Cybi Coastal Marathon

The Cybi Coastal Marathon is a race I had wanted to do for a while, Anglesey and Holy Island is where I spent a lot of childhood holidays and I’m very fond of the place. I had run a couple of Marathons before, and I enjoy trail running, so this seemed like a nice opportunity to combine the two.

The route sticks mostly to the waymarked coastal path, with a few small diversions to make sure it comes in at (roughly) 26.2 Miles. Looking at the race profile it’s the last four miles which jump out, until this point the route is pretty kind for a trail marathon, but looming on the northern tip of the Island is Holyhead Mountain. It might not be an 'official' Mountain, coming in at just 220m, yet those of us who have scrambled up it after running 22 miles will have no trouble calling it one.

I signed up for the race in December and had hoped by the time August came around I would be running well, with lots of miles under my belt. Unfortunately early 2022 had not gone to plan fitness wise and I turned up having not managed any real long running since February. On the plus side I was injury free and had a made a bit of progress in the previous couple of months. The only goal I set myself was to make it around.


The plan was to break the race down in my head and run from checkpoint to checkpoint, I tried to trick myself into seeing the first 5 mile section as the warm up, and that seemed to work pretty well. I avoided getting carried away by all the excitement at the start and behaved myself when it came to pace. It wasn’t blisteringly hot but the clear skies meant we’d have the full force of the August sunshine to contend with, thankfully the early part of the race offered a lot of shade as we passed through Penrhos Coastal Park and then the Woodland near Bodior.

Silver Bay was a glorious sight as we made our way across the beach to the second checkpoint. At 10 miles in I was feeling surprisingly good, and it was around this point I started to run with a bit more intent. The terrain was what I like best, undulating with plenty of runnable downhill sections, I was also getting a boost from moving up through the field.


It was the next part of the race I was most looking forward to as it took in the stretch from Rhoscolyn to Treaddur Bay, which is where my family spent most of our holidays when I was a kid. I was surprised at how good I still felt, I knew I might be getting a little carried away pace wise but was happy to enjoy it while it lasted. Running along the busy beachfront at Treaddur Bay was a highlight and the Lifeboat Station there was our next checkpoint. One of the volunteers warned that we should enjoy the next short section as from there on the race gets much tougher, they were right.

There was another nostalgic moment for me as we ran along Lon Isallt passing the grand but spooky looking house that sits on the headland there. The next stop was the water station at Porth Dafarch, just around the corner from where I was staying. I felt it was a good sign that, 17 miles deep into the race, I wasn’t at all tempted to call it a day and slip off back to the hotel.

Spooky house

The run up to South Stack was where it began to get tough, but I was still enjoying the undulating coastal paths and was steadily making my way through the field. At this stage Holyhead Mountain looms menacingly, a big craggy lump standing between you and the finish. The run uphill on South Stack Road was a tough climb in itself, never mind at 21 miles in, but I took a lot of heart from the fact that I was still running. However, the first cracks were starting to show. With the field stretched out I had to rely more on my sense of direction, which is not one of my strong suits, and I was struggling to spot the way markers. I ended up going slightly wrong on a few occasions, which probably didn’t add too much distance, but it did lead to a little frustration, a sign that the miles were catching up with me.

The final water station at South Stack precedes the near vertical climb up the Mountain, even if I’d not already been running for three and a half hours I think my little legs would struggle to get up the rocky steps to the summit. Surely it’s all downhill from here? It looked promising as we scurried over towards North Stack, and it felt like my legs had just a bit of running left in them. Unfortunately, as we descended and rounded the corner on the northern tip of the Island, the path began to climb steeply once more, taking us half the way back up the mountain. That sight finally broke my spirit and my final two miles were pretty much a slow stroll through Breakwater Park, aside from the token sprint to the finish at the Lifeboat Station.

Even though I succumbed to my lack of training in the few final miles I was still really pleased with how it all went. I don’t want to pat myself on the back too much for a race I finished at walking pace, but I exceeded my own expectations. Maybe one day I will get the chance to run this race with some good training behind me, and it’s fun to think what the best tactics might be. Do you go out hard and make the most of the relatively flat first half of the course? Or would you benefit more from a steady start and saving a bit for the more technical sections after Porth Dafarch? The Mountain is always going to be a matter of gritting your teeth and pushing through, but first-hand knowledge of final two miles is definitely an advantage.

The finish

There was a great atmosphere at the race HQ and the enthusiasm of the organisers and volunteers was apparent. Those manning the checkpoints and water stations gave us plenty of support and encouragement, as well as keeping us topped up with fruit and water. For a small event they do a fantastic job keeping on top of things over the whole course/Island. They also deserve credit for their efforts to minimise the environmental impact, cutting out single use plastics this year. Another great touch is the small driftwood trophy each runner receives along with the customary finishers t-shirt.

The Cybi Coastal Marathon definitely goes down as one of my favourite running experiences and hopefully I’ll be lucky enough to run this beautiful and challenging course again next year.

Finishers T-shirt

— Joseph Hayes