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  • Writer's pictureStephanie Ashby

Ashby’s Adventure Trails and Treks Races The Train

Could you run fast enough to beat a Victorian steam train chugging across the Welsh countryside for 14 miles? If you Race The Train during the Tywyn Rotary Club’s annual event in August, you’ll find out. This year, the race took place on August 19, and four of our runners took part in this incredibly tough cross-country challenge.

What is Race The Train?

Race The Train is an annual trail running event in Tywyn, Mid Wales. On the day, several races take place before the main event, where runners quite literally Race The Train. Whether or not you beat it though, it’s a great day out; Tywyn is a seaside resort on the beautiful Cardigan Bay coast, and there’s lots to see and do.

A Day Out in Tywyn

Tywyn literally means ‘beach’ or ‘sand-dune’. You can stroll along the promenade and look for dolphins, surf in the sea, enjoy a cream tea in a quaint Welsh tea room, or indulge in a meal in a pub or restaurant.

And if you can stay for longer, you could visit the ruins of the 13th century Castell y Bere, explore the impressive Dolgoch waterfalls, caves and tunnels, climb Cadair Idris, or walk the five miles of pristine coastline from Tywyn to the harbour at Aberdyfi.

Also in Tywyn is Tywyn Wharf. Here, you’ll find a craft and gift shop, restaurant, a free museum, and the Talyllyn Railway, a narrow-gauge railway that has been operating since 1865, making it one of the oldest in the world. This is where Race The Train takes place every year, hosted by Tywyn Rotary Club.

Race The Train

On the day, five races take place:

  1. Quarry Challenge: 6.2 miles/10km.

  2. Dolgoch Challenge 5.5 miles/8.9km.

  3. Tynllwynhen challenge: 3.5 miles/5.6km.

  4. Toddlers Trot around the perimeter of the race field.

  5. The main event, the Rotary Challenge, Race The Train, 14 miles/ 23km.

For Race The Train, runners aim to beat the steam train that travels 7 miles from Tywyn to Abergynolwyn Station, and 7 miles back. The race is an out and back of a similar distance, and at times, the runners race alongside the actual train.

When runners are not running on the trail adjacent to the railway line, they are running on public roads, lanes, tracks, narrow footpaths, farmland, and grazing pastures. Surrounded by rolling Welsh hills and countryside, it’s wet, muddy, and at times, very steep.

This is how the race works.

  • The start line for runners is on the railway bridge above the railway line.

  • The race is started by the train whistle as the train departs from the station.

  • Spectators can ride on one of two trains that depart from Tywyn station. The trains leave about 25 minutes apart. You purchase your ticket in advance, online.

  • The trains turn around at Abergynolwyn Station, and return to Tywyn station in around 01:48.

Participants compete to get back to Tywyn before the first train, which means they must run 14 miles (23km) cross-country in less than 01:48.
  • The finish line is on a field next to the station where there is a fun fair for the kids.

  • You get a medal and a t-shirt!

Is It Possible To Beat The Train?

It’s a very tough challenge, and only elite runners can do it; in 2023, 44 out of 410 participants beat the train. The fastest time was 01:25.37.

Our runners were fantastic, completing the race in between 01.59 and 02.52.

However, whether or not you can beat the train, it’s a fun race with a buzzing atmosphere. The countryside in Gwynedd is stunning, Tywyn has lots of places to eat and drink, and riding on the steam train, cheering on the runners, is fun.

When is The Next race The Train?

If you want to try it next year, the date is set to be 17 August 2024.

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