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Thread: Wales's oldest fell races

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    Wales's oldest fell races

    Our sport has a much shorter history in Wales than in England or Scotland (why?). A fair proportion of my fell racing has been in Wales and, having recently posted about the Cilcain race here and having had an article about the "oldest fell race in South Wales" in the Fellrunner magazine a couple of years ago, I thought I would put together what I know about the early days of the sport in Wales. Additional information, corrections, outright denials, etc., all welcomed.

    North Wales: The 1000m-metre Peaks Race has been going annually since 1971, although the route was used by the military for training exercises for many years before that. The Cilcain Mountain Race has been run annually since 1973, but was also run as one-off in 1960: the first ever fell race in Wales? The Snowdon Race has been run annually since 1976. I don't think there were any other races in the 1970's, although there was a great upsurge in activity in Snowdonia and then the Clwydian Hills in the 1980's, the former following the formation of Eryri Harriers in 1977.

    Mid-Wales: Races that have appeared in the FRA Calendar from time to time include the following. The Offa's Dyke 15 (Hay-on-Wye to Kington, so partly in England) was held annually from 1977 to 2000, revived in 2015. The Sarn Helen Hill Race (Lampeter) and the Man vs Horse race (Llanwrtyd Wells) have both been held annually since 1980. None of these is Category A.

    South Wales: I have recently seen it written that the Machen Welfare Mountain Race started in 1979 (and has been held annually except for 2011-2013). But when did it first appear in the FRA Calendar? If it did start in 1979, my claim in the magazine that Llanbedr-Blaenavon is the oldest fell race in South Wales would be wrong. That race was first held in 1980, followed by Brecon Beacons in 1981 and many more races in South Wales during the 1980's.

    I can't help wondering if there are races associated with village shows, etc., that have been going on for much longer without anyone in the fell-running community being aware. After all, Wales consists almost entirely of good fell-running terrain.
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    Quote Originally Posted by anthonykay View Post

    South Wales: I have recently seen it written that the Machen Welfare Mountain Race started in 1979 (and has been held annually except for 2011-2013). But when did it first appear in the FRA Calendar? If it did start in 1979, my claim in the magazine that Llanbedr-Blaenavon is the oldest fell race in South Wales would be wrong. .
    Anthony

    The entry in the 1979 FRA Calendar (and 1980,1981) gives the record as 28.02 (D Francis 1977). However the race was not listed in the 1977 or 1978 Calendars (I have not checked the Fellrunners for either a listing or results) but clearly a race there was before 1979.

    I do not know how far back your collection of Fellrunners goes but in the days of manually typed sheets and duplicators (ie before 1979) the Calendar was a very modest affair and was far from comprehensive and, after all, fell races only really needed to be publicised to those likely to want to run in them and the voluminous and comprehensive Calendar as we now know it was beyond men's dreams.

    As was 500-600-700 people turning up to a fell race from all corners of Great Britain - but that is another issue.

    Best wishes,

    Graham
    Last edited by Graham Breeze; 06-04-2018 at 11:17 PM.
    "...as dry as the Atacama desert".

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    Senior Member Dave_Mole's Avatar
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    The Rhayader Carnival Annual Hill Race (Mid Wales) has been run since 1981, apparently.
    http://www.rhayaderac.org.uk/Gwastedyn.php
    ....it's all downhill from here.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave_Mole View Post
    The Rhayader Carnival Annual Hill Race (Mid Wales) has been run since 1981, apparently.
    http://www.rhayaderac.org.uk/Gwastedyn.php
    . . . and has never appeared in the FRA Calendar. Around 250m climb and descent in 4km (or is it 3.72 miles?), but would only be Category BS: too much road for AS. Anyway, thanks for pointing this out, Dave, and verifying my suspicions about races that have been going on "under the FRA radar".
    In his lifetime he suffered from unreality, as do so many Englishmen.
    Jorge Luis Borges

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    Quote Originally Posted by Graham Breeze View Post
    Anthony

    The entry in the 1979 FRA Calendar (and 1980,1981) gives the record as 28.02 (D Francis 1977). However the race was not listed in the 1977 or 1978 Calendars (I have not checked the Fellrunners for either a listing or results) but clearly a race there was before 1979.
    I did actually see one web page that said that the Machen race has been going "since the 1970's", as well as one where 1979 was quoted. I have just looked in the Fellrunner magazines from 1977 and 1978, and there is no mention of Machen; however, I do remember seeing the name of Dave Francis (Westbury Harriers) at the top of results lists in the magazine around the time I started fell running, and a bit of googling reveals that he was the winner of the inaugural Snowdon Race in 1976.

