The Berghaus Dragon's Back race kicks off on Monday 22nd June for only the third time ever. A gruelling multi-day run down the upland spine of Wales from Conwy in the north to Carreg Cennen Castle in the south, it is probably one of the toughest mountain races in the world. Favourite this year is Jez Bragg, 'fresh' from setting a new Ramsay Round record just last week (see UKH news here).
The original Dragon’s Back Race in September 1992 entered running folklore for its extreme difficultly and surprise female joint winner Helene Whitaker. The event was revived for a second time only in 2012 (see race report on UKH here). Amazingly Helene finished fourth, while the overall winner was Steve Birkinshaw.
This year will see a strong field of 140 runners from the UK and across the world take on the five-day route - around 300km of rough mountain terrain with roughly 16,000m ascent. Out of 82 starters in 2012 only 32 made it to the end:
'It will be interesting to see how many manage to climb the iconic steps into Carreg Cennen Castle on the fifth day' says race director Shane Ohly.
The public will be able to follow the race live with GPS tracking of competitors and a leaderboard of their positions as they pass through each checkpoint. And Slackjaw Productions will be filming it all, and publishing 90-second videos on the event website each day.
The standout competitor in the men’s race is Jez Bragg, a UTMB winner, Fellsman and Te Araroa Trail record holder whose ultra running pedigree attracts attention whenever he races.
But Shane Ohly says he does not think for a moment that a Bragg win is a foregone conclusion:
'It is a five day race over rough terrain and anything can happen. Jez also completed a record breaking Ramsay Round the weekend before, which is an interesting approach to preparing for such an arduous event as the Berghaus Dragon’s Back Race.'
'There is a strong field of both male and female runners and while I do have an opinion on who I think will win, I keep that to myself for now!'
Competing alongside Bragg are several top mountain ultra runners including Ed Catmuir, Berghaus-sponsored athlete Charlie Sharp and Swedish runner André Jonsson.
'It’s easy to dwell on the men’s race' says Ohly, 'but I actually think that the women’s field is more interesting with a pack of extremely talented runners. I believe that any one of these has the ability to feature at the front end of the overall race.'
'Jasmin Paris, Lizzie Wraith, Beth Pascall, Carol Morgan and Joanna Zakrzewski stand out.'
Title sponsor Berghaus will be fielding a team too, made up largely of actual company employees running in relay:
'Impressively, staff members Ivan Muckle, Angela Foster, Luke O’Connor and Dan Smith will be completing a day each of the race in a relay, with Berghaus athlete, and 2012 winner, Steve Birkinshaw leading them on Day 1' says Ohly.
- For more info see the race website