Now into its third year, the Team New Balance Running Summit 2017 ventured across the border to North Wales and the beautiful location of Snowdonia National Park. The summit is a perfect chance for New Balance athletes from all over Europe to celebrate the successes of the past year and relax after a long track season before the hard graft of winter training begins.
With the Summit growing each year, the athletes were joined this time by members of the New Balance staff and representatives of several pan-European retailers. The mix of athletes, NB staff and retailers made for an ideal opportunity to meet and socialise with a varied and eclectic group of people outside the stresses of international competition. As I have only been with Steve for a year, this was also my first Running Summit, and after hearing so many stories about last year’s event, I was keen to see what all the fuss was about.
The weekend began at the New Balance UK offices in glamorous Warrington. Here the athletes congregated for talks on the marketing side of things, social media aspects of elite athletics, and most exciting of all for the running geeks – a look at some of the future New Balance product ranges. These sort of meetings are a fantastic opportunity for athletes to meet with NB staff and provide feedback on how we use different footwear and apparel, what works, what could change, and what we can look forward to racing in next year. The majority of NB Manchester had a Friday morning session so we had to sneak in half way through, pretend we knew what was going on, and then promptly help ourselves to the free lunch.
After the presentations, the minibuses were filled and the group drove the short two hours or so out to North Wales; arriving to spectacular views at the Bryn Gwynant Youth Hostel in the shadow of Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales. Those back training after a summer break dropped off their bags and headed out the door for a run along the valley to Beddgelert before returning to a roaring fire the rest of the group had set about building looking out onto the Llyn Gwynant lake.
One of the major advantages to being ‘out in the sticks’ is the lack of phone reception or Wifi. There is a lot to be said for a ‘digital detox’. The sight of people from several different Nations sat around a camp fire enjoying the clear night sky without a single smart phone insight is rather refreshing. After a good feed, the rest of the evening was spent quietly celebrating the track season gone by before turning in for the night.
Saturday started bright and early with everyone raring to go fully revitalized from an early night. After the success of the Via Ferrata of last year, this year’s activities had a lot to live up to. The group split into two, half setting off to climbing and abseiling looking out onto the spectacular views out across Barmouth and the other half to some refreshingly cool waters near Llanbedr for a couple of hours of canyoning.
If anyone hasn’t come across canyoning before, it is essentially white water rafting without a raft. And is bloody amazing. Wet-suited up, you descend through a gorge by jumping off cliffs, sliding down rapids, and scampering up water falls. After five minutes or so you couldn’t care about the cold water and simply just get stuck in and cracked on with jumping and back-flipping off progressively higher ledges.
After lunch the teams switched activities before reconvening back at the youth hostel for a slump by the fire or an easy hour run from Beddgelert. The Saturday night’s ‘Italian’ food proving particularly popular after the exertions of the day.
Every year the Summit has been blessed with fantastic weather, and luckily this time proved no different. Despite being only 15 minutes from the one of the wettest village in the UK (Capel Curig), the group woke up to clear blue skies. The Sunday long run wasn’t simply just the early season cross country guys but also many of the staff and even some of the keen sprinters decided that the views of Snowdonia were best appreciated along one of the many pristine running trials. This despite the fact there wasn’t a single bit of flat running to be seen! As seems customary with the Summit, the post long run brunch lead to us taking over a small Welsh village café and ordering as many ‘Full Welsh’ as they could serve. Despite only one Welsh speaker amongst our group, the locals seemed to enjoy the novelty of a large group of multi-national athletes descending on their quiet corner of Wales.
Those that hadn’t braved the two hours in the Welsh hills, and even a few that had, set off on a hike up to the summit of this year’s Summit, Snowdon (the tallest mountain in Wales for those less learned in UK geography). Under strict orders from Steve and with a hilly two hours in my legs I can’t give too much insight into the trek up Snowdon as I spent the majority of Sunday afternoon either collecting firewood or with my feet up by said fire.
Unfortunately, the weekend had to come an end eventually. The Monday saw those less bleary eyed from the past two days’ head out for an easy run while others started to pack their bags for the journey home. The rest of the morning was spent stood around the entrance to the hostel sharing stories of the past few days with no one showing any inclination to leave despite the quickly approaching flight times for the European visitors. I suppose this epitomised the Summit – regardless of background, and be it runner or retailer, conversations were flowing freely and insights shared, the whole weekend had a close family atmosphere to it, bubbling with positivity. New Balance is a brand that places running and people at the forefront of their business and it is these such events that embody the culture of the company.
A few acknowledgements to those that made such a fantastic weekend possible.
- Bryn Gwynant Youth Hostel. Stunning location we had booked out to ourselves with nearly every bed filled.
- Glen from Made Catering for three nights of fantastic food. The variety and choice was incredible and it was impossible to be hungry after such an impressive spread each evening.
- Snowdon Adventure Activities for organising the climbing and canyoning. Not the easiest to marshal 60 odd athletes through a fast flowing gorge and up a cliff face.
- Dan Vernon for the photography and videos. Never have I seen someone work so tirelessly yet still manage to fit in a cheeky open water swim between photo shoots.
- The New Balance team. Far too many to thank for making this weekend happen but particular appreciation to Pete, Steve, Nick, Rhi, and the rest of the New Balance staff.
This year will be hard to beat.
By Andrew Heyes