Camino have just returned from four glorious days at the beloved Love trails festival x
We loved every second of our time and we wanted to capture some of these feelings (and hook a few of you to join us back for 2023!)
There is no doubt in my mind that I love trail running and also love festivals. But would Love trails be able to pull off the magical combination of a trail running festival!! I (Coach Paula) had applied to be a run leader back in 2019 for the festival in 2020, but fate had other ideas, and it wasn't until 2022 that the festival was back. During this time, our Camino community had grown from the virtual race in lockdown to actual events, mass starts and hugs at the finish line. At this time, we'd launched the Greenways challenge, a series of monthly runs on our beloved London's "secret" trails!
So we were delighted and excited when Camimo Ultra was asked to come to Love trails as a crew and host an ultra marathon! Stephen attended the run leader weekend, did a recce, and mapped out the course for us. Back in London, we studied the gpx and walked it through with Stephen. It was a fantastic route covering the whole of the Gower peninsular and taking in coastal trails, beaches, salt marsh, forest and fields. Heaven! We scheduled the Ultra to be on the Friday of the festival, as we wanted people to get to explore with us but still have time to make the most of the festival for the rest of the weekend.
With our 09:00AM start time we were excited to see some old and new friends from Camino Ultras. Some of the legends of the London City Runners were there - Wan/Kalli/Marie/Janet - Hannis/Katya/Yiannis and the Run Dusty crew - Ian/Bella/Erol/Lloyd who all were planning to run to Rhossili (half-way point) and catch the Adventure Bus back to the campsite as their Brewery run was on the Saturday.
It's worth noting that for 2023 you can definitely run the start to Rhossili route with us - it is SO BEAUTIFUL and a great way to spend a Friday morning - asking us loads of ultra questions and meeting new friends. The first half has excellent forest trails, massive hills, sublime sand dunes and a kick-ass drop into Rhossili.
Big Kudos to the LoveTrails team for putting on Aid Stations for their marathon route (which covers a decent % of the first two thirds of our route) and the amazing amount of way marker flags and tape which helps keep a mid-sized group in check. The runners in our group were all experienced at longer distances and most had the essentials (gps loaded on watch - nutrition - water soft flasks) although Camino Run Leaders all had spare sun-cream + KOMFuel nutrition + first aid kit
There were plenty of opportunities for TEAM PHOTOS - Thank you to Wan for being such an epic and creative specialist x
Stephen had already planned out a decent amount of water stops (and back-ups) and we took our first break at the Caravan Park at Mile 13. It's timely because it's followed by an epic climb up and onto the Rhossili Downs where you great epic panoramic views and see a few four-legged friends.
At Mile 14 and in Rhossili itself we took advantage of the local stores and the team bought an assortment of local pastries and sandwiches, cans of pop and a few sweet treats. Whilst the whole day was chilled and the pace relaxed we were looking at a sub 8 hour finish time for the 50+Km and this meant that we had to ensure that even lunch breaks were done on ultra time!!!!
After Rhossili there is just the most beautiful (I think you get the idea that the Gower and this route is just rammed full of the most beautiful trail-running terrain and views of the Welsh coast!!) run towards the natural wonder of Worms Head. (Note for 2023 - there is a strong camp for adding in Worms Head as an extra-leg - which will mean a group starting at 08:00AM - let us know if you fancy this in the comments below!) It's worth googling Worms Head because it requires tide-hopping!!!!
As with every great ultramarathon run the challenge only goes up a notch. The next section is perhaps some of the more technical (nothing to be put off by - but you do need to pay attention to the steepness, the cliff and to the loose stones) - Picture above is Paula skipping down a steep descent.
Our group spread out a bit more during these next two hours and yes there was the occasional 'How far have we got left' :) but with enough Run Leaders and some awesome positivity throughout the group we all moved on to the major last check point and YES ICE CREAM!!! Mile 22 and in gorgeous Port Eynon
With just under 10 miles (about 15 KM) to go we set out with purpose (well to try and get back for our hot-tub booking at 17:00pm!!). The amazing thing is that route never ceases to give you an uplift - from mile-wide beaches (which at one point saw our ultra group spread as far and wide and some doing aeroplanes!!) to tropical forests - all along the Welsh Coastal Path.
The final section is the first real time that you come away from the coast and you get ready for the second biggest climb in the 50KM) - which of course means more mind-blowing views! We also got to use our First Aid Kit - which gave us all a chance for a breather and to enjoy the company of the wild horses
It's such a great feeling, as a run leader, to share the experience of the day adventuring with a group of like-minded explorers. It was a wonderful day and all we hoped it would be.
Big Thank you to every who joined us and for all the kind feedback. It's never easy to run 50Km (on coastal trails!) but to do so at the start of a festival - with so many epic events happening at the same time is just awesome. One thing we cherished was seeing the same 50KM finishers in the Beer Mile + On the Dancefloor and it pretty much every other event during the following two days - BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE x
Another highlight of the festival was participating in the panel talk hosted by Lorna. Absolute legend, organiser and host extraordinaire. It was a pleasure to be on stage with Run/talk run, Vegan Runners and Embankment running club to hear and discuss their / our experiences creating a running community. The common thread was our love of running and the belief that it brings people together and can be transformative for some who find a community or communities that resonate with them.
After that, we hosted a Q&A about Ultra running. We were joined by those who wanted to do their first Ultra and others that had a few under their belt. Between us, we have thousands of race miles under our belts in many different events worldwide, and it is a delight to share some of the things we learn along the way. If you ever have any questions, just drop us a line. We got to run and hang out with other run crews, some of who we know from home but others that were previously only Instagram friends!!!
The music did not disappoint! Not even a full day of running could keep us away from the dance floor, and we loved the Rhythm & Trails tent where we danced away for hours on Friday / Saturday nights. But the highlight was the Castle rave on Thursday night, and we just couldn't resist when we got the email!!!!
LoveTrails 2022 you were everything and much more. We are grateful to Theo, Sarah, Rich, Lorna and the whole team for all their passion and for their support of Camino throughout the whole project. 2023 we will back with even bigger dreams and run plans - who is in?
So DID LOVETRAILS MANAGE TO COMBINE THE RUN + FESTIVAL....
Coach Paula: 'YES.....LoveTrails did manage to pull off the ambitious combination of trail-running and festival in one glorious, joyful, life-affirming weekend of adventures in the stunning Gower, But there is really only one way for you to know for sure.....so SEE YOU IN 2023x'