My Paddy Buckley Round 2015 by Alasdair Cowell

My Paddy Buckley Round 2015

Was I really going to do the Paddy Buckley, when I first heard about the Bob Graham I never in my mind thought that I would attempt it and get a sub 24h.  Funny how life develops.

My interest in Fell running and particularly the harder stuff grows strong and I said to myself “Alasdair, it’s time to get the Paddy Buckley done”.

So with that said the Training and Reccying began, with a good few 32 milers around the Peaks and plenty of reccying weekends away in Snowdonia getting eyes and feet on the ground where I’ll be running. Always pays to go and find those sweet, swift running lines.

Al and Tim C setting off on leg 1

I decided to start and finish at Llanberis with a start time of 6pm on Saturday 25th July. I had planned a schedule for a sub 24h finish. I would have a small support team put together with my family there also as it was the start of a family holiday. On the Saturday approx. 3 hours before the start I met up with Tim and Lynne with some of my family for a meal at ‘the Heights’ in Llanberis. Things were nice and relaxed in the beer garden under the sun, a nice wind down before what would be some pretty tough running over the coming 24 hours.

Bunny,Bunny,Bunny,Bunny,Whoops Bunny,Whoops,Bunny,Bunny,Bunny,Bunny.  You’ll just have to ask!!!

Time to turn on the Tracker and make my way to the start. My mum and other brother still hadn’t turned up and it was almost 6pm, I really wanted them to be there at the start then mum swung her car past us and into the car park down the lane. It was 6pm and my older brother Marcus sent me on my merry way with an imaginary starter pistol from his fingers, he also had the stop watch running on his Apple phone. Tim Culshaw was my support runner for Legs 1/2. With shouts of Good Luck and “see you at Ogwen” I was away and then saw my bro and mum approaching and gave them a quick hug, “Good Luck”, they shouted. It’s now time for me and Tim to tackle the slatey ascent of ‘Dinorwic’ quarry, having recce’d this bit several times I knew the exact line I wanted and it didn’t seem long before we were at altitude with both ‘Elidir Fach’ and ‘Elidir Fawr’ behind us. It was such a joy to be running up here ticking off summit after summit, the sky was blue with little wind and the views across to the ‘Glyders’ and ‘Tryfan’ were spectacular. Tim was doing a grand job constantly reminding me to eat and drink. We had a good descent of ‘Y Garn’ which left only 3 more summits on this Leg. Now up on the ‘Glyders’ extra care was needed across this rocky terrain but it seemed like we hopped and skipped over them like a breeze. With the 2 ‘Glyders’ done and a jog past the ‘cantilever’ we were down and beginning our ascent up ‘Tryfan’, with plenty of talk and chatter the time past quick and ‘Adam and Eve’ were soon in sight. I scrambled over the top and slapped them both then made for the gulley for a quick descent to ‘Ogwen’. I had a radio and buzzed Tim/Lynne to say I’m now descending ‘Tryfan’. I heard a reply from Tim B say “we can see you, see you shortly”. Tim C said “you race on ahead, and get yourself sorted” so I bee lined straight for ‘Ogwen’.

Al and Tim B - start of leg 2

Al and Tim B – start of leg 2

I put 4 hours to run this leg which was a little over estimated, being due in around 10pm. The Leg went really well and I rolled in approx. 50 minutes up on my time. Lynne was to be my road support throughout the whole round and had already impressed me at the first stop, with all my things neatly layed out on a wall and a hot coffee ready to gulp down. I stuffed my face with the food I had prepped and drank some electrolytes, filled my bag ready to battle it out with Leg 2. Tim C came running in a little after me and really wasn’t feeling it and thought best not to run on. Thankfully Tim B was available and was soon geared up to join me on Leg 2.

