The end of day 3 is always going to be a high point on the emotional roller-coaster for some, and a low point for others.
Speaking to some of the international racers tonight both were evident and it’s clear some of the visiting racers have still not quite come to terms with the Dragon’s Back, while others have embraced it.
Chris Lewis, a Welshman living in Japan, was sitting with the two lady racers from Hong Kong, and they have all found the navigation and the wildness of the terrain difficult to cope with. They are all taking different choices in what parts of the course they do and Kwan Ni Wlwin Leung had chosen to take today off.
“I hoped to be able to run the last 2 days,” she said, “but once you stop you stiffen up and I don’t know if I’ll go on.” Lewis had brought his Japanese wife to visit Wales for the first time and said, “It’s a fantastic route and I’ll complete the remaining half days to enjoy it, but I kind of expected a clearly defined trail to follow. Sometimes they just disappear or are not even there, which is frustrating.”
Enrico Bieri from Germany was at a very low point. “I missed the cut-off today,” he said, “I spent too long walking down hill because of bad shins and everything hurts so I don’t think I can go on. What is the point when you are in pain and out of the race.”
He was trying to figure out what to do next, as were many others. Today has seen the biggest drop out rate from the race with a further 19 racers now non-competitive or withdrawn from today’s 92 full course starters.
One racer continuing, despite not being ranked, is Czech racer Pavel Paloncy who fell on day one and had stitches put in a deep leg gash. He said he is feeling better today than yesterday and explained why he has made such an effort to continue despite his injury. “I thought about what to do,” he said, “and decided I had all the logistics and organisation in place and could still enjoy those days. You could be angry and quit, but then you would just be punishing yourself really. It’s the same with all adventure racing, things happen, some good, some bad and you just carry on.”
American racer John Dove knew what the race is all about as he finished it 3 years ago. For that race there were 4 racers from the US and there are 8 here this time. “We don’t have anything like this at home,” he said, “it’s really different. Today I was 2 hours quicker compared to last time. I didn’t make the same mistakes as last time, just different ones! The last race was in September so the extra daylight really helps too.”
He ran in with Gavin Woody today, another of the US runners who, like Dove, is still on the full course. “I didn’t really know what to expect,” he said, “as I don’t like to do a whole lot of research. I did look at the distances and wondered about them ... I often do 50 mile training runs and the distances seemed short, but it’s a whole lot gnarlier than I expected. You have to factor in the navigation, terrain and elevation so the distances are quite enough!
“The best thing of all is being with all the other runners and getting to know them, talking about other races we can do. I came to experience British running culture and everyone here is so positive and has a great sense of humour. It’s the people who make the race for me.”