Preseli UltraBeasT 2022
I had entered the Preseli UltraBeastT to run in 2020, but as with many races that year it was postponed. May 7th 2022 saw the return of all three of the Beastly races from Maenclochog.
Over the course of the day the village of Maenclochog in Northern Pembrokeshire hosts races from the 11 mile (1,700ft ascent) Beast Bach to the 32 mile (5,800 ft ascent) UltraBeasT. It is fair to say that the village truly embraces the event put on by local legend Caz the Hat; participants travelling from afar can camp in the community hall the night before they wish, the local caffi provides the food and the friendly locals marshall and support all along the course.
Unlike most other races, the Preseli Beast events have a very sociable start time of 10:00am for both the Beast and UltraBeast and 12:00pm for the Beast Bach. I stayed in the village overnight in my camper van and enjoyed a lazy morning with the other members of my running club, Mynyddwyr De Cymru.
At 9:45 we gathered for the registration and pre-race brief from Caz who made the race feel friendly and welcoming with people encouraged to hug a stranger in the spirit of friendship.
It was the first proper race and the longest run I would have done in some time so my plan was to take it steady, treating it as a training run to practice pacing and nutrition and put some hours in my legs.
At 10:00am we were off. From the start it was a quick run through the village following a comedy horn that could be sporadically heard at points along the course and then into the woods outside of Maenclochog where we encountered signs warning us of the ’Beast’. The route then passes through the old Rosebush quarry and up the first hill at Cerrig Lladron. The weather was glorious if a little hot and the next few miles along open fell and woods leading towards Newport allowed us to truly appreciate the beauty of the area.
Running down into Newport, roughly 12 miles in, I saw my girlfriend, daughter and parents who snapped a few (not so glamourous) photos. Leaving Newport is a tough but enjoyable climb up Mynydd Carningli. I am sure I saw someone dressed as pirate at the start of the climb, but it being a bit early for hallucinations turned out to be one of the many locals in fancy dress along the course (other notable mentions go to a traffic cone, a dragon and a bumble bee).
The course for the Beast is fully marked but the UltraBeasT is only marked for 2/3 of the course, those markings end when the runners of the beast start their last climb to the finish line while those on the Ultra must self-navigate the more barren eastern Preselis.
The route was now on open fell and the clag came in, there was no clear path and I had no GPX. I had to go back to good old-fashioned map reading over the barren tussock-ridden land. Contouring around on the eastern section of the course I could really feel the lack of hill days in my legs and my knee was starting stiffening up. The further east I went the clearer the weather became, and small paths and sheep trod started to appear. The going became slightly easier after rounding the trig point at Foeldrygarn and it felt like the start of the home stretch although there was still a way to go.
After the final checkpoint at Foel Feddau the last 5km is nearly all downhill. I could see two runners in the distance ahead of me, feeling strong I decided to push as hard as I could to make sure I’d finish sub 7 hours and hopefully make it into the top 10.
Back into the woods outside Maenclochog there were more signs warning of the Beast accompanied by beastly noises as we ran past. Hitting the main road into the village and the first thing you see is a group of locals outside their houses starting to drum as soon as they see you, then downhill back to the village green where it all started hours before.
I crossed the finish line in 10th place in a time of 6:41:37. I was welcomed back by Caz with a big hug and presented my finisher coaster and most importantly tokens for cawl and cake.
Making my way over to my friends and family I could instantly feel the effort of the last 7 hours in my muscles which wanted to seize up and cramp. Luckily for me that did not happen and I was able to sit (more or less) comfortably in the sun on the green watching the other finishers come in.
As events go the Preseli Beast races are probably the most value for money you can get, especially the Ultra! You can’t go wrong for £16.00; as you can easily pay 5 times that for races that are less well organised and far less friendly. If you’re looking for an introduction to ultras this would be my recommended event.
Key kits and bits
Trainers: Scott Kinabalu Ultra RC
Watch: Coros Apex Pro
Pack: Montane Gecko 12+
T-shirt: MDC club t-shirt
Socks: Kendal Mint Co
Cap: Boco Gear Trail Hat
Nutrition (carried by me)
Precision Hydration - PF 30 Gel
Precision Hydration - Electrolyte Capsules
SIS - Beta Fuel Gels
SIS - Beta Fuel
Home made cherry Blakewell flapjack