Ruth organises through her company Element Active.
When I entered I’d not realised it clashed with the Ron Skilton HM so I was the only Croft rep. Hay Hotfooters was well represented as well as runners from Wye Valley, Forest of Dean and many of the South Wales clubs.
It’s a nine-mile out and back multi terrain trail race much of which is in the Brecon Beacons National Park. The race centre is at the secondary school in Crickhowell so lots of car parking, indoor space (should it be raining), loos and showers if needed and refreshments. The start is a five-minute walk away in the centre of Crickhowell and when the 220 odd runners lined up at the start under bright blue skies it was difficult to believe the deluge of the week before.
The run starts with a short sharp burst up a minor road out of the town before peeling off into the fields (this did cause a slight bottle neck) and a longish traverse across fields before dropping down to a short flat road section before dropping down along tracks to the Grwyne Fawr River which you follow for a couple of miles through fields and woodlands before tracking up to a short road section followed by a about quarter mile descent along stony track and woodland before crossing back across the river and heading up through woodland and tracks to Llanbedr Church, where there’s a water stop. Then its turn around and repeat finishing with a welcome down hill back into the town and a bottle of beer for every finisher!
I found it tough (probably the lack of training over recent months) but enjoyable. Despite all the rain the week before the conditions underfoot were excellent – I wore trail shoes, which I was glad of on the more technical tracks and a steep grassy back but with some caution you could have managed with road shoes. Its definitely not a race for PBs – I counted about 30 stiles to climb over and eight gates to navigate but it’s a good challenge in a beautiful location. The course was very well marked and great marshalling. If you want to be at the pointy end of proceedings then a good start if probably needed to avoid the early bottleneck.
There were prizes in age categories and teams but a bottle of beer for finishers.
My time was 1hr 46minin 183 place.
Note: just heard this race is likely to move to November next year so removed clash with Ron Skilton race.