On Saturday 1 October Snowdonia-based runner Sarah Ridgway achieved what's likely to be the record for the fastest female time on the Snowdon Horseshoe.
Aussie ex pat Sarah, who owns local running guiding business Run Snowdonia, knocked off the round trip in a very impressive 1 hour 43 minutes and 20 seconds. To put that into perspective, for hillwalkers this classic Welsh ridge scramble is more like an all-day affair, with just under 12km of rough ground, sections of exposed grade 1 scrambling and nearly 1000m ascent - see this UKH route card for details.
Even before her Horseshoe attempt Sarah, a very accomplished runner, had already managed a lot in 2011: Representing Wales in the Snowdon International Race and the World Long Distance Mountain Running Challenge in Slovenia; Equal 3rd in the British Fell Running Championships; Winning this year's Jura Fell Race. She was clearly on a roll.
In preparation for the Horseshoe she 'got out loads and reccied it whenever I could.' But however ready she felt the attempt was still at the mercy of the weather.
'I'd had a frustrating September when I had planned a window to go for it but the weather was hideous and not suitable for a fast attempt - the rock had become very greasy and you don't want to slip on Crib Goch when running over it! I'd actually had a fairly bad fall on a training run and twisted my pelvis slightly - fixed by my physio however.'
'The winds had been gusting 60mph on the tops all week so I was just waiting for the lull to go for it before the bad weather returned; on the Saturday I was lucky to get it! During the week of wind I rested properly. Having had a hard few weeks training and racing I knew I was fit but also in need of a bit of a rest, so it was nice to have an easy week and also then show the benefits of the training.'
The preparation must have paid off.
'I absolutely enjoyed it on the day! The route is tough - very rough underfoot and one slip while running over Crib Goch could actually mean death. Coupled with this is that there are also various sections that provide very fast running so you need to be fit for pace in your legs as well - and then be able to recover from the effort so your legs are no so jelly-like that they can support you over the exposed ridge sections. Actually the hardest bit is the run along the Miners' Track at the end - it's just so fast you really have to be prepared to hurt!'
For more info see Sarah's blog.
The men's record holder for the Snowdon Horseshoe is Es Tresidder with a 2009 time of 1 hour 25 minutes 08 seconds.
'As a timed run I loved it' he recalls. 'That's my favourite sort of running - almost all technical but not so hard you can't actually run a lot of it. There's not much of a recorded history of people running it. The previous known best time was by Phil Jones, but it wouldn't surprise me if someone else had run faster than him (and me) since then but gone under the radar. I'd be surprised if any women had gone faster than Sarah though, just because the number of likely candidates is smaller so you'd be more likely to have heard about it.'
'I think it's awesome that someone else is taking an interest in records like this - great routes that are just a little too dangerous for an organised race but make an amazing solo experience if that's your bag. Sarah's is a very decent time too. Good effort!'