We’re excited to see Wales host its first ultra-trail running race – The Ultra-Trail Snowdonia – on the 12th and 13th May, in the heart of the Welsh mountains. Thanks to Michael Jones, the ambitious Race Director, there will be two distances to choose from; a 50 or 100 mile route. Each is packed with beautiful trails, lakeside paths and rugged mountain views, as well as of plenty hot food and cheers along the way!

We chat to Michael about his route into running and the upcoming Ultra-Trail Snowdonia event.

ultra-trail snowdonia running race
Photo: John Shedwick

1. Can you tell us about yourself and how you got into long distance running?

I’m 29, live in Chester, UK and am an online coach, freelance product designer and Ultra-Trail Snowdonia Race Director. I’m supported by Salomon and Live on the Edge! I got into fell running when I moved to the Lake District in 2012 and quickly began training for the Bob Graham Round (a 24hour Lakeland challenge taking in 42 peaks and some 66 miles and 8500M climb!). It was during training for this that I reignited my passion for being in the mountains, which lay dormant during my university years. Prior to studying Product Design at Leeds University I’d been an avid mountain bike racer, a sport I still enjoy! I realised that the longer the training run or event, the more I enjoyed it and combining that with the competitive element of ultra-racing, things soon snowballed!…

2. You are the man behind the new Ultra-Trail Snowdonia race in Wales – what made you choose this location and what inspired the event?

I grew up in nearby Chester and have spent many a happy day training on the mountains of Snowdonia. It was when I moved back to Chester in 2015 that I realized there was a lot of potential in this area of the country to host an alpine-scale ultra event that could compete with the grandeur of the famous events abroad. My goal was to host an event in the UK with over 10,000M climbing, which I have achieved. Fingers crossed everything comes together on the event weekend!

3. What advice would you give to runners taking on their first ultra running race?

Be realistic with your goals, accept that getting good at any sport takes at least 5 years of consistent training but all the while ENJOY IT! Enjoy the process of learning and improving, figuring out your strengths and weaknesses and always remind yourself why you started, it should never feel like a chore to go out and train! Be self-critical but not hard on yourself and make friends and see new places along the way!

ultra-trail snowdonia race
Photo: John Shedwick

4. For people keen to get into ultra running, what advice would you offer them?

There’s a wealth of great YouTube channels, Facebook groups and books on training etc. so get stuck in and enter a trail marathon first. From there you can look to entering your first 50km, then 50 mile then who knows, but above all be patient! You can’t go from couch to 5km to 100 miler in 6 months! Give it time and build a sound relationship with your body, so you know when to push and when to ease back and hit the foam roller!

5. What’s your post-run recovery routine?

After finishing a tough long session, I’ll neck a TORQ recovery shake within 15 minutes, then jump in the shower, always ending with a couple of minutes with the temperature as cold as I can manage. Then an hour later I’ll make a nice smoothie with all sorts in (my five a day in two pints!), before thinking about a solid meal, usually veggie stir fry or curry, anything easy to make and nutritious!

I then do my body maintenance routine which involves 10 minutes on my inversion table to decompress my spine and hips before a good 15 minutes of all-body foam rolling, paying particular attention to any sore spots, before doing 10 minutes of light yoga to ease off any tightness (usually sun salutations and pigeon pose) and loosen off my posterior chain. 

Getting a good night sleep is crucial to recovery too, so I always aim to get at least 9 hours, though this is difficult for most!

Michael putting the HYPERICE VYPER 2.0 and new RelaxRoll to work!

6. You won’t be running the race yourself, so what’s on your own race calendar for the year?

My main goals for the year are the Yorkshire 3 Peaks race, Zegama-Aizkorri: a mountainous marathon in the Basque country in late May, the Mont Blanc 90km at the end of June (my favourite race course with over 6000M climbing!), then a good build up to my main target of the year: Top-10 at UTMB (Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc, 105 miles and 10,000M climb around the Mont Blanc massif, undoubtedly the most competitive and prestigious Ultra in the world).

7. Who inspires you to keep running?

To be honest the people who inspire me aren’t often other runners. I draw inspiration and motivation from lots of people I meet and am humbled by those at the back of the race, who are out on the courses for almost double the length of time that I am! The beauty and scale of the natural mountainous environments I pass through while racing can be a real source of strength when I’m racing too. My late mother is also a constant source of inspiration: A life-long sufferer of severe arthritis, I probably get my determination and ability to suffer from her, as well as sense of adventure and appreciation of the great outdoors.

Photo: John Shedwick

Keen to enter next year? Find out more about the UTS here.

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