30 March 2023

Steepest Street in the World Race 2023 - triumph!

On the day of the race I woke up with a headache. That was not a good sign! But I took a paracetamol and went about my business.

At 2 o'clock, Marjan appeared. She was going to be my supporter again! And I would drive both of us in the electric vehicle to Harlech. We got there at a good time. Parking was easy, and getting my race number was as well. So I kitted up and we went to the start. I was still wearing two layers I wouldn't be racing in, but that was okay as I could give them to Marjan just before the gun would sound.

We quickly found my colleague Alec as well. At work he had told me he was going to race it too. It is always nice to see familiar faces!

Marjan and me at the start. Picture by Alec

When we were lining up for the start I made sure to be quite far up to the front. I remembered having to weave through quite a lot of people at the start the previous year. And this time, I was actively chasing a podium position! So I didn't want to lose time doing that. Additionally, it was easier to keep track of how many women they were in front of you, if not many people at all were in front of you.

There were more than 100 people racing, and some people started quite fast, so soon after that start it was getting a bit confusing regarding the number of women around. But I realised I was soon overtaking more of them than were overtaking me. This was going quite well! One woman I noticed was even running with a cow bell. I overtook her on the steep bit.And I was breathing quite heavily, but of course I was; I was running up a very steep street. 

Running up that hill

It was a gorgeous day again! It wasn't as warm as the previous year. Then I had been running in a tank top, and this time I had chosen a T-shirt. But the views again were amazing! I was enjoying myself.

Almost at the top! 

When I got to the top I knew I should try to keep my speed up. I knew that there was going to be quite a stretch with a gentle slope down. It is tempting to try to catch your breath after all the way up, but I did not want to lose my pace. I kept pushing. And quite soon I overtook a lady I had been keeping an eye on. She was the only one I was sure of to be in front of me! And I know I am stronger on the way up than the way down, so even if I was the first woman that didn't mean I was going to stay like that, but it would mean the signs were good.

After a while I came to a junction with marshals. One of them commented that I was the first woman. I suspected as much! I was really pleased with that. But in the distance I could hear the occasional clanging of a cow bell. I was being pursued.

We came to the part of the route that sometimes goes up and sometimes down. Quite steadily, I could hear the cowbell coming closer. And a pair of footsteps that was closing in as well. Would that be the lady with the cow bell, and the one I had overtaken just after the top? The answer was no! The footsteps belonged to a man. I was not focused on the men. 

By another junction, the cow bell lady finally overtook me. At quite some pace! I expected as much. Soon after that it got steep. I am not very good at the steep downhill bits. And they had a surprise for us! Unlike last year, they sent us up some rather steep gravel path that late in the race! When you think you only have to go downhill…

In a hairpin bend in the steep part I looked back. There was no runner in sight! That probably meant I would not be overtaken anymore. And that would mean the silver medal! I was excited. I was still careful coming down the steep bit. If you fall on your face there, you might hurt quite a bit.

When the steep bit was over, I accelerated again. A podium place is a good motivator! And when I came thundering towards the finish I was loudly cheered on. And I heard the commentator say I was indeed in second position. I was chuffed! By the finish I found the lady with the cow bell again. I gave her a congratulatory hug. She was gold!

Barely believing my position 

Then I found Marjan. She gave me a hug as well! And then I heard the commentator say the third woman had come in. Both the winner and me went in for an additional hug. All female medallists in a group hug! I thought that was such a nice example of friendly racing spirit.

I then got my jumper and jacket back from Marjan. Now we had to wait for the rest of the runners to come in, and the medals ceremony to start. While we were doing that I heard Alec’s name called. I went to congratulate him too! We had a bit of a chat, and then he went back up the hill to find his family who were waiting for him there.

When the ceremony started, they first did the age category winners. Just one per category. It puzzled me a bit; none of us medal ladies got one. But if we were the fastest three ladies, surely we were also the fastest in our age categories? The winner didn't look like she was in any particular age category (below 40 they don't care about your age), but us silver and bronze ladies sure were. (When the results came in I saw that indeed the bronze lady was in the same category as me.) Never mind! Then they got to the overall female category. I was so proud to stand there!

Picture by Marjan

We also cheered on the first three men. These as well were an under-40 winner with two 40+ runners-up. We oldies are still to be reckoned with! But then it was time to go home. In spite of the two layers I had just put on I was getting chilly. And I had more to do that evening.

When I got home I got my time: 31:45. Or 31:47, depending where you look. That surprised me, as I had done it in 30:13 the previous year, and that was only good for bronze. But the route was slightly different. I suppose that was it! This year’s winners had been slower than last year’s. It might have been that sneaky gravel path. 

I had not been optimistic about this year's race! What with falling ill less than a week beforehand. But the human body is an amazing thing. I don't think I will be able to resist the temptation to register for next year’s race as well. When you really love running up a hill, this really is the race for you! And who wouldn't want to end up in the top three? Who knows if I can do it again! 

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