Updated: Jones aims for 6 at Snowdon 2012
5-time winner of the International Snowdon Race Andi Jones returns to the mountain this weekend looking to add to his haul of victories and cement his name still further in history as the most successful runner the race’s history…
The England and GB international rates this races as one of the best in the world, strong words from a man who has competed for Great Britain on the mountains and roads across the globe. This year’s race will also see some top quality opposition for Andi in one of the best fields ever assembled for the race.
Kenyan Wilson Chemweno returns, bringing compatriots Geoffrey Tum, Michael Mitei and Shadrack Moimet to Wales for the first time. Chemweno famously led the 2010 event as the race approached the toughest climb on the mountain (Allt Moses), however strong winds, rain and tricky underfoot conditions meant that the Kenyan was unable to maintain his pace, eventually finishing seventh.
With the event already set to be one of the greatest ever to grace the area, some of the strongest home nation and Irish teams are preparing to pit battle on the famous mountain against some high-quality international competition in an effort to put their names alongside the former winners that include names such as Kenny Stuart, Angela Mudge, Marco de Gasperi, Tim Davies and Colin Jones.
One of Europe’s toughest mountain races, the 10-mile Snowdon Race involves running from the edge of Lake Padarn in the village of Llanberis to the highest summit in Wales and England and back down.The first ever race was held on 19 July, 1976, with eighty-six runners assembling for the race which was won by Dave Francis from Bristol, completing the course in 1 hour 12 minutes 05 seconds – a time which would still be highly-respectable some 36 years later.
This year’s event will once again feature on the ISF (International Skyrunning Federation) calendar, part of the Skyrunner® World Series, offering National and International competitors the chance to gain valuable ranking points.
Jones, who will look to make it 6 wins in 7 years in what he often describes as the ‘best race of the year’. The Englishman contested a huge struggle with Scotland’s Murray Strain in 2011, and the two will once again go head-to-head on the mountain. In fact last year’s triumphant team prize winners Scotland return with an even stronger squad, as Strain is joined by 2010 winner Robbie Simpson, fresh from a superb 19th place in the European Mountain Running Championships, and Joe Symonds, the newly crowned British Fell Running Champion.
England will, as ever, be a strong proposition with Rob Baker (7th in 2011),
Tom Adams and Tom Addison joining Jones in the vests of England, strong English opposition will also come in the Open race in the shape of Rob Hope, who also takes to the start line. Carl Bell replaces Tom Adams
This year will also see a highly-competitive Welsh team, with many hoping to figure in the top 10. Local Alun Vaughan dons the red vest of Wales once again, as he attempts to improve on his previous best placing of third in 2004. Joining him are Llanberis teacher Math Roberts, who is in fine form in 2012, along with Abertystwyth brothers Andres and Filipe Jones. Welsh internationals competing but not wearing the vest in 2012 include Richard Roberts and Ifan Richards, both capable of figuring highly on a race which suits their mountain running prowess.
The Irish contingent are one of the best squads to arrive in Llanberis for a number of years too, with both Ian Conroy and Brian McMahon having qualified for the European Mountain Running Championships in 2012 and Brian Furey being the reigning Irish Champion. The Irish team make the trip in the hope that their efforts will echo some of past glories on the famous mountain which has seen wins for Irish mountain legend John Lenihan and compatriot Robbie Bryson still showing as the summit record holder from way back in 1985 – an amazing 39 minutes and 47 seconds.
Australia’s Gerard Robb returns to Wales this week, after finishing 24th at last year’s Commonwealth Mountain Running Champs held on the adjoining hill of Moel Eilio last September, with the Aussies promising that the Snowdon Race will be a target in future years for a full team. Also returning to the race will be Rolando Piana. The Italian led the race in 2010 as he crested the summit, only to take a wrong turning and head off on the Rhyd Ddu path. The rangy Italian will look to make amends this year, of that there is no doubt. Also in a strong Italian team is Fabio Ruga, who returns to the race after finishing 7th in 2006.
