Just a few years ago the once commonplace Red Kite had all but disappeared from the British Isles, with just a few isolated pockets remaining in remote areas of West Wales. Now, after a successful conservation programme they are spreading eastwards and into England. It would be fitting if the Red Kite Challenge enjoyed similar success. This set of junior, 10k and 1/2 marathon races takes place in the glorious scenery around Devil’s Bridge, Ceredigion, among rugged hills cut by wooded valleys.
Choosing the half marathon distance, I entered Saturday’s race with some apprehension, having missed Ludlow’s Storm the Castle Duathlon just the previous weekend due to what turned out to be a ‘Baker’s Cyst’, a painful gathering of fluid at the back of the knee. I knew it was risky but with just 8 weeks to my Exmoor ‘half Ironman’, I needed to test my running stamina.
This year the weather was mild and the ground was good but modifications to the course increased the difficulty, with a strength sapping 2,775 feet of vertical ascent. ‘Do the math’ (as the Americans say): this means an average gradient of 8% over the race or roughly 200 feet up and 200 feet down, each and every mile.
Before the race someone said to me ‘it’s uphill for the first 6 miles’. What they didn’t say is that the second 6 miles is even harder! The 8th mile includes nearly 400 feet of ascent to the highest point on the race at over 1500 feet. Prior to that, just after 6 miles, a steep, grassy climb took the runners up to unexpected and lovely field of daffodils, sewn across the hillsides. A ferocious ascent just before the finish must be tackled before the finish line comes into view in the pleasant and accommodating Woodlands Holiday Park.
I chased home three ladies that I came upon in the woods around 9 miles, catching two but alas one escaped and beat me home.
This is a challenging race, quite technical in sections but always varied and interesting. I was pleased to finish in 2:12:20, bearing in mind that only the top 20 runners broke 2 hours.
Thanks to Dick Evans and other volunteers for a well organised race. Finishers received a very attractive red wine or whisky glass bearing the Red Kite logo. There were excellent performances by Sue, Tom, Gary and Frank, as shown below. Special mention to Scott Jones and Alec Harper, who ran well in the Welsh Junior Trail Running Championships.
27 Neil Taylor 2:12:20, M60 (2nd)
41 Gary Gunner 2:24:45, M70 (1st)
42 Frank Luscott 2:24:59 M60 (4th)
14 Sue Davies 1:10:34 F50 (2nd)
19 Tom Davies 1:16:17 M65 (1st)
Junior UK and Welsh Trail Running
5 Scott Jones 0:19:40 M15 (5th)
7 Alec Harper 0:21:58 M15 (7th)