Day 4 of the Berghaus Dragon’s Back Race took the remaining runners through lower and fewer hills in central Wales today. There was still 64 km to cover but only 8 checkpoints and 2273m of climbing.
With the 3rd night’s camp moved to a lower location there was a steep and rough start to the day before passing through a section of forest overlooked by a row of wind turbines which hummed steadily in the breeze as the runners passed below them. Although the early stages between checkpoints were relatively short the runners were often taking different routes and by the end there were stories of very divergent route choices and extra distances covered ... but then there have been every day!
The support stop today was in the picturesque Elan valley, at the roadside in the small village below the dam of the Caban-Coch reservoir. After that there were long legs into CP8 and then onto the finish which was below the Brianne Reservoir. This area of Wales has a massive water catchment and many big reservoirs and is the source of drinking water for several cities in Wales and in England.
The day had begun with murky and dull conditions, but had brightened and warmed up by the time runners reached the support point and set off via the summit of Drygarn Fawr for the camp. Coming off that final peak there plenty of route choices, all leading to a 10km road run into the finish (or even longer depending on the route choice). In a mountain race like this it’s an iconic part of the course – a tarmac torture for sore feet and aching legs.
Some even took the longer way around and extended this road run by a further 12km with more climbing. Two of these were Swedish pair Kerstin Rosenqvist and Niklas Holmstrom, who finished the day in 13th and 14th places overall. “We took the wrong turn and the long way around,” Kerstin said, “and had a big climb up a 25% road they now tell me is called the ‘stairway to heaven’! Still we made it OK, though Niklas is feeling sick now so I am a bit worried about him.”
Remarkably she said she is from a road running background and lives in a flat part of Sweden, but that hasn’t stopped the pair running strongly and she added, “We are coming back in August to try the Bob Graham Round and we love the mountain running in the UK. At home we do have some big mountains in the north but they are a long way apart. Here you can lots of mountains in a day!”
Another racer suffering from sickness last night and today was Jez Bragg, and he was unable to finish the day after being up most of the night and unable to hold down any food. After another hot day and with the accumulated fatigue there may be some more racers who have a difficult night and struggle to eat.
At the sharp end of the race the day followed a familiar pattern, which the exception of Bragg having to pull out. Race leaders Jim Mann and Jasmin Paris ran together all day and set the fastest times, with Beth Pascall again running strongly to be 3rd quickest. The overall positions for the top 5 are quite well spread out and barring anything dramatic are likely to remain that way on the final day.
The close competition in the top 10 will be between 6th, 7th and 8th, where Owen Rees, Jonas Mollare and Lizzie Wraith are just 7 minutes apart. Further down the rankings the competitive edge will still be there on the final day, though most will just be focused on finishing at Careg Cennen Castle.
One runner who knows better than anyone how it feels to finish this race is Joe Faulkner, who is currently in 27th place and close to his 3rd Dragon’s Back finish. He said the road run today was much easier than in the last race when it was much hotter and he remembered running into the same camping field at the end of the fourth day 23 years ago. “I’m glad Shane has kept all the checkpoints in,” he said, “and with the day one route shortened its similar to the original route once again, which is better I think.”
He said he couldn’t compare the original race to today’s event as so much has changed over 23 years, but the route and the challenge are essentially the same, and all those still on the full course who set off tomorrow will be motivated for one final effort to finish the Dragon’s Back Race and join an elite group of mountain runners.
Written by Rob @ Sleep Monsters