Around 1,300 off-road riders converged on Builth Wells in Mid-Wales last weekend to enjoy the first Merida Marathon of the 2008 series. An event village welcomed visitors with an eclectic mix of exhibition and trade stands and at around 5pm on the Saturday, the ‘warm up’ mountain bike chariot race event kicked off procedings with a gripping first run.
The Exposure Lights Big Night Out night race then continued the action at 7.45pm with almost 300 riders (the biggest field since the event was introduced) making their way onto the hills surrounding Builth Wells. The conditions on the course were dry and fast and after only one hour and thirty nine minutes the first rider came over the line, picking up the traditional Night Marathon Buff.
The lights in the marquee went out at 2am which unfortunately turned on the rain. Short, heavy bursts turned the course as well as the camping field into a rather muddy affair, but the conditions seemed to have no effect on the number of riders lining up on Sunday morning.
With the slightly later start time of 10.30am (to give all the night riders who wanted a second ride more recovery time) almost one thousand riders were up for tacking one of the three courses on offer. This year the most popular distance was the 65km-ish ‘middle marathon’ which took the riders out towards last year’s new addition to the course – the singletrack sections around Llaneglwys Forest. The weather made the riders work extra hard and extended most riding times by an hour or more.