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Welsh Athletics' Steve Brace talks in depth about the 2015 World Mountain Running Championship race routes

by Press Release
Friday 9th January 2015

Race news: 31st World Mountain Running Championships - Wales, September 12-20, 2015

With the new year upon us the countdown is on to the 2015 World Mountain Running Championships, which are set to descend on Betws y Coed, Wales in little over 250 days. 

Following the successful staging of the 30th running of the Championships in the stunning setting of Casette di Massa, Italy in September, responsibility for the 31st edition of this iconic mountain running festival moved to the UK and Snowdonia for the week-long festival from the 12th to the 20th of September, 2015. Along with attracting the world’s best mountain runners, from across the globe, the racing incorporates the World Masters Mountain Running Championships on the opening weekend. The races will be hosted in Betws y Coed, with athletes being based in Llandudno.

One of the priorities as far as the competitors from across the world are concerned are the race routes, and as a former Olympian, Race Director of the Cardiff Half Marathon and Head of Event Delivery at Welsh Athletics, Steve Brace is well versed in what it takes to provide a great experience for the elite athlete and mass participant alike. Along with Welsh Athletics' Arwel Lewis and Dic Evans, Steve has formulated a fantastic course which will allow the runners steep climbs, exciting descents and the wonderful vistas of Snowdonia from the beauty of Llyn Elsi, above Betws y Coed. Here Steve explains a little more about how the process unfolded for the 2015 race routes. 

31st World Mountain Running Championships - Wales, September 12-20, 2015

Tell us a little about the environment that the racing will take place in and the Snowdonia location for the races and championships?

SB: Betws y Coed is an picturesque Welsh village embedded in the Conwy Valley, flanked by the Gwydyr Forest. The 2015 edition of the World Championships required an up and down lap, and the village green offers an exciting central location with great spectator viewing for the start straight. This runs alongside the green and parallel with the railway station, which is now a variety of shops and cafes; and the finish area is positioned centrally on the green; with the return lap around the town’s nearby St Mary’s Church. The village green, will be the focus of the events activities throughout this week long festival, with supporting races on event days, and community involvement at all levels.

How do you go about constructing a race route which satisfies the runners, the IAAF / WMRA and the spectator, and is it possible to please all parties?

SB: There are guidelines and criteria that need to be satisfied to host a World Mountain Championships, and the crucial ones for an Up and Down Championships is a 4km lap which has approximately a 200m+ height differential per lap. This lap starts at 22 metres above sea level and cresting at the Lord Ancaster Monument at Llyn Elsi at over 250 metres, which fulfils the brief. We also looked for a variety of underfoot terrain, and differing gradients on the ascent and descent, and whilst challenging, it will offer a great course for an exciting series of races. Access to the course will be catered for, but will be managed at times, particularly on the ascent behind the Church, where spectator viewing areas will be operating when races are in progress.

The course specifics. Tell us a little about the terrain and elevation, distances and what runners can expect underfoot?

SB: The Betws y Coed World Championship course will provide a stern test on a variety of surfaces from single track, woodland path and forestry road to lakeside trail. From the familiar Betws y Coed Railway Station start the runners will turn up behind St Mary’s Church and will immediately start the 600m climb, culminating at an eventual height of 240m. Turning off the tarmac surface the course quickly turns to forestry track under a canopy of old woodland oaks and birches. Traversing the stream, the steep rocky climb zigzags up the mountainside for a further 350 metres.

The climb gradually flattens as it traverses the forestry road. Meandering through the forest glade on a wider track, the course levels to cross the second forestry road. A single track rolling path through moorland crests at the Lord Ancaster monument, the highest point, overlooking Lake Elsi with a full vista of the scenic Snowdon, Carneddau and Glyderau range of mountains.

A sharp descent on a prepared gravel lakeside path emerges on the forestry road, with a sharp left turn, will see the runners slowly descending on the meandering road, eventually returning to the village Church where team drinks will be available before a return up the hill and back onto the 4km lap. On the finishing lap, runners will take a right turn at the front of the Church, followed by a dog-legged left through the park wall, to finish on the village green.

The World Masters Course, whilst running in the same area, a different configuration of a 1 lap 10km course is undertaken. From the start, a short section along the A5 will lead runners to Ffordd Craiglan. A steady climb through the tall conifer woodland is abruptly halted with a sharp right turn, from a smooth tarmac surface runners are led onto a forestry path, ascending and twisting through forestry before emerging on a grassy slope. A sharp left and a short section on the forestry road leads runners on a full anticlockwise lap of Llyn Elsi, returning to the monument. Single track paths emerges on to forestry tracks which rolls around a “figure of eight” formation, and a long consistent descent to the church and on to the Green.

Finally, how do you come to an agreement with the various governing bodies on a 'sign-off' for the world championship course layout?

SB: Once the principle of bringing the Championships to Conwy had been achieved with the local Council and Welsh Government, the endorsement of British Athletics was essential, as this will be a British representative event; this support was crucial in the bidding and forming the programme. Then from the early stages the involvement of key local people who know mountain running and know the area were consulted and involved in discussions, whilst ensuring that the guidelines were being followed. 

The use of the forestry was key, ensuring we could run the events where and when we wanted as this area is a 'working forest' with harvesting and developments ongoing continually. Our WMRA Technical Delegate Tomo Sarf offered great support, and in a visit from his Slovenian home (which coincided with last year’s Snowdon Race) he undertook a full recce of the course and facilities for the event, of which he was very pleased and fed back to the WMRA. It is an ongoing process as we refine the detail, keeping all our stakeholders and partners informed with regular meetings and updates; all of which will ensure a successful Championships in September 2015

Following the successful hosting of the World Trail Running Championships a few years ago in the area, a key to the success of this and similar events is working with the community and the local running fraternity. Being in the heart of the mountain and fell running community in Wales and surrounded by the iconic Snowdonia Mountain range we are ready to welcome the world mountain running fraternity to North Wales for an exciting summer of 2015.

In addition to the championship races the week will see a host of events that encapsulate the area, including open mountain races, an uphill only race to the iconic local peak of Moel Siabod, junior events, seminars and film sessions and a series of schools races to be facilitated by the Conwy County Borough Council sports development team. 

Further updates on the 2015 World Mountain Running Championships will be available via the WMRC Wales website www.wmrcwales.org, Twitter and Facebook pages


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