France will also be present in 2012, via a crack under-23 squad from the Team Salomon France stable. Gullaume Beauxis and Cyrille Gardet are amongst the quartet making the journey to Wales.
The women’s race will be an equally open event, with string representatives coming from all of the Home Nations. Unfortunately, Zhanna Vokueva (Russia) and Emelie Forsberg (Sweden) don’t make the start line, however England’s Tessa Hill does, running for the Arc’teryx International team and fresh from 11th place at the World Orienteering Championships – so should figure highly in the results.
For Wales Anna Bartlett and Andrea Rowlands should be prominent, Karen O’Hanlon from Ireland should be strong after a good season on the Irish mountain running circuit and team-mate Catherine Devitt is an exciting prospect. However, the real challenge for honours will probably be between the Scots and the English.
The 2012 3 Peaks winner Sarah O’Neil is named in the Scottish squad, though it remains to be seen how the HBT runner will perform on the fast and hard racing that Snowdon brings. Christina Rankin placed 3rd in 2011, and should be in the mix for the honours once again this year, Shona Robertson makes-up the strong Scottish team.
After an excellent 10th place finish at last week’s European Mountain Running Champs, young English athlete Katie Walshaw could just edge the favourite tag, however. The Holmfirth athlete knows Snowdon after her 6th place finish in 2011 and has been improving all season in the faster mountain races – she will also look to follow in course record holder Carol Greenwood’s footsteps and take the trophy back to Yorkshire. Joining Walshaw on the English team are Helen Fines and and Holly Page, who are both in good enough form to figure in the placings.
Since its inception in 1976, the race organisers had endeavoured to make the race a festival of events based around the Llanberis carnival. A place where racers, friends and family can relax and soak-up the atmosphere.
The race will this year be started by special guests Neil Williams and Barry Baynham of Tyn Lon Volvo, who will sound the race siren at precisely 2pm as over 600 runners embark on the highest peak in England and Wales.
Race organiser Stephen Edwards has worked tirelessly with the rest of the race committee to ensure that the race on July 21 will captivate the imaginations of all of those people who attend the Snowdon Race. He explains:
“With the race returning to the third weekend in July, there is a sense of the race coming home in 2012. Of course the race is also a week ahead of the start of the 2012 Olympics too, so essentially the race is kick-starting sporting celebrations in the area. The race will also follow the old route on the summit, meaning that the event is really going back to its roots!
“As far as the race goes we feel that the elite runner line-up is as good as any in the last 20 years. Andi Jones is back for a crack at a remarkable 6th title, the Scots once again have a very strong team in the shape of Murray Strain (second in 2011), 2010 winner Robbie Simpson and Commonwealth bronze medalist Joe Symonds. It’s also very important from our ‘international’ perspective to have a strong Kenyan representation once again this year, along with the Italian, French, Australian and Canadian representatives.
“The Welsh team is also very exciting, especially with the inclusion of local-man Alun Vaughan who is back in the red vest of Wales, along with Llanberis’ Math Roberts who has been in sparkling for this year. We are also very pleased to have TV presenter and running personality Lowri Morgan on the start line too. Lowri is a very strong runner on the longer-distances and will be competing in her first Snowdon Race.
“In addition to the racing our headline sponsors Ty’n Lon Volvo – with the help of Andi Jones – will also be unveiling the brand-new V40 model at the race, adding that little bit of class to the day.”
The field is open from 9am, with the International race starting at 2pm and a programme of junior events will cement the family feel of the 2012 event. At 11am an Olympic themed Super Heroes race will take place over 1km for 4 to 8 year olds who will run with their parents. Additionally, starting just after the main race at 2.10pm, races for U10, U12, U14, U16 and U18 year olds will take place, varying in length all the way to a 6.4km race for the under 18’s, to the Halfway Bridge and back to the finish in Padarn Park.
Further information, news and updates are online at the Snowdon Race website www.snowdonrace.co.uk.