I was staying with my Uncle and Auntie in Bancyfelin. Where? About 5 miles from Carmarthen in South west Wales. I spent a lot of my school holidays in Carmarthen as a kid and I still loved it as an adult but most of the time was spent in the pubs with my dad to be honest. I managed a hungover parkrun at Llyn Llech Owain country park near Crosshands in Gorslas but that was it all weekend. By the time Monday came I was keen to go for a run.
With some help from my Auntie Christine, a 5 mile route was mapped out. It was flawless, only an idiot could get lost. I was to run and do a loop of a place near where my Dad grew up on a farm. This place is called Llangynog.
I decided to take my rucksack with a spare t-shirt, some gloves, my camera and phone just in case I got lost. I had studied the route a few times and then without breakfast, I avidly headed out the door in minus 2 conditions wearing shorts and a t-shirt.
I ran down the driveway and jumped over a few patches of visible ice and then left onto the main road towards Carmarthen along the A40. No pavements, just road but no traffic either, so all was good. My Garmin was going a bit weird. I thought it might be set in kilometres but it wasn't and later when I checked the splits, it stated that I had run my first mile in 4 minutes and 47 seconds. Not a bad start!
I took the first turning right and ran under a bridge and then my Auntie said it would climb. And did it climb! Have I gone the right way? Then the doubts are put aside when I see a sign for Llangnog. I'm quite high up now so I decided to stop and take a couple of pics. I was running pretty well with some nice sub 8's.
Okay, I had come to my righthand turn to take me back in Bancyfelin but I was enjoying this run too much. Just a couple more miles would be nice. Let's make it a 7 miler I thought. I ran straight on and into Llangynog. I passed a few houses, a phone box and an xmas tree and then came a downhill road. I now decided to head back and on the way back I took the first left as I noticed on the map earlier that there were 2 roads back into Bancyfelin but one was slightly longer. More miles for me :)
I was 5-6 miles in when I was greeted by a dog running towards me. I gave him/her a stroke on the head and off I ran. The dog followed and then decided to become a run leader. I had a pacer and a pretty fast one too. As it was downhill again, I decided to up my pace to try and keep up but I slipped on some ice. I tried my best to stay upright and I slipped again. This happened 4 times on the same sheet of ice as I tried to slow my pace going downhill. God knows how I didn't fall over!
So I followed this dog for over a mile now on this single-tracked country lane. It was obviously lost or missing. If I ever saw a house again I would knock the door and enquire about its owner.
I was now and truly lost even though there were no side-roads or any other lanes. I carried on and after about a mile and a half, the lane veered around to the right but there was a turn off to the left which i'm guessing probably just led to a farm or a house. The dog sat on the road to the left and as I ran on to the right, he/she looked at me and pined. I guess the dog lived there. We were both sad to be parting company I think but I had to keep warm and get back to civilisation.
Due to the slipping and sliding on my previous downhill, I was now walking the downhills just in case. I watched as 20-30 rooks flew around in the distance ahead of me and then came to a farm with a signpost. Llansteffen (left) St.Clears (right). Okay, so I was lost. I didn't have to think too hard though. I couldn't be bothered to run the 8 miles or so back so I would run to St.Clears. I must be nearly there, or so I thought. I knew Carmarthen was about 5 miles from Bancyfelin and that St.Clears was about 10 miles from Carmarthen. So was St.Clears 5 miles from Bancyfelin? Probably was on the A40 but not on these winding backroads. All the signposts will state a place and a direction but unlike England there are no distances stated most of the time. So you never knew how far away anywhere was on these backroads.
The sun was now shining but it was getting colder. I now decided to put my gloves on. I had to run in the middle of the road as there was a lot of ice on the cambers. My plan was to run to St.Clears and get a bus back to my Uncle and Auntie's place. Not long after that thought, I realised that I didn't even bring my wallet with me or any money. I was supposed to be back as my Dad said we were travelling back to Southampton at 11am. I tried to phone everyone I knew in Wales but had no signal. So I sent a text message to my cousin Selina in Penybont. It didn't send though. I kept on running, just like Forest Gump.
I came back onto the A40 where I ran on a cyclepath. I was getting some good speed downhill now as there was no sign of any ice. I passed some workmen in overalls who all looked at me like I was a bit mental in my shorts and T..lol. I didn't care, I could see more signs for St.Clears and could tell I was getting near as I approached a roundabout.