Thanks for your support on Leg 1 Tim C

My bro and mum also made it to ‘Ogwen’ and wished me luck for Leg 2. I think we set off at about 21:30 so had a good head start on the clock. Me and Tim had already reccy’d this leg together some time ago so were more than happy with it even thou we were starting to lose the light. Well we hadn’t been going for no more than 5mins and at the bottom of ‘Pen Yr Ole Wen’ I started to get those dreaded cramp niggles in both my upper thighs, Tim was scrambling just above me and when he looked back down at me I could see he knew something was wrong. I didn’t want to say anything, like I was ashamed, then BANG. It hit my right upper thigh with a vengeance, I staggered a bit then stopped with all thoughts of It’s over, I can’t go on now, what a perfetic attempt’. Tim then advised to sit down on the rock behind where he began to work his magic by massaging the area, after a few minutes it had gone, absolutely amazing. Tim then advised to start walking and before long we were up to usual ascent speed. I could only put it down to the electrolyte drink I had at the stop, it’s not something I usually drink so I’m placing the blame on that. So there…

It’s now time to turn on head torches; we delayed it for as long as we could. Some way up ‘Pen Yr Ole Wen’ we could see climber’s night climbing on Milestone Buttress, Tryfan.  A different breed they are.

We soon reached the summit and it was now time to do a bit of running and try and claw back some time I lost due to the cramping episode earlier. The paths up here are great for running and we soon blasted over ‘Carnedd Dafydd’ and ‘Llywelyn’ comfortable knowing where we were at all times. We had a smooth line over to ‘Pen Yr Helgi Du’ and here caught a glimpse of the moon sitting above Leg3, I was praying for the clouds to clear so it would let the moon shine over Leg3. I didn’t pray hard enough. 1 more summit to top then a blast down to Lynne who would be set up at ‘Capel Curig’. Like the Tim before, Tim was continually advising me to eat and drink which I was doing. Having good knowledge of this terrain is important but the key is nutrition, the very thing that will keep me going. So just keep nibbling and sipping I tell myself and this round will be ok. The summit of ‘Pen Llithrig Y Wrach’ was soon reached and it was now down to what I do best, DESCEND. We were descending fast and picking the perfect lines despite the darkness, I remembered the bridge I needed to aim for and picked away at the terrain until WHAM, there it was in our torch lights.

Al and Tim B at Leg 2/3 Capel Curig

Al and Tim B at Leg 2/3 Capel Curig

From here onward to ‘Capel Curig’ Its plane sailing and running down this section you can have a blast, which we did. We hit the road and Tim ran on with my order of strong hot coffee, something to keep me awake. Round a couple of bends and I was soon running in to ‘Capel Curig’ and yet another well organised road stop set up by Lynne. She had set up exactly where I wanted under the shop front by the picnic tables with lightage hanging over us giving us ample lighting to gear up for Leg3.

The coffee was drank, some sandwiches shoved down my neck followed by a tracker bar and a banana. I aired my feet and sprinkled some talc on them, put on some clean socks and my mudclaws and was ready to hit the town; sadly it was a night out on Leg 3 and some dancing up ‘Moel Siabod’. Mark Ollerenshaw was due to run this leg with me along with Tim B, but Mark was unable to support in the end so it was just me and Tim again. I was due in at Capel Curig at 1am and was now leaving for the climb up ‘Moel Siabod’ around 20 minutes up on my time, despite the cramp at the start of Leg 2 the first two legs had gone just as I hoped. All geared up again and good to go, I thanked Lynne for her help, she could go and get her head down now for a good length of time as I knew this Leg was going to be a long run out on the legs and it was either going to ‘Make’ or ‘Break’ me…The climb up ‘Moel Siabod’ was going well when around half way the wind picked up and blew quite a chill, so we both put on another layer. We pushed on and suddenly tiredness started to affect me, it was way past my bed time. Tim was doing his best to keep me on a high, chatting and telling jokes, when suddenly we were on a path veering to our right instead of going straight up, this immediately concerned me as it didn’t feel right. “Back Tim” I said, and we were again back on the right path. I had to sharpen up and get focussed as there was plenty of terrain out there to get lost in. Remember your recce’s, remember those lines and remember that fence line. There’s a fence line you can hand rail pretty much all the way down as far as ‘Allt Fawr’ which takes you past a lot of the summits on this Leg, Its very handy in deed. As we neared the summit of ‘Moel Siabod’ the clag blew in strong but I was confident of where the summit trig was and suddenly we stumbled across it, with no hanging around we quickly got ourselves away from the rocky section and found the fence line and a lush downhill section on short grass, we just let ourselves go. At one point I took a fall at full speed but rolled out of it nicely and sprung back onto my feet for the continuation of this fast grassy descent. Down, down and down we kept going when suddenly we could make out the shape of another summit, it was ‘Clogwyn Bwich Y Maen’, the fence line took us straight to the summit.

