Race Report - Rebellion Ultra
The Rebellion Ultra is organised by Up Hill Down Dale who claim to ‘provide access to a hidden world of stunning running routes, taking you away from the tarmac and busy roads’. They organise a whole plethora of events from the Beacons Trail Marathon to the Rebellion.
The Rebellion is a 135 mile (217 Km) Ultra Marathon in Mid Wales, the route is along the full length of Glyndwr's Way National Trail with a total ascent of just over 25,000ft (7700m). The route takes you through some of the most beautiful and remote parts of Mid Wales. Starting in Knighton looping through Machynlleth and then finishing in Welshpool they say, ‘the route is one of the most picturesque and challenging in the UK’.
The Glyndŵr's Way National Trail is an unusual National Trail as it doesn’t follow any particular geographic features or any historic routes. It is named after Owain Glyndwr who led a rebellion against the English and the last Welshman to hold the title Prince of Wales. The Glyndŵr’s Way is an arbitrary route merely linking a variety of towns and villages with Glyndŵr connections. This the reason for its unusual V shape.
I was pretty excited about this one and it would have been the longest distance race I had competed in. Training had been a little hit and miss post the Ridgeway Challenge, but I felt I was carrying enough fitness to see me through.
I arrived in Welshpool in good time to meet the coach, which transported us to Knighton where the race started. At Welshpool I met a few guys who were also taking part. Sean,nwho had travelled from Northern Ireland in his VW T4 camper van and a guy from Padstow. A short while later a second Cornishman arrived. Being a VW T4 owner myself and Cornish, I felt right at home!
After arriving in Knighton, I went through kit check, registered and headed off to find the local fish & chip shop. I can highly recommend the cod & chips from ‘Knighton Place’ if you’re ever down that way.
Fully fuelled we set off in heavy rain, uphill, both the rain and hills were to continue for a further 38 hours. There were, interludes where the skies cleared, and we were treated the spectacular sight of a star packed sky, with no light pollution. Sadly, those interludes seemed short lived.
Leg 1 was 23 miles to Llanbadarn Fynydd and all in the dark so I can’t tell you anything about the scenery. All I can tell you is it was wet, boggy, very slippery and cold. At the CP I had some soup and a few cups of tea before heading back out into the dark. Leg 1 had taken me 5 hours 44 minutes.
There was more of the same on leg 2, which was 24 miles to Llanidloes, the only difference was that it got light about an hour before I arrived at the CP. I’d really started to slow down on this leg and I was very cold. I broke all the rules when I decided to try out a Paramo smock that I had bought just before the race. It had seemed to be paying off and although saturated in water I had remained warm, but the slower I got the colder I became. At CP2 I made the decision to dump the smock and use the dry fleece in my pack along with my Kamleika Smock.
I had started the race ‘fully loaded’ and chose to carry my sleeping bag, sleep mat, 3 bags of freeze-dried food and a thermos flask to rehydrate them plus all the usual mandatory kit, including 2 litres of water. It was heavy but manageable but once the pack was waterlogged it was unbelievably heavy. I was lucky to convince a marshal at CP 2 to take all my wet gear along with my sleeping bag & sleep mat to the next CP for me. Actually, after picking up my pack himself, I think he felt sorry for me! Sadly, the damage was done, and I’d ruined my legs in the first 47 miles.
I left CP 3 for the 28 miles to Machynlleth, the sun was shining, it even stopped raining, briefly but sadly the damage was done, and I’d ruined my legs in the first 47 miles. I had periods where I perked up, but it was all peaks and troughs, the latter more than former. I held on to the hope that I would make Mac in the daylight but, that didn’t happen, and the weather turn bad again with high winds. Both my GPS and phone packed up due to the wet and cold, so I had to result in navigating by map and looking for the way marker posts in the dark. During this time, I had caught up with Sean who I had met in Welshpool, I was glad of the company. I was cold, wet, tired and emotional. I was scared. In what seemed like the middle of nowhere, we could navigate by map, but it was difficult in the wind and rain.
Some hours later we arrived in Mac. I don’t know exactly how long it took as my Garmin watch had given up as well, I didn’t know what time it was, or how long I had been walking. I staggered into the CP helped by the paramedic who stripped my cold wet clothes off me, wrapped me in my foil blanket and sat me in front of a heater with a hot cup of tea.
I was done, spent, broken.
Machynlleth is also the finish of another race, which Up Hill & Down dale organise in tandem with the Rebellion, the ‘Thwarted Rebellion’. Much like the Glyndwr uprising, which ended in disaster when Henry IV led an army through the north to restore order to the region.
The good news that although Thwarted, having completed 75 miles and over 3810m you are still credited with a finish in the shorter race, and more importantly 5 ITRA points towards the UTMB.
The bad news, I’ll have to go back next year and finish it.
On a final note only 2 people completed, Lizzie Roswell and Mark Thompson.
Written and run by Andy Collings