    The Autumn 1977 magazine actually has a good write-up of the Cilcain race, including the suggestion that it should only be Category C despite having 1000ft of climbing in 4 miles, due to too much road; which is interesting in the light of the Calendar data that you reproduced here.
    Last edited by anthonykay; 07-04-2018 at 09:41 AM.
    In his lifetime he suffered from unreality, as do so many Englishmen.
    Jorge Luis Borges

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by anthonykay View Post
    I did actually see one web page that said that the Machen race has been going "since the 1970's", as well as one where 1979 was quoted. I have just looked in the Fellrunner magazines from 1977 and 1978, and there is no mention of Machen; however, I do remember seeing the name of Dave Francis (Westbury Harriers) at the top of results lists in the magazine around the time I started fell running, and a bit of googling reveals that he was the winner of the inaugural Snowdon Race in 1976.

    The Autumn 1977 magazine actually has a good write-up of the Cilcain race, including the suggestion that it should only be Category C despite having 1000ft of climbing in 4 miles, due to too much road; which is interesting in the light of the Calendar data that you reproduced here.
    Ah well doing fell races for many years with a Garmin has illustrated my long held view that Calendar distance/height data should not be taken too seriously and there are several reasons why not, including "race status".

    When the Calendar was metricised it was suggested that RO remeasure their routes but hardly anyone did and so we now have listings to 0.1km. Really?

    The great and lovely Dave Parry did once remeasure all his races and found an "8 mile" race was actually 6.5 or something. I think the record time had rather suggested the Calendar distance was optimistic - and did it really matter?

    As for races with more road in them than the Calendar rules allow - well I have raced in a few of those and that is another issue!
    "...as dry as the Atacama desert".

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave_Mole View Post
    The Rhayader Carnival Annual Hill Race (Mid Wales) has been run since 1981, apparently.
    http://www.rhayaderac.org.uk/Gwastedyn.php
    One of my first ever fell races, about 25+ years ago, I even recorded a 3rd place and couple of V40 wins. Unfortunately my racing coincided with a young lad called Tim Davies begining his career (Andy still in the juniors), so no hopes of a win for me there!

    First time Tim ever raced there nobody knew him (I recognised him and immediately knew there was no hope of a win for me). The juniors start 10 minutes before the seniors, so off goes Tim with us seniors and disappears up the hill not to be seen again. He came into the finish in a new course record and nobody believed he was in the seniors, so they didn't even clap much. He's running in saying "I've won, I've won" and they are saying "you can't have done, nobody runs that fast and you are only a kid".

    The rest is history!

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    Senior Member helix's Avatar
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    I was led to believe that Penmaenmawr was the oldest fell race in North Wales. I think it started in 1974.

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    Quote Originally Posted by helix View Post
    I was led to believe that Penmaenmawr was the oldest fell race in North Wales. I think it started in 1974.
    Thank you for this lead. I have just looked on the Penmaenmawr Race fb page, which includes a picture of 1977 results, saying that was the third race. This would make the first race 1975 (if it was held every year); which would still make it the third oldest fell race in Wales (after 1000m Peaks and Cilcain).

    Do you have any more information about the origins of the race? Who started it? (Eryri harriers didn't exist in 1975). When did it first appear in the FRA Calendar?
    In his lifetime he suffered from unreality, as do so many Englishmen.
    Jorge Luis Borges

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    Senior Member Sasquatch's Avatar
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    A little off thread sorry, but I really enjoyed the Carneddau race when I did it several years ago. Anyone know how long it had been going - and why it stopped? I presume there wasn't enough interest to keep it going. Such a shame if so as it was a really cracking AM and I've often thought I'd like to gauge any interest in resurrecting it...
    Will Meredith - Pennine

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