Reporting by Rob Howard / www.SleepMonsters.com
Morning in camp was the usual hustle and bustle in the chilly morning air but there were no views out onto the hills until the early morning mist had burnt off. The camp at the sheep barn had a good spirit overnight, and later arrivals were cheered in, wrapped up and found tent spaces by their fellow competitors. After his emergency run to get more supplies the race medic said he’d had a quiet night.
“It seemed the runners had looked after themselves better and were looking after each other better too,” he said, “The camp being enclosed in the barn seemed to bring everyone together a bit more last night.”
The early morning chill had one significant effect on the day’s events. Steve Birkinshaw and Rob Baker had seemed a bit undecided about whether they were running together or racing each other, and in the end Steve Birkinshaw was packed and ready to go and too cold to wait, so he set off first. “I wasn’t going to set off ahead of Steve,” said Baker, “but it wasn’t a calculated master plan to leave after him either. Having said that we both thought that it’s a solo event and in the spirit of competition the winner should run it on their own. I’d wanted to run some on my own as well, so I think we were both happy. ”
Something else that made most runners happy was a shortened route for day 4. Checkpoints 6 and 7 on the day (the summits of Gorllwyn and Drygarn Fawr) were taken out of the route removing some of the climb and the most difficult terrain on the day. “It’s a pity,” said Shane Ohly, “but everyone is so beaten up and we do want to get as many of them as we can to the finish, so it’s the practical choice.” To help define the new route a new checkpoint was put in at a public phone box.
On a day when there was already more road running than any other day, including a 10 mile run into camp along tarmac, this did add more road running however. Another bonus on the day was that the support point was at half way (rather than the two-thirds distance of yesterday).
The early part of the day took runners over a series of low hills and a ‘super group’ of around a dozen racers formed to run together. There was a much stronger, cooler breeze today and it was not quite so hot, but the skies were clear and views were stunning. The racers could not have had better weather to see Wales at its best, and in the course of 5 days they are seeing more than many visitors do in weeks or years.
The second half of the day took them past a series of reservoirs , starting from the support point in Elan Village. This was any quiet spot away from the busy visitor centre and I caught up with an ailing Joe Faulkner here. “I’ve had a poor morning,” he said, “I couldn’t find a trod to save my life and every decision seems to have been the wrong one. I have no rhythm at all.“ Then he added, “I’m moaning aren’t I? Give me a good slap and tell me to get on and sort myself out!” Later I saw him finish the day, so has only the shorter final day to survive to become a 2 times Dragon’s Back finisher – a motivation which has surely kept him going today.
From Elan most runners opted to take the roads around the Caban-Coch reservoir, and then came a long cross country route to get to the Llyn Brianne Reservoir. As they arrived at the reservoir the map marked a mandatory route into camp –the 10 mile road run many had dreaded. It’s a beautiful tourist drive ... but the tarmac was hard on the runners weary legs, especially running on it in fell shoes. (The original race was supported so runner could be met and swap shoes if they wanted.)
Rob Baker had been suffering on the long final leg and comparing notes to Steve Birkinshaw later found he’d lost 50 minutes on this stage. As the stronger road runner he’d been hoping to maybe eat into Birkinshaw’s lead today, but it wasn’t to be. “I think we may have pushed each other harder by not running together,” he said, “but I was beasted today, there is no doubt about it. I think today was where my lack of preparation and experience started to show and I lost it a bit mentally as well. Having said that it was great to run alone and the scenery was stunning.”
The camp for tonight was in a remote spot again, but this time in hollow by a river. The plus point was the river to wash and cool down in, the negative was that the midges were out and biting. Runners continued to come in as darkness drew in and the big open mess tent was set beside the taped run-in so everyone was gathered to cheer in the finishers.
Some results are now on www.sportident.co.uk (not quite complete), but the outcome of today is that Steve Birkinshaw has a huge overall lead now – nearly 2 hours. Rob Baker has a similar lead over 3rd place, but then there are a group of runners with 5 of them within an hour of each other. Patrick Devine Wright is third by just 8 minutes from Helene Whitaker. She is unhappy about others running with her, who may not be such confident navigators, but recognises that running as a group has its advantages. She might prefer if it cloudy and misty tomorrow ... but that’s not the forecast.
It should be another fine day for the final run into Carreg Cennen Castle.
Photo galleries can be seen at http://www.sleepmonsters.com/racereport.php?page_action=gal&race_id=9939