The Preseli Beast Bach – my first experience of fell racing by Louise Abbott
“Do you fancy doing a short fell race Mum?” James asked back in 2015. (Ed: Poor Louise -she didn't stand a chance - !!)
“How short and how steep”, came the reply.
“Only 11 miles and 1,700 ft of ascent” James answered. “I’m doing the Preseli Beast which is 24 miles and 4,652 ft of ascent, so yours will be a doddle”
Hm - I still wasn’t convinced, but daughter in law, Liz, promised to run it with me and as the race was to be down in Pembrokeshire where we would be staying with my mother, it made sense to give it a go.
With some trepidation we drove to the heart of the Preseli Hills and parked at the village hall in Maenclochog. James’s race started a couple of hours before, so Liz and I had taken our books to read and nibbled on snacks while we waited for the Beast Bach to start. I looked round nervously at the other runners – they all looked hardy and experienced and were carefully checking their kit. Eeek – I didn’t even have proper trail shoes, let alone a whistle!
I needn’t have worried – at the start, the race organiser, Caz The Hat, was friendly and encouraging, hugging everyone and calling them “Cariad” (which is darling in Welsh). The whistle went and we were off. Everyone was chatting away in Welsh and English, loose dogs were running with us and the villagers were all out ringing bells and cheering as we went.
Once we’d run through a forest (consisting of a series of planks over a bog in which the Preseli Beast apparently lurked!) we were soon onto steeply rising moorland, running through wild ponies with fabulous views across the hills to the sea. The terrain was certainly varied, from skidding over a slate quarry to negotiating rocks, rabbit holes, streams, mud up to our ankles and steep hillsides where a lot of runners adopted the crawling position! Every now and then Caz The Hat would pop up from behind stone walls like some sort of hand puppet to cheer us on!
Liz and I stopped to take photos at the top of the highest point, Foel Cwmcerwyn, then it was downhill for the last 2 miles – yippee!! The atmosphere at the finish was amazing due to the other races – The Ultra Beast (32 miles) and The Beast (24 miles) - starting earlier in the day, so most of the runners from all three events came in at the same sort of time.
Back to Maenclochog village hall where we were welcomed with tables laden with tea, cawl (a delicious Welsh stew), bread, cheese and a huge array of cakes. Then prize giving (of course James won a trophy!) All this was included in the entry fee of £8. Plus a Welsh slate coaster for all runners. Bargain!
We all agreed it was a fabulous day out. So much so that I went on to do it another 4 times! Highly recommend this event. The organisation is superb and everyone was so friendly. Just learn to say “Diolch yn fawr” to the marshals and you’ll be away!