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Dragon's Back Race is Back

© Dan Bailey

On the twentieth anniversary of an epic one-off Welsh hill race, an event that many believe to be the toughest foot race ever organised, committed fell runners will have the chance to recreate the experience. If that sounds like fun then leave a blank space in your diary for September 2012, and get training.

Cadair Idris from Rhinog Fach  © Dan Bailey
Cadair Idris from Rhinog Fach
© Dan Bailey

The original Dragon's Back Race covered nearly every mountain range in Wales in a single huge course. It happened just once in September 1992 and was famously won by Martin Stone and Helene Diamantides. Thanks to books like Richard Askwith's Feet In the Clouds, it has achieved almost legendary status in fell, mountain and ultra running circles.

Route planning  © Shane Ohly
Route planning
© Shane Ohly
Shane in action  © Shane Ohly
Shane in action
© Shane Ohly

We met up with race organiser Shane Ohly, a keen runner himself, at last week's OutDoor show in Friedrichshafen. 'The 2012 course will follow the original route very closely, starting at Conwy Castle in the north and tracing the mountainous spine of Wales southwards, over 5 days with approximately 220 miles and 50,000 feet of ascent, to finish at Carreg Cennen Castle. It's an incredible route' he explained.

Shane tells us that he has tweaked the route to take in as many worthwhile summits close to the course as possible, on the grounds that 'it would be a shame not to'. Hills visited include the Carneddau, Glyderau, Snowdon, Rhinogau, Cadiar Idris, Punlumon and the Black Mountain. He also intends to run the whole planned route in advance, unsupported, saying 'I wouldn't ask runners to try something I'd not done myself first'. That wasn't just the beer talking, Shane promises us.

Those wishing to take part next year will be fully supported throughout with tented accommodation, breakfast and evening meals provided, a daily resupply point and transportation of their overnight kit. On completion of this epic race, all the competitors and support crew will share a celebratory feast before return transport takes everyone back to Conwy in North Wales.

Perhaps it should go without saying - but we will anyway - that this is not an event for just anyone. All entries are vetted for suitability, and organisers expect every competitor to have sufficient fitness and mountain experience to safely complete all five days. Typical experience would include Ramsay/Bob Graham/Paddy Buckley Rounds, Mountain Marathons, ultra-running events, multi-day adventure races and multi-day stage races such as the TransAlps, TransRockies or Marathon Des Sables. Other relevant experience will be considered.

The event will use digital SPORTident timing; known as SI. At registration each competitor will be issued with their own SI Card, which must be 'punched' into the SI timing boxes at each checkpoint and at the finish. For those unfamiliar with this simple and reliable system, full instructions will be given.

'The SI system is an important safety feature of the event and when competitors 'download' their SI data at the end of each day, we will be able to ascertain who is safely off the hill' Shane explains on the event website.

For more info visit the Dragon's Back Race website

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