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Preseli Beast Video

Photo by Stephen Roberts

Burden of the Beast 2015

A Viking, a wonderwoman, and a man dressed in a pink tutu aren’t what you’d usually get at a fell race, but that was just three of the 231 runners who took part in the Burden of the Beast event on the 9th May.
Three different length races, all sharing various parts of the route, and all converging for an onslaught for the finishing line in the small bustling village of Maenclochog. The winners of each race crossing the line within 30 minutes of each other to the rapturous applause of many of the locals who'd come out to support the event with drums, clackers and horns.
Race day was blessed with glorious sunshine and blue skies which made a huge difference to runners wanting to take in the sights. Runners would have faced a different Beast if the race was 24hrs earlier as you could hardly see your hand in front of your face due to the thick mist and clag. Worried! Of course I wasn’t!!!
The new 32 mile UltraBeast(UB) with 31 starters, took an extra loop from the Preseli Beast(PB) race across to Foel Drygarn on the eastern end of the Preselis. A few past PB competitors decided to take on this challenge, with a number of them saying “ What’s an extra 8miles!” Some might have regretted saying this as it does have quite a bite to an already tough route! The ascent doesn’t have the same as a big mountain race, but the terrain certainly makes up for that with some saying it was ‘As hard as Nails’!
Last years PB winner Gancho Slavov made a flying start to the UB and was well clear even by the time they got to the top of the village! He was 7 minutes up at the 1st checkpoint at 4miles. He kept up this momentum and was 15minutes up by mile 12. His Aber AC team mate Dave Powell did his best at closing some distance back, and certainly made some ground up on the rougher second half. 13 minutes was the difference when both crossed the line, but more amazingly is that Dave is a MV50!!! Who said that you get slower with age!!!!
A fine battle ensued between the front runners in the FV35 class with the lead changing several times before local lass Kat Steed eventually crossing the line 2minutes in front of Northampton ultra runner Jasmine Banks
The pink tutu dressed runner, little Dave, ran exceptionally well coming home fourth, and 1st MV40. There must be something running in womens clothing after all! Local boy Mark Coghlan also did well in his first ever Ultra in just under 6hrs.
The PB race with 55 starters was this year in the South Wales Champs series and it brought down a few who'll be contending for prizes. MDC runners were down in force with Harry and Chris Jones leading the race from the off. They were both together and well clear of the chasing pack until CP4. Harry then started pulling away on the tougher second half which is quite different from the first and generally catches a lot of runners out with a few dropping out at the penultimate CP. Harry went on to break the course record by an astonishing 13 minutes with Chris finishing 4mins behind. And we all thought Gancho’s time last year was quick!!
MDC took the team prize even though we couldn’t find their team entry sheet. Sorry!
Katie Beecher ran extremely well coming home 3rd overall, and defended her title for the third year running. She probably knows the course better than some of the locals now! Helen Brown(was Fines!) had a great run too finishing second lady, 10th overall, with local lass, little Nerys Jones, finishing close behind her in 11th.
Chris Welton, and Tasha Sexton took away the 1st locals trophy in 12th and 15th respectively.
Even though MDC took the team prize, the team with most prevalence was certainly the DDMT team who’d come in great numbers, and with great smiles. Many of whom took away prizes in the UB, and PB. Purple Power!
The 11mile Beast Bach with a staggering 145 starters also saw records broken with Sarn Helen runner Dylan Lewis coming in 8minutes quicker, and remained unchallenged for most of the race. Eryri runner Ben Beachell came home 1st MV40, and 4th overall.
Ellie Astins of Pembs Tri Club was first female home, but only after a hard battle to keep the 30second gap to the next female Claire Cleathero who was first female last year. A welcome sight was seeing Jackie Taggart returning to the hills after breaking her ankle earlier in the year. She probably would have liked to have been up there with the other front runners, but her smile was more than enough to make amends to any disappointment in her result.
Ist local, and 1st MV50 was Richard Thompson who was 9th overall. Bethan Ouseley was 1st local female in 46th overall.
As a change to the normal, ‘winner gets loads of goodies’ approach, we decided this year as an unkown last minute gesture of gutsy determination that the last male, and female, finisher of each distance receive a small handmade stained glass trophy( Well, they are out there longer than anyone else and deserve recognition too! Their faces were a picture, and some were even reduced to tears….of joy I hope! We hadn’t announced this beforehand as some runners might have run at snail pace on purpose!!!
Biggest cheer as he crossed the line must go to Roger Bennett who had painted a picture of part of the PB race route and was giving it as a prize to the first lady home. Roger received to great delight the last finisher award in the Beast Bach race, and is getting to be a bit of a celebrity with our locals.
The male and female overall winners of each distance received a pair of Salomon Speedcross trainers kindly donated by Cotswold Outdoors, Carmarthen, as well as receiving a glass trophy.
All the runners received a goody bag complete with slate coaster, bowl of cawl, cheese, bread, tea/coffee, and the mandatory staple food of all runners......Cake!!!
So, why three races? I guess I want to make it a race for ‘everybody’. From the super fit fell experts, to the ones who want to experience the thrill of running in the hills who perhaps wouldn’t dare to do so off their own back or without the know how. Why mark the course? Yes, why? Am I mad?? It’s a heck of a job marking 32 miles, and takes about 3 full days!!! Over 300 white posts are put out, some with arrows, and some with comical sayings to keep the runners enthused in their quest to ‘Tame the Beast’. I guess I’m just trying to do my bit to get people into fell running.
The comments from many of the runners have been amazing, with most commenting on the amazing support from the marshals and locals around the course. Here are just two- ‘Thanks, it remains the best sporting event in Pembrokeshire. It has such a friendly and welcoming feel and the finest range of cakes known to man. The course is both spectacular and challenging.’ local Beast Bach runner.
‘Before the race, I was hesitating as it’s a long way to travel down for, but I was really glad I did. Thanks for putting on such an awesome race! Well it was a bit more than that; it was a bit of a Maenclochog experience. The route was amazing; possible the most picturesque, magical and memorable I've ever done. I felt completely steeped in the local history and culture throughout. The route, despite its awesomeness, was however overshadowed by the marshals, and crew, and locals along the route...all with an impossibly friendly cheer. I'll be back. I loved it.’ UltraBeasT runner, Pontypridd.
I have to say a huge massive thank you to all who travelled down and ran, to the all the sponsors, to the cake makers, and most of all to the huge team of marshals who'd given up their time to make this event such a huge success and without whom this event would not happen. Thank you.

Photo by Stehen Roberts