Class of 82 reunites to put on one of toughest races in UK
Six former school pals from the “Class of ‘82” have reunited to put on one of the UK’s toughest endurance races.
The 35-mile Pen Llyn Ultra marathon is a new race that’s already attracting some top competitors to battle for the title along a gruelling though supremely scenic course.
It starts and finishes at Pwllheli Golf Club and the runners will take in some breath-taking views on both sides of the Llyn Peninsula’s coastline.
Race director Huw Williams, the founder of the Llamwyr Llyn running club, already organises a summer version of the event and he’s enlisted the help of his old classmates from Ysgol Glan y Môr in Pwllheli to launch the new winter race on Saturday, November 10.
The group gathered for a planning meeting at the Tyddyn Sachau Garden Centre, just down the road in Y Ffôr, which was also the venue for a pre-race reception and is a co-sponsor of the event.
Among them was Ken Grayson, the chairman of Peninsula Home Improvements, in Gaerwen, on Anglesey, who are sponsoring the overall event along with Harlech Food Service and Chilli Penguin Stoves.
Peninsula are also sponsoring a race within the race, The Peninsula Mile, which is the hardest section of all.
Ken said: “Peninsula wanted to get involved because it puts our home turf of the Llyn Peninsula on the map.
“An event like this stands for endurance and resilience; traits I feel my company has demonstrated over the years.
“As we’re going into our 35th year in November the course represents a mile for every year since the company was founded.”
The other sponsors include Harlech Food Service whose joint managing director, Andrew Foskett, was also a member of the gang of six.
Andrew said: “We all started at Ysgol Glan y Môr in 1982 and we’re a bit like the Class of ’92 at Manchester United because we’re still mates now which is fantastic.
“We all still live locally and we like to invest in local event which brings people into the area and generates income for the local economy.”
It was a sentiment echoed by Matt Bowers, the Operations Manager of Pwllheli-based fellow sponsors Chilli Penguin Stoves.
He said: "We're all in this together as old school buddies. This was an ideal opportunity which meant we could all get involved.
“It’s a great event to support and we’re all passionate about Pen Llyn.”
Paul Withington, a director at The Coconut Kitchen Thai food company which is the official race snack sponsor with its Banana Joe crisps, imported from Thailand.
He said: “We have supported Huw and the Pen Llyn Ultra for the past two years and like to think that our Banana Joe crisps bring a touch of the exotic to the event while also offering a great source of good carbs for the competitors. We have seen the event grow every time it’s held and this first winter event proves that Pen Llyn is a great place to come whatever the season.”
Classmate Gareth Davies is going the extra mile to support the event because he’s actually taking part in the race itself.
He said: “I started running 10 years ago but this is my first ultra-marathon and the course is incredibly tough but also incredibly beautiful for those with enough breath left to enjoy the view.
“It has a lot of up and downs and it’s mostly beach and track with a little bit of tarmac.
“It’s actually being held the day after my 47th birthday so I’m postponing any celebrations until after the race.”
Race organiser Huw Williams has a great pedigree in endurance running.
Last year he took part in the Marathon De Sables, billed as the toughest footrace on earth.
In just six days Huw ran 156 miles across the Sahara Desert in baking heat which saw temperatures rise to 50 degrees centigrade while carrying a 12kg backpack.
He was inspired to stage the new event by the success of the summer ultras which are held over three distances - 50, 75 and 100 miles.
Sixty runners have already signed up to take part on November 10 and the checkpoints for hot food and drinks will also be pretty special.
Among them will be the Tŷ Coch pub in Porthdinllaen which was named recently as one of the top three beach bars in the world.
The competitors will include Lowri Morgan, the TV presenter who is also a highly successful endurance athlete and is one of only eight people to have completed the Antarctic Ultra.
Huw said: “The course is in the shadows of Snowdonia and it doesn’t get any better than Pen Llyn when it comes to coastal running because it’s so rugged and beautiful.
“As well as Lowri Morgan, we’ve also got a few elite runners coming in from various countries.
"There is a time limit and the runners will have 10 hours to do 35.5 miles. There's going to be an honesty book on four different areas of the course to make sure nobody cheats.
“But we couldn't do it without the support of the likes of Ken and the rest of my old school friends.
“It’s a bit like the A team coming back together. It’s brilliant and I can’t thank them enough.”