> 2008 race reports
19-20/07/08 Brecon Fans Race Weekend - from Will Horsley

How did I manage to convince my wife that we should spend the first two nights of our holiday in South Wales, where, incidentally, two fell races were also being held?

The Brecon Fans race weekend consists of the long-established 3.5 mile Pen Y Fan race (summit 882m) on Saturday and the relatively new 10.5 mile Fan Y Big race (seriously) on Sunday.

Sixty-eight runners, including about a dozen Gurkha’s from the British Army, started the Pen Y Fan race. I went off with the leading group and after about half a mile led everyone all the way to the summit first of Corn Du and then Pen Y Fan (there is only about 400 yds between them). I arrived at Corn Du with a lead of only a few yards which had shrunk to nil yards by the time I reached Pen Y Fan. The initial decent is quite intimidating as you squeeze through a gap in some rocks and head off what looks like a near vertical descent. Myself and the lad in 2nd place were quickly overtaken by local veteran, and winner for the last two years, Mark Palmer (Mynydd Du [pronounced MIN-IFF DEE]). He really had the knack of descending on the steep stuff and once the gradient had eased a bit he maintained this advantage. I was also a good bit behind the guy in 2nd place by now, and whilst contemplating trying to catch him up on the run in I realised that I had a battle on just to maintain 3rd place. In the end Mark completed a hat-trick of victories with the next guy 10 seconds back and me 10 seconds back again. The weather was a bit damp and breezy but otherwise good. There was quite a crowd who were treated with spectacular views of the race from the tarn at the bottom of the cwm below the Pen Y Fan ridge. Intriguingly the first female runner was given race number 51 and subsequently completed the race in 51st position in a time of 51:51. Freaky or what?! I had race number 29, also my age, but could not finish in a corresponding time. The course record is 30:00, with the 2005 winner recording 32:00 when it was a British Championship race. It would seem that to break the record it all rests on the descent.

Nick, it’s worth £300 if you fancy a go?!

On Sunday a familiar face appeared: A lad called Joe Charles who runs for Clywydian Range in North Wales. Familiar because his father runs for Durham FR and he has appeared in a few Durham and North Yorks races with good results. It turns out that he also set the course record in the inaugural race the previous year, and he is known as Stan because, apparently, only his parents call him Joe. The Gurkha’s were also back along with about 60 others, so the total field was about 70. The weather was hot, sunny and dry but with a strong breeze on the summit ridge. Stan/Joe set off quick and was soon out of sight, with me, Mark, some Gurkha’s and a few others making up a chasing pack of about 10. Once the climb started Mark settled into second place and I made a good hold on 3rd. But then, over one of the steepest sections of the long climb to the summit, Stan/Joe appeared from the wrong direction. He also seemed pretty knackered and Mark seized his opportunity, taking a big lead that he was to hold on to. I kept Stan/Joe in sight for a quite a while until symmetrical blisters struck both of my feet just as I was about to hit the lovely fast grassy descent. Through gritted teeth I hung onto 3rd – the blisters not costing me a position, but I estimate they slowed me by about three minutes. Mark Palmer had a great weekend with two wins, the first completing a hat-trick, and the second a new course record (1h13m20s, vs. 1h19m22s from me)

Will I be back?

Definitely. Two very good races in beautiful scenery and with the usual fell running hospitality. Cheap camping is available in fields next to the start of each race. Navigation is not difficult with either race.

Anyone fancy a trip to Wales next year?

Results, photos and reports are, or will appear soon, on the Brecon Fans website: www.breconfans.org.uk

Will Horsley

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