Revelling in the misty mountain hop

Rob Howard in Llanberis reports on the annual race up the face of Snowdon

The lakeside town of Llanberis welcomed athletes from 13 nations with a colourful parade, but on race day Snowdon was not a welcome sight. A strong headwind drove rain into the faces of the climbing runners and the 3,560ft summit remained in cloud all day, dashing any hopes of breaking the one-hour barrier for the 10-mile return trip to the top or even of bettering the record of 62min 29sec.

The European Mountain Race Trophy runners from France, Italy, Russia and the lone entry from Kazakhstan had to wait and hope the weather would improve while the 21st Edison Mission Snowdon Race took place on Saturday morning. Every year the race attracts up to 500 runners, including internationals, and this success attracted the second European Trophy, which would be run separately. But for some fell runners, who dislike the regulations and elitism of international events, the Snowdon race was the more important.

It was started in 1976 by Ken Jones, fit enough to be present only three weeks after a kidney transplant. Runners who see him every year were coming up to wish him well, including 61-year-old Don Harris, who started the first race as a veteran and has run every one since, finishing all but one. "I had to be lifted off one year after hurting my leg," he said, "but if only I could have found a walking stick I would have made it down." Joe Donnelly, 55, was running for the 19th time and was in Llanberis for the company as much as the race. "I'd come even if I couldn't run any more, it's such a great social weekend," he said.

In the open race, where men and women ran together over the full course, Leeds City AC achieved a double with Martin Roscoe and Lesley Leavesley taking the honours.

The ladies European Trophy Race was next, with the French team leading from the start and the three times world champion Isabelle Guillot at the front, which is where she stayed, holding off a strong challenge on the rocky descent from the Italians to win in 53:09. Italy took the team prize with second, third and fifth, split only by Sarah Rowell, who led the English to third with a time of 54:36.

Guillot's time was not as super-human as it might appear. European Trophy regulations limit the women's distance, so the runners turned after six kilometres, about three-quarters of the way up. Nor were the strong German and Swiss teams competing, as they have no tradition of running downhill and regard it as dangerous.

In the men's race everyone reached the summit and it was another French victory, with Jaime Dejesus-Mendes winning in 63:16 and leading his team to a rare win over the Italians. Mark Kinch of England finished sixth with the English team fourth and the Scottish team fifth. Not surprisingly, given their limited training facilities, the Dutch were last but they did avoid the fate of Taupikh Magizov, of Kazakhstan. No time was recorded for him on the summit, just a message commenting he was "not of international standard". In the tradition of continental mountain running and Welsh hospitality he was a guest of the Snowdon Mountain Railway for his return journey.

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