In a world of tough runs, the Dragon’s Back Race in Wales is one of the most feared and revered. Over 5 days competitors push themselves to complete the 300km track along the spine of Welsh mountain ranges. With over 16000 metres of ascent to conquer, this race is not for the faint of heart.
Starting at Conway Castle in the north, runners must clear 49km on their first day (at that’s the short leg!). Each day of racing usually takes between 8-16 hours, depending on the condition of the runner. The racers must commit to facing up to 68km at a stretch. The views are spectacular, making the old rule of ‘eye’s up’ doubly beneficial. High above the cloud line, the days are warm but the nights are freezing.
Competitors need to be able to navigate and are responsible for carrying their own supplies. Water is harvested by runners from fresh streams that break up the course. The Dragon’s Back Race is a hellish combination of rogaining, trail running, mountain climbing and ultra distance running. There are support teams along the way, so competitors are not completely on their own. Tent accommodations are set up by volunteers at the end of each day. Medics are available at the camps to treat common racing injuries – usually dehydration, blisters, and exhaustion. There are even volunteers who offer massages and rub downs to tired racers, keeping them functional enough to take the next day’s punishing route.
The Dragon’s Back Race offers spectacular views along with it’s wild and harsh terrain. Sometimes it’s less a running race and more a scramble, tackling steep inclines and rocky cliffs. The scenery changes often, and runners make their way from the far north of Wales all the way to the south and the finish line.
Finishing at Carreg Cennen Castle is a true badge of honour for those who complete the race. A celebratory dinner is held at the castle, and is well earned by those who finish.
Competitors take training for the race very seriously. Hiking over rough terrain with pack and navigating with a compass are common strategies, even before speed and endurance are considered. Correct fuel, mental strength and acclimatisation to the weather are all factors in determining who gets to cross the finish line.
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