As we all know, BAC team captain Rich Nelson loves a good hill and can often be found enjoying, or perhaps the term for most of us would enduring, the ups and downs of the Purbeck, or any other hilly terrain he can find. But this challenge looked set to be the one to put that love of hills to ultimate test.
With an elevation gain of 11,608 feet and a distance of 32.23 miles, the Trail Events Company Brecon Beacons Ultra is not one for the faint hearted. In fact, as Rich will most likely now testify, it’s probably one of the toughest races around.
The course started off with an immediate climb on an unused mountain railway track right up to the extremely high summit of the Beacons. It then turns away from the mountains for a number of miles before once again, angling its way back up to the summit.
This was pretty much the order of the day for majority of the race until the final five miles where the route went back down to finish with a flat mile along the Talybont Canal path.
One climb in particular, that led back up Jacobs Ladder, was described by Rich as one that will haunt him for many years to come. For a man who is such an avid hill running enthusiast to say this, gives some inclination of how brutal and relentless the climbs in the race truly were.
Despite all that though, Rich proved he’s still got the grit and the appetite for major competition as he completed the course in a magnificent time of 6 hours 47 minutes. This put him in 17th place out of a total of 63 finishers, with some of those taking over 9 hours to reach the end.
The winner of the race clocked a time of 5 hours 13 minutes, which again demonstrates it was not a course that can be conquered quickly. It takes a lot of heart and a lot of determination just to make it to the finish line.
Rich was also 5th in the MV40 category on the day, so it was result he could be very proud of in his first ever ultra. After the race, the stats showed he’d covered over 33 miles and 11,538 feet of elevation gain.
“It was a really tough event,” Rich reflected. “The Brecon Beacons is a challenge that will punish the unprepared and humble even the most experienced off road runner.” In fact, the extreme toughness of the terrain is probably the reason why the SAS use this area for their training routines.
The difficulty level and the struggles it presented hasn’t put Rich off though and he’s already considering another similar event in a couple of months time.