Strain returns to Llanberis to take famous victory

SnowdonAfter a mammoth battle last year with Andi Jones, Scotland's Murray Strain sealed a famous victory at the 2012 Tyn Lon Volvo International Snowdon Race on Saturday 21 July. 

Part of the 2012 Skyrunner World Series, the event attracted a stellar field of international mountain running talent as runners journeyed from the Home Nations, Ireland, Australia and across Europe to take on this famous race now in its 37th edition. 

In the women's race there was as a new winner in the form of Arc'teryx International athlete Tessa Hill, one of the few runners to win this historic race when not running in an international vest. The Englishwoman was prominent from the gun, overtaking early leader Sarah O'Neil after around 25 minutes of running, extending her lead to the summit and showing strong descending skills to take the victory. 

In the men's race the pre-race talk had been all about Strain's 're-match' with five-time winner Jones, who was aiming for a sixth title, however it wasn't to be the Englishman's day as he withdrew from the race before halfway had been reached, stating that his legs had not been right from the start. So, it was Irishman Brian MacMahon, along with 2010 winner Robbie Simpson, who took on the pace-setting duties, with Strain in close attendance. 

As the race ascended the steepest part of the course on to the summit it was MacMahon who forged ahead to lead at the turn, reminiscent of fellow countryman Robbie Bryson all those years ago back in 1985, as he crested the mountain in 41:46. However, Strain was within striking distance and hitting the turn himself in 42:12 he was ready to take his chance on the technical descent.

"I felt great on the mountain today," said Strain. "The guys went out pretty hard and although Brian (MacMahon) summited first I knew that I would be strong on the descent." 

So it proved for the Scot, as he plummeted down the five-mile descent in a very swift 22 minutes and 58 seconds, to finish in 1 hour 5 minutes and 10 seconds - the fastest time on Snowdon for almost 15 years. 

"After last year I knew what to expect," he continued, "and I was pretty confident that I could win it as we started to come down, but of course I still needed to run hard as I knew that I had the likes of Robbie (Simpson) chasing me. I am pretty surprised at my time too, as it didn't feel as fast as the race with Andi last year. 

"I am really pleased to have won this one though, it's a great race and one of the those races that every mountain runner would like to win."

It was to be double delight for the Scots too, as Simpson passed MacMahon on the descent to make it a Scottish 1-2. With newly-crowned British Fell Running Champion Joe Symonds in fifth, the Scots also easily retained their team title.

Italy's Fabio Ruga also passed MacMahon on the descent to take an excellent third place, his best performance in Llanberis. MacMahon eventually finished fourth, perhaps a little disappointed, but having shown great determination and promise by leading the race to the summit.

Tessa Hill, along with men's winner Strain, had just returned from an excellent showing at the World Orierenteering Championships in Switzerland, where she placed a superb 11th place, running in GB colours.

The terrain of the Snowdonian mountains would prove a different challenge altogether for Hill though, as she embarked on the Snowdon race for the first time. However, hitting the summit of the mountain in 52 mins and 34 seconds, Hill held a comfortable lead of almost a minute over early leader O'Neil, with England's Katie Walshaw in third. The Arc'teryx runner held her form over on the return to Llanberis, descending in 28:52, to cross the line in 1:21:26 - taking a win which will give her much confidence as she embarks on some European racing over the coming months.

England's Helen Fines demonstrated just why she is one of the best fell runners in the UK, utilising her considerable descending talent to overhaul O'Neil, Walshaw and Ireland's Sarah Mulligan to take an excellent second place in 1:23:10. With Walshaw finishing third (1:25:33) and Holly Page (1:26:56) in fifth, England were clear winners in the team competition. 

Leading Race positions 

Men

1. Murray Strain (Scotland): 1:05:10

3. Robbie Simpson (Scotland): 1:06:43 

3. Fabio Ruga (Italy): 1:07:25

4. Brian MacMahon (Ireland): 1:07:45

5. Joe Symonds (Scotland): 1:08:14

Team winners: Scotland

Women 

1. Tessa Hill (Arc'teryx/England): 1:21:26

2. Helen Fines (England): 1:23:10 

3. Katie Walshaw (England): 1:24:22

4. Sarah Mulligan (Ireland): 1:25:33

5. Holly Page (England): 1:26:56

Team winners: England

Full results from the race can be found online at TDL Event Services with a superb one-hour TV highlights programme available to view via the S4C watch-again service Clic via this link.

Race images via Fell Running Pictures and Sports Pictures Cymru