Last Saturday, I raced a train. Then on Thursday I went back and sat on the train instead.
This year was the second time I have done Race The Train at Tywyn in Gwynedd, north Wales.
Two years ago, it was pouring with rain and Hywel and I were nowhere near beating the train, but I loved the trail route through the hills, the atmosphere and the great organisation.
I jumped at the chance to do it again this year – it was less wet and just as good, with more chance to enjoy the beautiful views.
I was still nowhere near beating the train. But that’s not the point.
On the day of Race The Train, there are different distances in the morning, including a 10k and a 3.5 mile run.
Then at 14.05, it’s the 14-mile Rotary Challenge.
It begins at the railway station at Tywyn, where the Talyllyn railway starts and finishes (the railway is one of the inspirations for the Thomas the Tank Engine stories by Rev W Awdry and it is the home of the engines that inspired Rheneas, Peter Sam, Sir Handel and Skarloey).
All the runners line up on the bridge above the station and you start when the train sets off up the valley.
If you can make it back down in about 1.47, you can beat the train.
Having now done both the race and the train in the last few days, I can heartily recommend both.
The running route winds up through farms and fields, never straying too far from the train lines and the trail route is a challenging mix of tracks, road and mud.
There are lots of marshals and water stops, and you are always listening out for the train’s whistle or spotting if you can spot its steam in the distance.
My favourite bits are the single track uphill after the turn, the waterfall steps and the incredibly sloped field where you battle to stay upright.
By the time you make it back to Tywyn, your legs will be tired, but you have an excellent medal and t-shirt to pick up.
Alternatively – as I found out on Thursday – the train ride itself is a very pleasant day out with lovely cafe facilities and family-friendly activities including a nice playground at Abergynolwyn.
Obviously if you are running, you don’t get to enjoy such things, so take your pick. Or you can always come back another day like I did.
Either way, the railway is lovely and Race The Train is a great event to support if you get the chance. I certainly hope to be back.
Diolch yn fawr i pawb. Thank you to all Rotary Club of Tywyn organisers and volunteers for the run and all the friendly Talyllyn railway staff too.