Where Legends Tread
This film is the story of 6 ultra marathon runners who come to Snowdonia to take part in the gruelling Eryri 50 race. Whilst each has been drawn to the challenge by the stunning beauty of the landscape and the infamously demanding terrain that the race takes place across, their reasons for pushing their bodies to the limits within this environment go deeper. For some it’s about escapism, for others it’s about proving themselves; but for almost all, it’s the allure of achieving something extraordinary in an equally extraordinary setting. Snowdonia is their inspiration, their motivation and their fiercest competitor.
As we follow them across the course – which they must navigate themselves – their stories will unfold alongside 6 stories that live within the historic landscape they’re running through.
This is the story of a select few bidding to carve out their own legend, in a landscape that’s littered with them.
“Finding out a bit about yourself is the real goal.”
– Henry Williams, Eryri 50 race creator
A Legendary Setting
Snowdonia is a land that is rich with myths and legends. It is a land of fairies, dragons, river monsters, giants and kings. Every village, every stream, every mountain, has a tale attached to it. Mount Snowdon itself is the mythical tomb of a giant called Rhita Gawr who was slain by King Arthur, who himself is said to buried in Snowdonia after he was ambushed in his final battle in Bwlch Y Saethau (or Pass of the Arrows).
There are stories of lake monsters, of fairies, of two princes who fled to the new world in as early as the 12th century, of a bridge that was built by the devil after being tricked by a magician and many more. We found so many stories attached to the route of the race – we couldn’t possibly tell them all.
Louise Phillips (& Ginny Lawson)
Fear got Louise to the start line; a new-found friendship with Ginny on the way around drove her to the finish.
The bigger and grander the stage the more enticing the challenge for this Snowdonia loving Scot.
Ceri Norton & Dad – Dermot Norton
Most runners plan and train for months before taking part in a race like this. Local girl Ceri gave herself a week, deciding to join her dad and enter just 7 days before the race.
Running gives Mike the headspace he needs away from a stressful job and busy family life. He started 4 years ago vowing never to run further than 10km.
Few turn up to run this race alone: most choose to run in twos or more. Becki however has her own goal in mind and courageously sets about it, ‘solo’.
Robert Jones & Dylan Webber
Both from Betws-y-Coed, Robert and Dylan know this landscape better than most. They’ve grown up surrounded by it. If ever there was a race made for them, then this is it.
Legends have been passed down from generation to generation here, and there’s none more fitting to tell these tales than the local people of Snowdonia themselves.
Throughout the film, we will intersperse the race and the runners with ‘locals’ who will tell one of 6 of Snowdonia’s greatest legends that originate from different towns and locations on the course.
Born in Bethesda – one of the checkpoints on the Eryri 50 course – John Ogwen is someone who understands the landscape, history and stories of Snowdonia better than most. A BAFTA Cymru Special Award winner, John has starred in, and championed many prominent Welsh language productions over the years.
His love of Snowdonia combined with the rich, compelling tone of his delivery make him the ideal narrator for our story.
The Legends of Snowdonia
Our 6 legends line the Eryri 50 course: recounted by the locals who know the stories best, they tell of the Landscape’s deeper power and of the inspiring accomplishments of those who have, over the years, called this area home.
The Welsh name – Yr Wyddfa – means “the tumulus”, which may refer to the cairn thrown over the legendary giant Rhitta Gawr after his defeat by King Arthur. In Welsh folklore, the summit of Snowdon is said to be the tomb of Rhitta Gawr, a giant who, legend has it, wore a cloak made of the beards of the kings he’d slain. He was killed by King Arthur after claiming Arthur’s beard.
Dolweddelan castle is the birthplace of Prince Madoc, son of Owain Gwynedd, one of the greatest and most important rulers in the country. In 1170 Owain died and a violent dispute arose between his 13 children regarding the succession. Madoc and his brother Rhirid were so upset and angered they decided to take a ship from Rhos on Sea and sail westwards to see what they could find. What Prince Madoc found, so the legend runs, was America.
After arriving in the New World, his sailors inter-married with a local Native American tribe, and for years the rumour of Welsh-speaking Native American tribes was widely believed.
Pont Aberglaslyn has a bridge that, legend has it, was built by the Devil on the understanding that he would receive the soul of the first living creature to cross it. When the bridge was finished he went to the local inn (Y Delyn Aur) to inform the magician Robin Ddu that it was ready. Robin went to inspect the new bridge with a dog he lured from the pub with a fresh baked loaf of bread.
Upon seeing the bridge Robin said that he thought it might not even take the weight of the loaf he was carrying. The Devil demanded that the magician throw his loaf onto the bridge to prove that it was indeed strong enough. So Robin threw the loaf onto the bridge and the dog chased it across, thus cheating the Devil of a human soul. Robin Ddu then returned to the pub to finish his drinking.
In the 13th century Llewelyn, prince of North Wales, had a palace at Beddgelert. One day he went hunting without Gelert, his ‘Faithful Hound’. On Llewelyn’s return the dog, stained and smeared with blood, joyfully sprang to meet his master. The prince alarmed hastened to find his son, and saw the infant’s cot empty, the bedclothes and floor covered with blood.
He plunged his sword into the hound’s side, thinking it had killed his heir. The dog’s dying yell was answered by a child’s cry. Llewelyn searched and discovered his boy unharmed, but nearby lay the body of a mighty wolf which Gelert had slain. The prince filled with remorse is said never to have smiled again. He buried Gelert here.
Llanberis was the home of the legendary strong woman Marged Ferch Ifan a Welsh harpist and wrestler, who was the subject of songs and tales that describe her claimed abilities. She was said to row large loads across the Snowdonian waters of Llyn Padarn and Llyn Peris and Thomas Pennant and others described her as “Queen of the Lakes”.
Located near Beddgelert is Dinas Emrys, the lofty mountain home of the Welsh red dragon. In the fifth century the Celtic King Vortigern chose the area as the site for his castle. Every day his men would work hard erecting the first of several proposed towers; but the next morning they would return to find the masonry collapsed in a heap. Vortigern was advised to seek the help of a young boy who turned out to be Merlin.
For as long as the imperious Mount Snowdon has stood, legends have been carved out in its shadow. From the high mountain passes to the lakes and forests of Snowdonia, tales and characters have emerged that intrigue, inspire and mystify. This is a land where legends are made. A land with a deeper power that calls to others, challenging them to discover its irresistible magic, and in doing so, discover something about themselves.