Merthyr Mawr Trail Running Festival 2016 Race Report

Wow, so much to say on this race!

Let’s start with the weather, which was rubbish. Light drizzle occasionally giving way to rain, and humidity that was clinging in a sticky mist in the valleys and woods. Awesome.

The unofficial club motto “running is bullshit” was quite literally the case in the starting area, which was liberally dotted with the stuff. However, the best entertainment was Dhana wrapping her phone in a condom in order to keep it dry (With some skill, obviously not her first time). Bernie was concerned about getting spermicide on the phone and Gerda asked “can it still be used?” We presume she meant the phone.

We lined up and set off at precisely a bit before 2:13pm, immediately up a hill dodging sheep poo. This race really had every kind of terrain: grass, mud, sand, rocks, mud, tarmac, gravel, two feet of water and some mud.

The first major obstacle was a long muddy route through the woods. Looking back it was only about 600m, but i’m sure everyone will tell you it was at least 2 miles. Mud got in over the top of your shoes, and staying upright was a challenge in itself. Plenty of shoes become detached from their owners too! How on earth anyone got through there with road shoes I’ll never know.

Then we were out and into the sand. The path was windy and narrow, and great fun to take the tight corners and crest the hills. It was here Stu took a tumble, catching a root, rolling over and carrying on, gutted he didn’t have his gopro on. One of the big appeals of this race was to run down the biggest sand dune in Europe, which was brilliant! The slightly damp sand meant your footsteps were absorbed easily without slipping on any loose sand. We flailed our way down and back into more woods.

Then followed a flat 3k along the Ogmore and Ewenny rivers, which was surprisingly tough. There were very muddy and wet parts that were completely invisible until your foot squelched into them, not to mention the amusingly abusive marshal with the loud-speaker.

Before the race, the organisers released a gopro video of the course on a beautiful summer’s day, which showed the river as a mere ankle-deep trickle. As it had been raining all day, it was somewhat deeper on the day with a strong current! We leapt down the bank and into the river which came up to the top of most people’s legs, and up to Lily’s chin. It wasn’t far, and despite the drizzle it was a warm day and so most runners found this a lovely cool down, which handily cleaned the caked on mud and sand off too.

After that it was pretty much a straight sprint to the finish via a stone tunnel and stairway, which was the final of a series of fantastic unique selling points of this race.

Then we all took photos of our legs.

Katie, Lily and Bernie all finished together, with a disappointingly unaggressive sprint finish and Dean finished caked in mud after hitting the deck, and received no sympathy.

Everyone had a great time and when grinning like idiots at the end we went to take a team photo, but realised someone was missing.


At first we were joking that she was just a bit slow and was probably loudly complaining about the mud. Then we jokingly thought she may have drowned in the river. Then we starting posting #PrayForGerda on Facebook. We’re all such good friends.

Then the tail runner turned up, and Gerda still hadn’t finished.

We considered, “oh shit, what if she really has drowned?”, to which we decided we could at least wear our club shirts to the funeral as they’re black.

We checked the first aid and marshal stations and there was no indication anyone had gotten injured or had stopped, and we were concerned again. Well, for about fifteen seconds anyway.

News finally came from Stephen Wood, of Cardiff Pegasus fame, that there was a group that got lost. It all made sense, if anyone was going to get lost it would of course be Gerda!

When she finally rocked up, she got a huge cheer from her clubmates, which was returned with “18 FUCKING K” in her… ‘distinctive’ German accent, so of course we fell about laughing again.

Apparently a marshal sent her and a small group the wrong way, who ran a couple of miles before realising they’d gone the wrong way. They didn’t even end up running down the dune, or wading through the river, which was kinda the whole point.

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Despite, or perhaps because of, the mud, sand, river and Gerda getting lost, all vowed to run it again next year with many considering the 18 mile Witches Run instead! Great considering for many this was their first ever trail run. Haven’t got the results yet, but we don’t really care, which is the great thing about these ridiculous runs.

Trail running is bloody brilliant.