Situated on the western coast of the United Kingdom lies the small country of Wales. Now, why exactly did I go to Wales? After scanning the internet one bland evening, I stumbled upon a half marathon on a weekend I had free. Myself and my running partner, Chrissy Accardi, were on the hunt for yet another medal to complete the trifecta. So far we had ran a half marathon in Vienna and the Trail Running Festival in Salzburg. But we wanted more. As I was vaguely searching the races in Europe on the 23rd of November, I stumbled upon a race located in the British Isles. The race wasn’t in the “Would you like some chips with that, Mate?” section of Britain, but rather somewhere else. While we heard a lot of very stereotypical British conversation around the area, we also heard a lot of a different language that neither Chrissy or myself expected: Welsh. Our weekend in Wales was anhygoel a dweud y lleiaf (amazing to say the least).
It all started with a cheap flight with Ryanair. For 24 euros each way, we couldn’t pass it up. In Salzburg, I could hardly get a well-rounded meal at a restaurant for that price, let alone a flight out of the European Union. I was a little skeptical, but hey, it was a plane with wings that took off and landed not far from London. It all worked out. Upon landing, it seemed like non-stop travel – wheels down to Conwy, Wales.
We hopped on a train that luckily took us to the London City Center from Stansted Airport. Sometimes it seemed that the British English was more difficult to understand than the German we were accustomed to. But at that point, we were just in awe that we made it to one of the most well-known cities in the world. It took some trial and error but we found a way to London Euston to get our train to the Llandudno Junction, not far from where we were staying. At the station, we boarded the train to take us to Wales. The entire trip was filled with moments of us saying “Wow, are we actually here?” and “We are actually going to Wales,” moments. We arrived at Llandudno Junction to take a bus to the Llandudno Hostel where we would be saying. At times, the trip felt like it was as rushed as myself typing this paragraph before class, but believe me, it was a hectic journey. We left our dorms at 9:30am in Salzburg time and arrived at our hostel in Llandudno just before 9pm local time; over twelve hours of travel for less than 24 hours in a “country” we had rarely even heard of. Even the customs officer at the Stansted Airport said we were crazy.
As morning arose the next day, we dragged our restless bodies and eager minds out of bed and into the unknown, not knowing what to expect from the great country of Wales. The only thing we had envisioned the Conwy Half Marathon to entail was a set distance of 13.1 miles, and sometimes even that aspect can be shoddy. The race itself surprised us. While the course was full of hills, it was a small price to pay for the beautiful views and the wonders of cliffs of Llandudno and the Irish Sea. The wind was strong and the hills were large but the race was worth every pound. This perfect setting created an unforgettable story that I will tell for years. The Conwy Half Marathon is my favorite race to this date.
Wales was more than I could imagine. Going somewhere nearly unknown was shocking for me, but the genuine people of the British Isles made it worth my time. It seemed that around every corner was a friend waiting to be made. Whether it was the director of our hostel letting us cook pasta at 10pm or the British grandmothers of the train station in Llandudno cracking jokes at one another, the people of Wales treated us like we were part of their family, a family that included even the most confused of road-running tourists.
For most people from the United States, Wales is just an enormous sea mammal…incorrectly spelled. For myself, Wales is one of the most unforgettable and beautiful places in the world. Wales will always have a place in my heart for their road race and their welcoming attitude, ready to help me along my journey. This past weekend, while it wasn’t the most relaxing, we were definitely able to take the right way to Conwy.
Until next time, Wales.