Just round the corner is ‘Carnedd Y Cribau’ and again the fence line more or less guided us up and over the summit. I’m now starting to feel really tired now and there’s still a couple of hours of dark to go, the time of day clearly taking its toll on myself and Tim, but we both battle on with the job in hand and try and stay focused, keeping a track on the map and knowing where we are at all times. We push on fighting our way through pretty nasty terrain consisting of long grass, fields of thick heather, heavy vegetated rocky knolls, bogs, bogs and even more bogs nothing really runnable at this stage, but one thing still there to help us was that fence line. Progress was slow but we were making headway even if at a snail’s pace, I kept looking at my watch and thinking this Leg is going to destroy my 24h attempt. After ‘Moel Meirch’ the terrain became a little more forgiving and we pushed onto ‘Ysgafell Wen’ at a little better pace. Once we changed direction slightly to run over summit ‘672’ we noticed the sun was starting to come up, and this would perk us up, as the sun makes everyone happy…

With that horrible mess behind us and now on more runnable ground we can start to get a jolly on. It was goodbye to that fence and to the short out and back of ‘Allt Fawr’ and time to spin the legs over towards the ‘Moelwyns’. I felt I had a good bit of speed down to the disused quarry, my favourite part of running, downhill. Torches had been put back in bags, thankfully the batteries held out through the night, more food was nibbled at and plenty water sipped, but I was still feeling as bad as a rotten egg. My head was in a bad place and the mental game was really starting to kick in. With the lack of sleep and running all through the night I was starting to play mind games with myself. “So you want to do the Paddy Buckley do you”, “your way behind on your time you’ll never do a sub 24h”,”look at you, you’re a mess”, “You’ll never survive this leg”, “May as well go home when you get to Aberglaslyn”. I couldn’t stop all the negativeness, but what I did do was carry on regardless. It was about half way up ‘Foel Ddu’ that I said to Tim, “just give me a minute”. And with that I dropped to my knees and put my head in my hands and blocked all thoughts and everything out, all I wanted was silence and no exercise for a minute. Then I pulled myself to my feet and carried on, the ascent of ‘Moelwyn Bach’ was extremely slow, heel to toe, heel to toe. And the climb to ‘Moelwyn Mawr’ was pretty slow too. Tim, I might add is all the time encouraging me to keep going and keep nibbling and sipping despite his own little battle with this god crazy Leg. The weather has been fine up till now, just right really. Though rain was forecast for 5am it was now after 6am and we were pushing for the final summit of this Leg ‘Cnicht’. We had a pretty good blast of ‘Moelwyn Mawr’ both finding something in the tank to motor us down to the quarry again; from here it was a steady plod over small grassy knolls towards the start of our ascent of ‘Cnicht’. Tim took the lead for this and guided me eventually to the summit path by which time the wet stuff had arrived. With the last summit of this Leg done its now the long run off to the lanes leading me to Lynne and a much needed strong hot coffee and a bacon buttie. Here we go a long downhill section. I managed to perk up a bit and let myself go striding out at a good pace, despite what I’d just been through. It was 8am and I was due in at Aberglaslyn but still had a fair chunk of downhill to do, I couldn’t go any faster, I was just too fatigued. But this pace was good.

I was leading Tim for a while on the descent but we soon teamed back up and before long we hit the lane and were finally safely of the hill. Tim again ran on ahead to get my order of strong coffee in. I rolled in 5/10 minutes behind Tim very tired, exhausted and drained in more ways than one. My mum and brother were there to greet me, along with Legs 4/5 runners Zoe and Robin and ‘Cofa’ the collie, they asked how Leg 3 was, and my simple reply was “That was a BITCH”. Lynne again had done a grand job setting table and chairs up under a covering with all my things close at hand. I was promptly given a hot coffee and a promised bacon buttie, and boy did they go down well. I was sat here remembering what was going through my head earlier, about throwing the towel in. This was NOT going to happen. Seeing Zoe and Robin geared up ready to go perked me up. So I geared up for Leg4, dragged myself out of the chair which I was quickly melting into and got a jolly on. “Let’s do this” I said to myself.

