Saturday 29th May 2016: Pool Quay to Trevor (27 miles…….actual 29 miles)
The dry, blue-sky weather on Saturday morning was to foretell the weather for the remainder of the bank holiday weekend: hooray! Leaving the canal at Pool Quay, I ran along Offa’s Dyke path following the river Severn taking me east of Ardleen to Four Crosses where it headed west onto the Montgomery canal towpath.
This was a pleasant level run into Llanymynech before ascending onto Llanymynech Hill. Circumventing the golf course, I headed across country to Trefonen calling into the local post office shop for a coke. Today was going to be hot so it was important to take on board fluid, even though I had my 1.5 litre water platypus. A gentleman asked me what I was doing and kindly donated, whilst a woman asked me for one of my #MoonShadow cards http://www.moonshadow.wales/
From here there was a gradual ascent up onto the Bwlch on the west side of Oswestry. The adjoining slender shaped woodland gave me shelter from the sun, as I continued to ascend to Selattyn Hill, then Craignant. From here, I ran towards Chirk Castle crossing the River Ceiriog valley before ascending the permissive path into one of the National Trust’s fine properties. Crossing parkland, I then ran along the road and fields to the canal (Pentre to Froncysyllte) before running across the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct to Trevor, marking the end of marathon 21. My Polar watch indicated 29.1 miles.
Sunday 30th May 2016: Trevor to Bodfari (27 miles)
Alex Jungmayr had pre-warned me that this would be a “long day”. Alex’s insightful comments and advice have been absolutely invaluable on this challenge. Even such a simple statement had me thinking (mentally prepared) that today was going to be a tough challenge. The path ascended out of Trevor. I have to admit to making an early off path error near to Trevor Hall but then sometimes either you can’t see the tell-tale signs of the path, or they have become camouflaged in vegetation, or (dare I say it) even removed! Anyway, my navigation skills always bring me “back on track”, and so I joined the road from Garth as it circumvented Creigiau Eglwyseg and moved around the base of Eglwyseg Mountain.
From here, it felt like the ascent was relentless, coming off the road and running along the base of the mountain to Craig Arthur and beyond. Running out of the woodland to the north of Eglwyseg Mountain (Craig-y-Adar etc) there is a stretch of road beyond the “parking” icon on the Harvey map. I had estimated circa 1 mile before (seeing a sign and) turning left. It wasn’t there and so, perhaps impatiently, I turned left too early and traversed what can only be described as very difficult terrain: uneven, tussocky, brambly and covered with the kind of vegetation typical of poor hill ground. On reflection, this was unnecessarily energy sapping because it was hard work crossing this terrain to get back on track. Having made the mistake, at least I should give myself some credit for once again getting back on track. I joined the path about 100 metres before traversing Llandegla Forest. It was pleasant running through this woodland because at last (at least for this part of today’s run) I was running downhill and to-boot I was in the shade for a while. This led to the village of Llandegla. I had already worked hard just to get to this point of the run so it was a delight to locate a recently opened community shop / cafe in the old Church School, operated by enthusiastic volunteers. It was lunchtime-ish so I had a cheese/onion pastry, chocolate caramel and cafetière of coffee. I explained to a number of local people, who asked, that I was running around the perimeter of Wales. One lady paid for my lunch (THANK YOU), another took my #MoonShadowWales card, whilst the gentleman operating the till took a photograph of me to put it on the community FaceBook page. Thank you to Llandegla community for your hospitality and interest in what I am doing.
The caffeine boast was welcome because if it had been hard so far, it was just about to get harder still!! Traversing fields to the east side of Moel-y-Waen, Offas Dyke path then gave a new meaning to the word undulating (ascending / descending): Moel-y-Plas; Moel Llanfair; Moel Gyw; passing by Gyrn & Moel Eithinen; Moel Fenlli Hillfort, Moel Famau (Jubilee Tower 558m); Moel Dywyll; Moel Arthur Hillfort and eventually Penycloddiau Hillfort before running around the base of Moel-y-Parc downwards to Bodfari.
The short description of my journey across the beautiful Clwydian range doesn’t do it justice but these were not normal circumstances. I was moving fairly swiftly and with purpose, acknowledged by Rob Dingle (@offasdykepath ). Also, Lynne John’s book on Offa’s Dyke path described this 17 mile section of the path “as extremely arduous walking requiring much balance”. I was RUNNING and was pleased to complete this 27 mile stretch when I arrived in Bodfari. This was undoubtedly the second toughest running day of the challenge so far, and didn’t I know it.
Monday 31st May 2016: Bodfari to Colwyn Bay (26 miles)
Psychologically, albeit tired from the previous two days, I knew that today I was going to reach the coast so this was a ‘spur’. The start was a rude awakening ascending from circa 54m to circa 290m as I marched / ran towards Rhuallt. I remember thinking as I ascended (yet again) the path to the south of Mynydd-y-Cwm that it must be the final steep incline of this 3-marathon bank holiday weekend! Ha!! As I meandered along the path towards Prestatyn I was to discover another ascent through woodland to a vantage point looking down over the town. It was great to see the sea and to know that it was downhill from here to the sea-front where (near the information centre) I found the sign pointing to Chepstow (182 miles). I had achieved another milestone.
@offasdykepath , who had been a constant Twitter companion on the Offa’s Dyke section of the perimeter run of Wales, stated that it was traditional to dip one’s feet in the sea water at the end of the path. I did this with glee and was accompanied by my wife Jackie to celebrate this moment because her support to this challenge has been IMMENSE. Post sea-moment, I was ready for some calories and hydration, so I fuelled-up to run the next 15 miles “on the level” to Colwyn Bay.
It was good to be on the Wales coastal path again, and there was something soothing about being able to glance to my right from time to time to see the sea. The path is absolutely on the front so I ran from Prestatyn to Rhyl, through Kinmel Bay to Abergele, Llanddulas and then on to the modern Parc Eirias (Bryn Williams) building in Colwyn Bay where marathon 23 came to an end………….marking the end of 3 back to back marathons (circa 80+ miles) over arduous terrain.