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Author interview: Lily Dyu and John Price, Brecon Beacons Trail Running

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Near-zero visibility at the highest point in South Wales. Photo: John Coefield.

Vertebrate is very excited to be releasing a new guide to off-road running across the Brecon Beacons national park. The writers, Lily Dyu and John Price, both live close to Hay-on-Wye and have compiled the guide using twenty of their own favourite routes. They have also included lots of detailed information about the area, such as handy refreshment stops and local knowledge. The guide is suitable for all abilities, as the runs range from 5.3km to 17.5km in length, so it's great for runners who are just starting out as well as those with a bit more experience. We asked Lily and John a few questions about their new book and their love of running.

What inspired you both to write this guide?

Lily: I'd been in touch with Jon Barton at Vertebrate about the Waymaking anthology and it was just after that, out on a run, that the idea popped into my head for the book. Funnily enough, most of my book ideas seem to appear when I'm out running.

John: Lily very kindly invited me to help her – and I jumped at the chance to show off our wonderful Brecon Beacons National Park.

If you had to choose one route from the book, which would be your favourite?

John: Camarthen Fans and the Lakes – beautiful but relatively unknown.

Lily: It's hard to choose one but I'd probably have also picked the Camarathen Fans route because it's so wild and remote. But since John has mentioned it already, I'd say Llanthony for its beautiful views into a gorgeous wooded valley, a taste of the Offa's Dyke path and all of this centred around the dramatic priory ruins.

Lily, you studied Natural Sciences at university, does this influence where you run or what you look for in a good route?

Actually no. Even though I was a science geek at school, I also loved art (but didn't pursue it) and it's probably my creative side that drives my choice of running routes. I'm always looking beautiful views and the chance to be immersed in my surroundings. That said, it's a much richer experience if you know the local history and geology of the area. The Brecon Beacons has really interesting geology and actually encompasses the Forest Fawr GeoPark. The main summits in the Beacons are sandstone; there's limestone in the south of the park (which gives rise to cliffs, caves and shake holes); while millstone grit and Coal Measure rocks are largely responsible for the park's famous waterfalls. I always love to imagine how millions of years ago the limestone here was formed in a shallow tropical sea!

John, what encouraged you to get into running and which routes in the book would you recommend for beginners?

General fitness – and a desire to stop becoming fat and lazy. Mynydd Illtud, the Begwyns and Sugar Loaf would be wonderful introductions for beginners to start exploring the Brecon Beacons.

Lily, you started running around your university campus and then progressed onto more serious runs, including a stage-race around Manaslu in Nepal, the world’s eighth highest mountain. What was that like?

It was the hardest thing I've ever done. Some of the others were world-class ultra runners and I was just there because I wanted to trail run in the Nepal! But at the same time it was a profoundly life-changing experience, from the people I met – runners, crew and locals – to the incredible landscapes and cultures that we experienced. It was a privilege to be able to run there (and surprisingly I didn't come last!)

John, you’ve competed in mountain-marathons and have spent time camping around the country. Do you have any funny anecdotes you can share with us?

In my experience mountain-marathons are difficult – but out of adversity comes humour (but often far too silly and stupid to be of any interest to those not directly involved). We did once put our tent up upside down (in the dark and probably drunk) – and didn’t realise until the morning.  

Note from Lily: This year's OMM is going to be in the Black Mountains, our local stomping ground. We both hope to be there!

What is the most challenging route or race you have ever run?

John: I’ve never yet run a race which wasn’t challenging to me at the time (are there any easy ones?) Though not the longest nor the hilliest, Man v Horse has left me a broken man on several occasions (but I keep coming back each year for more). 

Lily: See above answer about Manaslu. That aside, I also love going fastpacking (multi-day running trips). One of my toughest but most rewarding trips was a four-day solo coast-to-coast crossing of Snowdonia, from Conwy to Barmouth, staying in bunkhouses and hostels along the way. I'm not great with heights or exposure and managed to scare myself silly a few times, alone in the mountains.

 

For more information about Brecon Beacons Trail Running and our other trail running guides, click HERE.

 

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