Thanks Tim B for your support on Legs 2/3

Cofa, Robin and Zoe ready to set off on leg 4

Cofa the collie, Robin and Zoe ready to set off on leg 4

Leg3 was going to ‘Make’ or ‘Break’ me. I knew it was going to be a tough Leg; it’s the longest of them all approx. 20 miles. And running all through the night is never an easy task. But you’ve just got to persevere and remember why you’re doing this. I’m now about 40 minutes down on my time and the way I’m feeling right now a sub 24h doesn’t look possible, let’s battle on and see what happens.

Al and Zoe leaving on leg 4

The rain is continuous now and looks set to stay, with waterproofs on and a belly full of coffee and a delish bacon buttie I head out onto Leg4. Zoe starts to raise my spirits straight away, encouraging me on and that things will be fine, I was wondering at what point she would start to sing ‘The hills are alive to the sound of music’. My water was carried for me on this Leg which I noticed the difference immediately. We started our climb up through a wooded area which was lush green everywhere then we popped out into the open air again and bashed our way through long grass, bracken and heather, making our way slowly up towards the first summit of this leg ‘Bryn Banog’. We encountered a heard of bullocks during our ascent with the big Bull not really paying much attention, thankfully there were to be no charges. ‘Moel Hebog’ was covered in clag and as we neared the summit the wind really started to pick up, with no hanging around we quickly started our descent. At this point I was really starting to feel the cold; I was pretty much soaked to the skin so I had to stop at some point and put my leggings on and another top. Zoe lent me a better pair of gloves also. Robin took point and navigated with ease over the coming summits, the terrain between ‘Moel Hebog’ and ‘Moel Lefn’ is quite runnable and where hopefully we were able to claw back a bit of lost time. Again, Zoe and Robin would encourage me to eat and drink which I did so, little by little I began to perk up. We had to bash our way through thick grass and heather whilst summiting ‘Y Gyrn’ but I knew this would be the last of the thick vegetation once we had ticked of ‘Mynydd Y Ddwy Elor’. Now on good ground with just 3 more summits to tick of, once we past ‘Mynydd Drws Y Coed’ it became very rocky, there was no speed here as care had to be taken. The rain was still coming down and the wind was whipping up, we took our time scrambling over the wet slippery rocks and then we were soon clear and able to run on to the last summit of ‘Y Garn’. I ran to the top and then took a bearing to the woodland track we needed to aim for. Finally dropping out of the clag I could see my direction arrow on the compass pointing right at the track, lovely…

Cofa the now soggy collie

With the three of us safely of the hill we were now motoring our way down the woodland track, Zoe ran on to let Lynne and the others know were coming in, but she managed to take a wrong turn and we rolled in just before her. It was the Snowdon Trail Marathon sponsored by High5 and they had left a water station tent up which they allowed us to use which was ideal, Lynne had set up the table and chairs and I couldn’t wait to sit down, my feet were killing me. Despite seeming quite a slow pace and being approx. 40 minutes down at the start of this leg, I rolled in 30 minutes up. This lifted me a great deal and that sub 24h I’m after now looks like a reality again. I had put 5 hours to run Legs 4/5 slightly over estimated but a wise move I think, it was all starting to slot into place nicely. I drank yet another coffee and threw some food down my neck, I also stuffed as many Gels as I could pocket and more food. Zoe came running in after correcting her small mistake and got herself soughted for the final Leg. Some of my family were there to raise my spirits which was nice and the clock was now telling me to get a shifty on, so I hugged my mum and said “see you all at the end”.

