Marathon season is upon us, which means there are a ton of races on across the UK; covering all distances.
With Chicago marathon coming in thick and fast, I had planned a few distance races in the lead up to the big day. Training is much more fun when you have those memorable runs along the way. I thought, as it is summer, why not make a holiday out of it as well?
The Trail Festival.
Half way through my training plan is the 13.1 mile distance race. Looking up half marathons in the month of July, I came across Tough Runners event; ‘The Trail Festival’. This was based in South Wales and seemed to be as tough as the name implied. I knew that this particular race was the first of its kind, but many races had taken part in the one and only Afan Forest.
Steep hills and trail terrain, this one was not for the typical road runner; however my skills on the trails had improved this year. I had made sure plenty of practice had gone into my training in the lead up to this race. Think hill training, running in the heat and rocky terrains.
The sights, on the other hand, were STUNNING. Nothing like any other. Wales most definitely has a special place in my heart and I was happy to be in my favourite place to run. You see, I had been to Afan Forest before a couple of years ago to train for my second marathon. I knew it was tough but I also knew that it would make me a ‘better runner’. I somewhat knew the grounds!
There was no question on where I would be staying. The Afan Lodge was a place I have stayed at previously and had promised myself that I would come back when I was next in the area. The Tough Runner race was only a 15 minute drive away from Afan Lodge. Absolutely perfect.
I wrote about Afan Lodge when I last visited (check HERE) and I have raved about the place to many runners and cyclists ever since. Known as ‘Little Switzerland’ – award winning Afan lodge is in the heart of Afan Forest Park. It is the hub for all adrenaline seekers and is well known for avid tourist cyclists; but I would love more runners to come here too!
I got to stay in the Richard Burton room which is absolutely stunning. If you are on Instagram, check out my story highlights to see some great videos of the place! Very clean, comfy and practical. Scenic views from your bedroom to make any outdoorsy person smile in the morning.
Looking out of the window on the morning of my race, I saw the mountain in which I were to climb in my half marathon and I was a bit nervous, but very excited for what challenges were to come!
The owners are very welcoming, kind and helpful. Any questions asked and they will do what they can to help you out on your trip. Especially as I would be trialling out some mountain biking for the first time ever later into my mini holiday. They passed me forward to a cycling tour group Mountains & Memories...
Mountains & Memories.
As a first time mountain cyclist, I was very nervous about jumping on the bike. As an established runner, I had heard many others cross training with the bike, so had told myself that it was worth the try! Sarah who ran the women-friendly bike tours in Afan was so lovely. I instantly felt comfortable in her company and we didn’t stop chatting throughout the whole adventure! For anyone who is new to cycling, wanting a little help on getting around Afan forest or is a solo traveller (like me) then this is the company to look out for.
The trail was pretty straight forward, so nothing too intense for the beginner cyclist. Lots of uphill climbs, beautiful sights and interesting loops. Part of the route, Widow Maker, was pretty exciting with sharp turns and fast drops. Getting too excited, I took a tumble along this path but Sarah couldn’t do enough to help me when I fell!
I brushed myself down and got back up on the bike to see some more stunning sights of Afan. We got to the top to see some of the best views of the area, to then cycle all the way back down, past the river and onto the cycle tracks where we bumped into other friendly cyclists. There are plenty of other routes to take depending on the skill/interests of the cyclist.
Sarah had made sure that I was ready for my ride, helped me out with my gear and kept me in high spirits with her stories. I would definitely come back to share some time with Sarah again when I am back in the forest. I learnt a lot from this experience and took away some memories that will last a life time and couldn’t be more grateful to Louise (Afan Lodge) who had introduced me to her.
MY TRIP AS A WHOLE.
The weekend was a huge success.
The half marathon was tough, but it is great if you love the trails or are wanting something a little more challenging. The sights are stunning and Tough Runner were very organised as a company. Would of loved more for the post-race celebrations, but we got to enjoy a cheeky beverage at the end! Check this race (and others) out HERE.
Accommodation is 10/10 and a firm favourite of mine. Perfect for solo travellers, sporty couples or adventurous families! Afan Lodge is known for its hospitality and perfect location. Their pub served up some home-cooked grub which kept me going throughout the whole weekend! The pub is also dog-friendly if you are popping in along your trek and they have access to information if you need the help.
Great prices and plenty of space for your sporting equipment. I have left a link HERE if you wanted to check out their website!
Last but not least, Mountains and Memories was a great part of my trip because I got to push those boundaries and do something different. I thoroughly enjoyed my session with Sarah and will be returning next year. For any more information on the biking tours that are run through Afan Forest, click HERE.
Thanks & Links.
My stay at Afan Lodge was gifted. A big thanks to Louise for being so accommodating whilst I stayed in Wales. This really is one of my favourite destinations and she made it a really enjoyable stay.
A big thank you to Sarah for taking me around Afan on my first mountain bike escapade. My session was kindly gifted for me to review.