Snowdonia Marathon: the comeback trail

Steve Pennington, who recently completed the BUFF Epic Trail for Men’s Running, is not the only hero in his household. As he writes here, his wife Sharon has had to overcome a huge challenge of her own – a recovery that culminated in the completion of the “UK’s hardest marathon”

Picture credit: Gwynfor James

Picture credit: Gwynfor James

Just over a year ago, I received a horrible call while working away on business: “Daddy, mummy’s had a stroke.”

I got the earliest flight I could and finally got to my wife Sharon in hospital. She had suffered multiple strokes.

It affected her left side and speech, and over the next few months she worked tirelessly to get back to health. This all happened a couple of months before what was due to be her first marathon: the notorious Croeso I Farathon Eryri (or Snowdon Marathon, if you’re English). Unfortunately, she had to cancel.

Instead, she came along to cheer me on and vowed to be fit for next years. The training went really well, but a couple of months before the race, she picked up shin splints and a lot of physio ensued.

Thankfully she managed to get to start line and asked me to run with her. The morning soon came around and, bang on time, so did the rain. We squelched our way to the startline and placed ourselves in a good spot close to some runners we knew. Before long the field started moving and, after a quick hug, we were on our way.

The course is relatively flat for the first couple of miles and then climbs steadily to Pen y Pass at 1,100ft. We made it up comfortably and were rewarded at the top with plenty of cowbells and shouting. It was then straight down the road before a sharp right with another mass of cowbells and encouragement.

A short road section then leads to the first off-road section, which was a little muddy and rough in places. However, this didn’t last long and it was back onto the road.

We were still quite comfortable here and it wasn’t long until we reached Beddgelert. It’s another great spot where the crowds gather to cheer and give out lots of different food.

Soon we exited the village and were onto climb number two, not quite as long but still a drag. At this point, Sharon was tiring but we were lucky to pick up a good friend at around mile 20 who would run with us to the end.

This really raised our spirits as I suspected Sharon was ready to put in some walking sections. To her credit we motored on and got to the final hill. It kicked up so we walked a bit but were soon back running. A quick drink and then onto the last big push.

It starts reasonably steep but soon kicks up again and brought almost all of the field to a walk. We did a bit of walk/running and then mercifully the slope eased and we could run again. This section brought us through the slate mine and then the final aid station prior to heading off road. I was pleased to see this year wasn’t as muddy and we got to the top of the hill in good spirits.

Now the rollercoaster down. The top part rolls a bit and then drops of – you just have to watch for slips and trips. We negotiated this and were soon back onto the tarmac. Nursing battered calves and quads down a steep hill is not enjoyable. Luckily there was some great encouragement and soon we could hear the crowds in Llanberis.

This is when it hit me that Sharon had made it and was going to finish her first marathon. We pulled onto the final straight and saw lots of friendly faces from local running club cheering us on. Finally we went over the finish line and were over the moon to see my son, so I scooped him up and carried him over the line.

All the emotion of the day broke out and I turned to Sharon who was already crying. This picture sums it up. An amazing day – and one we’ll never forget.

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Men's Running

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