Pictures by Kerry Roberts

MORE than 650 runners tied up their laces to compete in the 44th Snowdon Race on Saturday.

The international race on Wales’ tallest mountain is said to be one of the toughest endurance events in Europe, and that was reflected by the cohort of runners who had travelled from as far as the USA and Kenya to the starting line in Llanberis.

This year marked the first time the 15km route was integrated into the World Mountain Running Association World Cup series.

Talk of the weather is no pleasantry at this gruelling event and, while the rain had stopped by morning, the mountain remained wet and slippery.

Crowds of supporters witnessed about 450 men and women from countries including Wales, the USA, Japan, Kenya, France, Italy, England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland at the line up at 2pm.

When the starting horn sounded, the racers jostled for foot room as they set off on the 994 metre climb and, given the conditions, it was not surprising that every racer is required to have previous experience of mountain running.

Even the very best competitors aiming to beat the race record set by Kenny Stuart, from the Lake District, at 1:02:29 in 1985 would have their work cut out.

The runners ascended steadily from Llanberis towards Capel Curig, turning at the Royal Victoria Hotel and skipping over the cattle grid before joining the footpath to Snowdon.

They travailed the steepest section of the route, then alongside the railway line to the summit, where they were tracked by electronic timing mats. There was no time to admire the sweeping views, however, as they had to return back down the mountain, past the stragglers and on towards the finish line.

And it was the Scots that claimed the gold medal in the men's competition as Andy Douglas broke the finish line tape.

He was followed by Italian super twins Martin and Bernard Demattei in second and third place respectively. Italy has a strong history of success at the event, winning on countless occasions across the four decades.

In the women's race, Sarah McCormack of the Republic of Ireland claimed the scalp, followed by yet another Italian in the form of Elisa Sortini, and then Hatti Archer, from England.

Flying the flag for the hosts was Russell Bentley, from Blenau Ffestiniog, the first Welsh runner over the line.

The junior races started at 2.10pm and children from under 10 up to 17-years-old competed on routes such as 0.8 miles, 1.4m and 4m depending on age group.

The winners included Abbie Parkinson, from Pontrug, in the girls' under 16s race; Ollie Jones, from Maldwyn, in the boys' u16s; and Jody Cain, in the girls' u18s.

They could be names to remember for Snowdon Races in years to come.