3 Days – 2 Marathons – 1 Gower

The inaugural Marathon de Gwyr took place on the 16-18th of July 2015 on stunning Gower peninsula. The event provided a testing challenge to 16 competitors, raised money for the Welsh Air Ambulance and provided an opportunity to test the concept before a full event is rolled out in July 2016. The Marathon de Gwyr is an inclusive ultra-fell run, that focuses as much on the evening socials as it does on the gruelling and exhausting challenge.

Participants met at South Gower Rugby Football Club for run registration and a full safety brief from Pete ‘Darth’ Mannion on Thursday the 16th of July. The first run was just over 19 miles; it included the boggy terrain of the Bishopston valley and the dry rocky ground of Llanmadoc Hill. The pace was steady and only one participant was forced to stop and utilise the following safety car. That evening all participants camped at Llangenith and sampled the delights of the Kings Head Pub.

The weather had closed in on the morning of day two but after a hearty breakfast the group of runners, remaining together in the Darth Mannion style peloton, set off. After 10 soggy miles all participants, including day one drop-out Chris Coles, made it to Rhossilli. After a two hour break and a light pasta lunch the participants were ready to depart and complete the final eight miles. A prolonged stop at the midpoint of day two is not for every runner but it did enable weaker runners to keep pace and therefore is a critical component of an inclusive event.

This finish of day two was at the beautiful village of Port Eynon. Like the arrival at Llangenith, spirits were instantly raised when participants realised their tents had already been erected by the support staff. By the time all runners were ready to make their way to the Ship Inn for dinner and drinks – predominantly ales from the Gower Brewery – the sun was shining.  All runners completed day two successfully although the Peloton was split into two groups in the afternoon to enable more fatigued runners to finish without the need for a ride in the safety car. Darth Mannion regulators and qualified medical staff were split into each sub-peloton.

Day three started with a hot breakfast in the Ship Inn and another inspirational brief from Darth. As the sun blazed over head, a further 17 runners joined the peloton to assist the original 16 complete the final 17 miles of the Marathon de Gwyr. Once registration was over the extended peloton set off. The pace was initially slow despite some of the one day runners getting excited and running faster than the peloton. At Oxwich Point the Marathon de Gwyr claimed its second victim; Will Mollard, an Australian Entrepreneur now working out of London, limped to the Oxwich Checkpoint. His feet, covered in blood and blisters, would just not continue. Chris Coles was also on his last legs and it was only with the emotional support of James Gough that he chose to continue. Darth, as ever, was glad to see that his race was too much for some people.

At the top of Cefn Bryn the runners stopped again to refuel and check on team members. Remarkably Will ‘Blisters’, arriving in the safety car, elected to run the remaining distance. With Will and Chris still in tow, the peloton moved slowly down Cefn Bryn. Once through the Three Cliffs Valley rivers the finish was not far away and whether it was youthful exuberance or sheer stupidity the speed of the peloton markedly increased. Cheered on by the one day runners a number of the peloton sprinted the last few miles. All who started the Marathon de Gwyr crossed the finish line at Pwll Dun beach. Cold beers were available on the beach courtesy of the support staff who had been with the runners every inch of the way.

Marathon de Gwyr was a resounding success. All participants, whether they were Darth Mannion regulars, local Gower types or from farther afield commented on how much they enjoyed the running and the camaraderie. The peleton system, the steady running pace and the pub visits all contributed to a ‘single-team’ mentality. Even Darth was impressed by runners’ determination and their desire to support one another around the routes. He glumly concluded “I’ll just have to break people next year”. Marathon de Gwyr was brought to you by the Darth Mannion Beach and Swamp Run Challenge team and will be run again in July 2016.