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Train to Run - a trip to the Basque Country

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Published in The Fellrunner Magazine #124 (Oct 2019)

We live in an age of ever increasing opportunities for our running. Trail running and ‘skyrunning’ is booming with many new races springing up all over the world. There is more media coverage, more prize money, and more choice. Over the past few years I have been lucky enough to compete with some of the world’s best hill runners in races which have taken me to new and exciting places. We also live at the exact time in human history where our global response to the man-made climate crisis is critical: science is telling us that we now have just a small window in which to make rapid and unprecedented societal changes to quickly reduce our greenhouse-gas emissions and limit future catastrophic warming. I will often talk of how important the mountains are to me but increasingly I have been worried about how our mountain-chasing lifestyles are damaging the planet. 
In 2018, I flew to Sichuan Province in China to compete in a ‘World Series…

Welsh 3000ers Record

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For me a good challenge involves pushing myself in the mountains. For it to be really engaging it would need to involve at least some technical ground - rough tracks, scree runs, a wee bit of scrambling. It would be about speed but also stamina, a route that would push me hard. Racing is good, but an ‘against the clock’ solo adventure is often better. You’re still racing your biggest rival and harshest critic. As an example, when I first started reccying the Cuillin Ridge Traverse in 2012 I had no idea if the record was even possible for me. I’d have guessed my chances were below fifty-fifty. The unknown factor is key to the allure: daring to try, trying in the face of possible failure. Records have a magic about them too - a lifetime of experience, often days of planning, hours of exact physical and mental execution summarised to just a time. A time to strive for; to beat. And of course, the older the record the bigger the draw. With time grows a mystique: both enticing and cautionar…

Welsh 3000ers Record (split times only)

Write up to follow soon...

Stats:
Welsh 3000ers
16/5/19 start 0900hrs 35.35km 4h10m48s
Snowdon 0 Carnedd Ugain 05.20 Crib Goch 09.44 (15.04) Blaen-y-nant 14.01 (29.05) Nant Peris PO 07.19 (36.24) Elidir Fawr 35.33 (1.11.57) Y Garn 22.21 (1.34.17) Glyder Fawr 18.39 (1.52.56) Glyder Fach 09.09 (2.02.05) Tryfan 15.29 (2.17.33) Llyn Ogwen west end bridge 14.39 (2.32.12) Pen yr Ole Wen 31.18 (3.03.30) Carnedd Dafydd 10.42 (3.14.12) Yr Elen 22.09 (3.36.20) Carnedd Llewelyn 11.42 (3.48.02) Foel Grach 08.59 (3.57.01) Carnedd Uchaf 05.26 (4.02.27) Foel-fras 08.19 (4.10.48)

Snowdon Horseshoe Record

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For years I’d wanted to make time to get to know the hills of Snowdonia, having only been down a few times before to race or climb. I also wanted to have a go at the Snowdon Horseshoe record which seemed likely to present a good mix of scrambling and fast ridge running which I was bound to love.
I hit the weather right on and arrived to find the Pen y Pass carpark full at 6am on a Saturday - clearly a readjustment was required, even busy Ben Nevis seems deserted in comparison to its Welsh counterpart. Approaching from slightly further away was no hardship in the warming sun, and I enjoyed a leisurely recce of the route, finding some nice fast passages whilst exploring and discounting some alternatives. I was early enough to avoid queuing for the summit block on Snowdon, but later the sight of the orderly line galvanised me to depart for my record attempt at an early hour. The freedom of the flowing hill runner is a beautiful but selfish transience that does not deal well with externa…

Skyrunning 2: 'Atmosphere'

Article about the famous 'Zegama' race in the Basque Country of Spain:


https://www.ukhillwalking.com/articles/features/skyrunning_with_finlay_wild_party_atmosphere_in_zegama-11449

Skyrunning 1: Altitude

Article about my trip to Yading, Sichuan Province, China in April/May 2018

https://www.ukclimbing.com/articles/features/skyrunning_with_finlay_wild_high_altitude_in_china-10952

Cairngorm 4000ers Record

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There were two factors that both worried and excited me in equal measure as I set out to attempt the Cairngorm 4000ers record. The first was the weather: it was fairly blustery and a familiar wall of cloud hugged the plateau around Braeriach, as it often does. Cairngorm itself was clear and despite a few very light showers I hoped the cloud would blow off before I got across the Lairig Ghru. The other factor was that I didn’t know exactly what Ally Beaven’s 2017 record was, having been unorganised and then suffered in the morning from the frustrating technological calamity known as “the internet is broken”. So I set off with Paul Raistrick’s split times and the knowledge that Ally had broken this 2007 record by several minutes, exact quantity unknown!
I last ran the route in April 2017 when there was a fair bit of spring snow still around. This made several parts slow going, and some sections of whiteout navigation from Cairn Toul onwards had augmented this. Still, I felt pretty prepar…