The Darth Mannion has welcomed over 1,000 runners since the inaugural event seven years ago. In that time, it has doubled in length and snowballed in size. It has taken place in baking sunshine, the freezing cold, gale force winds and horizontal rain. In 2013 it even included an ill-fated 400m swim where some members had to be dragged to safety on the nearby rocks.
Of the 1,000+ runners that have taken part, there are just four that have completed every single Darth Mannion – see photo from DM I below. We’ve asked each of them to recall their favourite memory, the thing they least look forward to, and one piece of advice they have for a newcomer.
Owen McNamara: Mortal Regulator
Favourite Memories: The year I managed to come 3rd (Editor: We think it was 5th) destroying Darth in the process. I also laugh at the time Chris Coles got made ‘Runner Welfare Officer’ and was the only participant (out of 400) to get an injury
Thing you least look forward to: Definitely the first sea dip. It’s a massive shock to the system and you never get used to it!
Advice for a newcomer: Stick around after the race. The run is only part of the day – having a drink with the runners is far more fun.
Darth Mannion: Mud Trooper
Favourite Memories: The Schnapps Stops at Pennard Playing Fields. All runners had to have a shot before progressing. This element was pulled by health and safety but I’ve been lobbying for it to return. I also enjoyed Wales beating England at Twickenham with the Gough family in attendance. (Editor: Darth also enjoys rifling through lost property to add to his stash. If you ever see him walking around Bishopston in ill-fitting gender neutral clothes that look like yours, they probably are yours)
Thing you least look forward to: Sleeping in the marquee the night before to make sure nothing gets nicked. Last year we couldn’t work out how to turn the lights off, so had to sleep through bright light in the freezing cold. Great prep! (Editor: Spare a thought for Ian Joslin who had to share the tent with him)
Advice for a newcomer: Get the run done and enjoy the beer. It’s a full day event.
Jon Young: Indefatigable
Favourite Memories: The first Darth Mannion. It was a stunning day. About half way round (5k in those days) I remember being overcome by the beauty of the Gower coastline – sunshine glistening off the sea, waves lapping against the cliffs. I felt truly alive! Winning King of the Hills was also a high point, even if Chris Coles honourably stepped aside on the final hill.
Thing you least look forward to: Like Owen, it has to be the sea dips. That shock to the system as you hit the water…I’ll never get used to it! It’s a huge relief to still be alive when the final one is done (for a year).
Advice for a newcomer: Unless you have a chance of winning, shelve your competitive instincts and try to enjoy it. Take in the beauty of the area, help out fellow runners, thank the locals and bask in your achievement. It’s a truly unique experience – savour it.
Favourite Memories: Watching Al The Cat and The Warrens sprint finish to avoid coming last in Darth Mannion III. Also, the joy of seeing it all come together after months of tireless planning.
Thing you least look forward to: Darth’s speeches after he’s had 8+ pints. Sometimes he just stands there with the microphone, continuously saying “Everyone…!” Chris Coles’ safety briefing.
Advice for a newcomer: Wear appropriate clothing and shoes. Carry water and nutrition. Listen to Chris Coles. Avoid Darth after 8+ pints.
This year the four stalwarts will be reduced to three. RAF man David Carey has been stationed in Africa and cannot make the event. So we’d like to finish this article to pay tribute to David aka our Chief of Staff. His tireless energy, constant cajoling, forthright leadership and brilliant organisational skills have been instrumental in growing the event, and making it an efficient success. He will be greatly missed on the run and in the marquee after. On behalf of everyone David, diolch, and see you next year!