Zoe, Robin and Al resting at leg 4/5 change

Zoe, Robin and Al resting at leg 4/5 change

We began Leg 5 at 13:02 giving me just under 5 hours to complete the Leg, so of Me, Zoe and Robin and Cofa trotted for the first summit of the leg, ‘Craig Wen’. The wind and rain was still coming down and I was feeling the cold, but was just able to keep the edge of if it. ‘Craig Wen’ was soon ticked off and It was about now that I’m really starting to feel the pain of the whole round, I was so knackered I couldn’t really engage in conversation just putting one foot in front of the other was a big effort, and it was now that the huffing and puffing had started. But I knew 5 hours was a healthy time for this leg despite the way I was feeling. So I pushed on digging deep, finding that last bit of drive to get me round. Robin guided us over ‘Yr Aran’ in reasonable time and we were soon down and started our climb to the highest of them all ‘Yr Wyddfa Snowdon’. The wind and rain was attacking us from all angles but we carried on climbing without a care, still, I’m huffing and puffing fighting the pain but believing I can do this. The ascent of ‘Snowdon’ seemed to take an age, briefly I stop, grab a rest, grab a breathe, and then push on again. “God this hurts”. Then I noticed the summit Café come into view through the clag, “YES, that’s what I’ve been waiting for”. And from nowhere I ran to touch the summit and Zoe ran behind to give me a celebratory hug. I looked at my watch, five more summits to do in 2 hours. No hanging around I wanted to push on and get them done, next was ‘Crib Y  Ddysgl’ just round the corner and then it was a blast over to ‘Moel Cyngnorion’. Hitting another downhill section I was able to let myself go and put a bit of distance between me and the other two, but we soon regrouped at the top of ‘Moel Cyngnorion’. Here it was pleasant running and once ‘Foel Goch’ and ‘Foel Gron’ were behind us it was just the last summit of the whole round to do, ‘Moel Eilio’. I kept looking at my watch, huffing and puffing, if I pushed it I could give myself a whole hour to run off. Then Robin ran at my side and said “if you want to just push on then go for it, you should get the sub 24h”, so with that said I began to put some distance between myself, Robin and Zoe. So desperately wanting a sub 24h I didn’t care about the pain I was feeling, though my body just wanted to lay down and go to sleep on this very spot, something inside me was picking me up and all of a sudden I was hitting the summit of ‘Moel Eilio’. Looking at my watch I think I gave myself about 1h 4m to descend to the finish, here we go, a long descent down a shoulder taking me of the last Mountain of the round, boy did I run down there quick, laughing and screaming aloud, wiping the tears from my eyes, huffing and puffing as I dropped like a freight train desperate to beat the clock, shouting at the sheep, “Out the way, Ali Cowell coming through”. Head down charging like a Bull when suddenly I dropped out the clag and came to the end of the shoulder, wow there, slow down, and take this bit easy. Just a bit of scree and rock to scramble over then through a muddy field. PING, onto a lane then a blast through a couple of fields, through a kissing gate then Wham, a bullock right in front of me, I throw my arms in the air and it bolts to my side giving me the eyeballs as I jog past.

The final metres...

The final metres…

That’s the very last of the green stuff; I’m now on the black stuff all the way to the finish now. Down, down I go until I hit the cattle grid at the bottom, careful not to injure myself here. Last bit now, weave my way through the housing estate then Wham, to kids pulling wheelies on their bikes heading right for me, they drop their front wheel and swing either side of me, giggling as I run past. The last sweeping bend, then in front of me I notice Mum waving her arms to the others, “Here he is”, I cross the road and collapse on the very bench I started approx. 24h ago, then there all telling me to go and run over there, I’m in a confused state, I’m knackered, exhausted and completely F@#KED ” I aint running anywhere, do you know what I’ve just done” I said. No, you’ve got to run over there through the winner’s gantry, they all kept telling me. “What’s the time I shouted”, then this massive Apple phone was thrust before my eyes reading.

23h 18m 26s


Then I hear my name being called out on a loud speaker, “Come on Alasdair, one last little bit”, “What the F***”, I thought. Am I tripping or what.

Al and Fenton

The compere from the Snowdon Trail Marathon was calling me over on loud speaker and willing me to run one more bit through there winners gantry, so I pull myself to my sore feet and with my nephew Fenton together we cross there finish line with more shouts and cheers. Surely that’s it. The compere came over amazed at what I had just been through; it was as if he had stuck two fingers up to his really job in hand, to cheer the Snowdon Trail runners in. He was more interested in my achievement.

Thanks Zoe/Robin for your support on Legs 4/5

Thanks Lynne for your road support on the full round

I set the Paddy Buckley as my goal for this year and to get round in under 24 hours is a big achievement for me. I kept it simple with times just set at the road crossings and had a small but very professional support team on board, without them I don’t think it could have been done. Despite all the high’s and low’s I smashed it and will forever live with a smile on my face. This will go down in the Cowell history books and it’s a day I will never forget, so for that I salute you one and all and THANK YOU…

Also a massive thank you go out to my family who were also there to witness my achievement, seeing you at the various stops made me so happy.


All my Love

Alasdair Cowell

Tim’s blog about supporting legs 2/3 is over on TestedToDestruction
Lynne’s blog about her perspective as support crew can be found on Running Delights




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