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The popular annual ‘Race the Train’ event, which up until 2019 had taken place annually every August for the last 36 years has taken place again, following a two-year suspension due to the Covid pandemic. The race is hosted by the Talyllyn Railway, but organised each year by Tywyn Rotary Club. Further details may be found on the Race the Train website.

The Rotary Club website describes this event as “a must for all multi – terrain runners” and adds that “many competitors return regularly to try and better their performance or just beat that train, while others have run nearly every year since the races started.”

Runners in a field racing a train.
Drone photo of the Rotary Challenge race 2022. Photo: Luke Ryan.

In addition to the main race, the Rotary Challenge, a fourteen-mile route up and down the valley, alongside the railway, and open to all over the age of 17, there are a further three shorter races. These all have minimum ages according to the length but are open to older runners who do not wish to compete over the full 14 miles. The ‘Quarry Challenge’ for those of 15+ years (10 K) the ‘Dolgoch Challenge’ for those of 10+ years (just over 8 K) and the ‘Tynllwyn Hen Challenge’ for those of 9+ years (just over 5K). There is also a ‘Toddlers Trot’ for those up to 9 years (including babies who may be carried!) and run over the final part of the course and ending at the full course finishing line.

We put on the special trains for the race, also carrying spectators for the main event (The Rotary Challenge) and also provides rail transport for those participating in the shorter races which begin at stations further up the line. On this year’s event over 980 travelled on the special trains. The Rotary Club recorded 437 runners who completed the full 14-mile event, beginning at Tywyn Wharf and returning from Abergynolwyn. The first runner home completed the course in a little under 1 hr 30 minutes! All of the results from all of the races except the ‘Toddlers Trot’ may be seen on the Rotary Club’s ‘Race the Train’ website

A double headed train on a bank.
No 3 Sir Haydn and No 4 Edward Thomas on the Rotary Challenge Race August 2022. Photo Karen Willans.

This year’s events took place on Saturday, 20 August. Malcolm Austin from the Rotary Club provided the following report of the main event:

“It was good be able to resurrect our unique race after a 2 year absence. 

“The course was probably in the best condition it has ever been in with the potential for some good times.  Although it was a beautiful day the headwind was pretty strong making it tough going.

“Even so the first rotary Challenge runner, Sullivan Smith, crossed the line in 1 hour, 29 minutes and 27 seconds, while all three of our lady runners crossed the line before the train.  Ellie Haf was the first lady to cross the finish line in 1 hour, 47 minutes and 10 seconds and our third lady crossed just 33 seconds later. The train, which was right on time, “crossed the line” in 1 hour and 48 minutes.

 “The number of actual runners (940) was down substantially from pre covid levels (1780) which you can’t be surprised at. However, the sun shone on participants and non-participants alike so everyone could have a pleasant day in a wonderful part of Wales.

“None of this would have been possible without the support of our local farmers whose land the race runs across. Our thanks go to them. We should not forget the volunteers who marshal and do a myriad of other things. We thank them too.

“Although not all the bills are in, the club will be fortunate if the race makes much if any money this year.  As you may know the proceeds from this race and any other of our Club’s benevolent efforts goes directly to charity. We try to focus on local charities and youth groups, but this effort will be severely curtailed this year.”

A long line of runners in a field.
Runners along the line near Hendy Farm. Photo: Karen Willans

Race the Train day ended as usual with a social gathering under a marquee in the nearby school grounds, with refreshments and live music. This popular event is now firmly back on the calendar of the Railway and 38th ‘Race the Train’ event will take place next year on Saturday 19 August 2023. If you fancy having a go, online entries are open for 2023

Talyllyn Railway Preservation Society Chairman Jonathan Mann said:

‘It is wonderful to see the race return to Tywyn this year after its enforced absence. The Railway is very pleased to support the Rotary Club in this way – it is a great event for the area, and brings in many people. Whilst it is not surprising that this year numbers were down, it was nonetheless great fun for all, and we look forward keenly to next year’s event, hopefully with a return to greater numbers as we all return to a more normal way of life.  Thanks are also due to our staff – volunteer and paid – who worked so hard to ensure that everything went smoothly.’ 

Four men stood in front of a steam train with a nice headboard.
Rotary Challenge Race Train crew 2022. Photo Karen Willans.

For further information about this press release please e-mail: [email protected] or phone 01654 710472.