I turned left off the main road and followed a cyclepath. Was this the right way? There was a river to my left and some nice open fields around me. Ahead was a man walking 2 dogs. The plan was to catch up with him and ask him where I was exactly. As soon as I ran onto this path I slipped and went straight onto my back. That actually hurt quite a bit as the palms on my hands slapped the cold concrete. My hands were now warm but stinging. As I was led on the floor, I thought i'd better check my rucksack. Luckily my camera was in one piece and working fine. I had a bit of a laugh to myself but the dog walker was now out of sight and it was too slippery to run here. So, I had to walk on the frozen grass whilst holding on to a frozen fence.
I caught up with the dog walker eventually and we chatted. I asked where I was. He said that Laugharne was 4 miles to the left and St. Clears was to the right. 12 miles in and I wasn't even in St.Clears?
I took a photo of a church when the dog walker caught me up again and offered me some bus fare to get back. I declined the offer but was very touched by his generosity. I ran into the main part of St.Clears.
All the years I had been to Carmarthen, I had never been to St.Clears. I was expecting another town the size of Carmarthen with big shops and superstores but the truth was that it was half the size of Totton precinct. Funny how you can picture a place that you have never been to.
I still didn't have a signal on my phone! I tried time after time. I had been gone for hours. I bet my Dad was getting mad by now. I could have done with a drink of water. 14 miles in, I was getting thirsty. Despite the cold weather, I had been sweating quite a bit.
I saw a sign for Meidrim and thought that was the way to go back. I knew it was kind of close to Bancyfelin but how close I didn't know. I stopped a postman and asked for directions...
Me: Do you know the way to Bancyfelin from here?
Him: It's quite a long way.
Me: I've already ran 14 miles.
Him: Follow this road, go up a hill and then ahead onto an undulating road and then take a right after that.
Me: Cheers, have a good day.
I follow the directions. Station hill is quite impressive but by this time I was over taking photographs and just want to get back. I ran up it pretty strong too. This is the farthest I have run since July! I run along the wavy undulations and then stop to ask directions again as i'm not sure on the right turn and which one to take. The bloke with the leaf-blower isn't very clear. I run on past 2 right turns and then think it was probably the first left turn. I run back and take it. It leads me to a farm and a dead end. I have to run all the way back up the hill and back to where I was and take the other turn with a sign post saying "Gibeon". Never heard of it but let's go for it. Still no phone signal or internet, so no Google maps to save me here.
I run around lots of fields and farms. I'm on a country lane climbing in the middle of nowhere. I decide to start walking to conserve energy. I am now 16 miles into my run. I have no water or food. No money and no phone signal. I was dizzy and feeling a bit weird. Then... A panic attack hits me. I start to panic and think i'm going to die. My thirst for water becomes exaggerated and I think i'm going to collapse. The last time I had a panic attack this bad, I was drowning in Newquay bay when I got caught in a riptide. I was alone and it was the evening. Luckily that day I drifted in and was able to touch the sand with my feet again after a couple of minutes of treading water. I took a few deep breaths and tried to rationalise. I walked on..
Then I came to an unexpected crossroads. Bancyfelin was signposted. My spirits rose and I started running downhill in which I knew to be the right direction. I ran up a hill afterwards and then came face to face with a man in his tractor. The lane was only just wide enough for the tractor. So I had to run back down the hill until I could find a layby to stand in while the tractor passed by. I ran back up the hill and then I came to the A40 again. I must have missed a turn off but I didn't care now. I just wanted to get back and I knew the way... Straight down the dual carriageway with the speeding traffic. I really didn't care at all. I ran for 2 miles and then I was back in Bancyfelin, past the Fox and Hounds pub and at my Uncle and Auntie's place. I had done just over 20 miles.
I got back and my Auntie told me that there was a search party out looking for me. This consisted of my Dad in one car and my uncle Brian in another. She had to phone them both (no problem with their bloody phone signals!) and tell them I was back safe. I had a quick shower, a sandwich and a cup of tea and then I was sat in the car for 200 miles until we got home. What a great adventure, but a bit scary as times. I learnt a valuable lesson indeed. Next year I will take a map, some money, some food and water. Anyone keen? ;)