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Club runners race against a train

Andrew Pask at 12.5 miles. (3713796)
Andrew Pask at 12.5 miles. (3713796)

Each year thousands of runners from across the UK flock to the small mid-Wales town of Tywyn for the famous Race the Train event.

This year a group of Grantham Running Club members went to see what all the fuss was about.

In the main event, runners compete to beat a steam train on the preserved Talyllyn Railway over a 14-mile distance from Tywynto Abergynolwyn and back. Over an undulating course which hugs the railway line, through farmers’ fields which are normally closed to the public, the course offers a unique and ‘fun’ test for runners.

Although only the fastest runners stay ahead of the train for the full distance, the train stops in various locations to take on water, pass other trains or to run around at Abergynolwyn, allowing other runners to overtake.

Additionally, there are shorter races in the morning of 10km, 5.5 miles and 3.5 miles which also race the Talyllyn Railway back to Tywyn.

Penny Hodges was first to run, opting to switch to the morning 10km after a minor injury prevented her from competing in the main event. Determined to enjoy the event, Penny found the first section of the race extremely challenging, when remaining upright on the slippery backings was a priority. Pushing-on to Tywyn, Penny finished with a sprint to clock 56min 27sec, narrowly missing the train by a minute.

In the main event were Andrew Pask, Peter Bonner and Tony Johnson. Tony, a veteran of 18 Race the Train events, was on hand to offer some much-needed pre-race advice.

Andrew and Peter set the early pace but could not prevent the train from passing them after 1.5 miles, whereas Tony was happy with a more enjoyable pace in his only cross country event of the year.

Encouraged by the families on the train, Andrew and Peter ran the first six miles together before the course became extremely challenging. Runners were forced to climb a bank on all fours, run through a stream and navigate huge steps, whilst all the time in earshot of the constant ‘choo choo’ of the train. Finding a second wind, Andrew and Peter sensed a victory against their steam-driven rival.

Galloping across the fields with renewed purpose, the GRC pair remained upbeat when the train passed them at 13 miles, knowing that it had one more station at which to stop.

Crossing the line first, Andrew finished with 1:44:10, followed by Peter in 1:45:17, both comfortably in front of the train time of 1:47:40.

Tony used his years of experience to run alongside the train for the maximum amount of time, allowing his on-board wife to enjoy the experience with him. He finished with a time of 2:01:08, beating the train not being his priority.

Runners and their families were then able to enjoy the after show party in the main marquee where they all agreed that this race was truly something special, promising to return next year.


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