The race takes runners through two towns today - Dolgellau (above) and Machynlleth (Wednesday is market day!) ©guillemcasanova.com
The noticeboard in camp at the Berghaus Dragon’s Back Race warned everyone setting off this morning that it would be hot with reminders about using sun cream, but was no need to worry. A dense mass of cloud settled over the coastal mountains, sinking right down into the valleys, so there was little chance of direct sunlight, or seeing the views from Cadair Idris. Much of the time it was hard to see a runner 20m ahead of you.
Cadair Idris is one of Wales’ most distinctive mountains, towering over the Mawwdach Estuary, and for the runners it was the first big climb of the day, taking them over the summit at 893m and down the ‘Pony Path’.
Well that is where they should all have gone but surprisingly race leader Jim Mann took the wrong trail off the summit, descending a subsidiary ridge for some distance, then climbed back up regain the path. Even then he lost his way again before getting back on track. It was an uncharacteristic mistake and could see his big lead whittled down by the end of the day.
Above - race leader and defending champion Jim Mann's route vs below - the recommended route.
Other runners I spoke to coming off Cadair Idris said they’d been in the mists all day, though Adam Chapman said, “It’s no bad thing. It’s not so hot and I’ve been looking at my feet all the way anyway!” The weather was still warm (about 18 degrees) and very humid, and the runners were in a world of their own enclosed in the mist.
Most were running in groups with others, or more accurately fast walking. By this stage even on the flat a run is a hard ask. As Jonas Davidsson of Sweden came past with two others he said, “I still think this is a running race!” He managed 5 steps at a trot – gaining almost a metre on his friends, then it was back to a fast walk again.
Soon after I saw his the runners encountered a farmer on a quad bike rounding up sheep with several dogs, and some of the sheep were startled and headed off down the lane the runners were taking. They were spooked (the sheep that is) and the runners calmy waited for a few minutes while the farmer hooked one of them out of a fence and the dogs rounded up the others. (The racers were all told to speak to any farmers they encountered and this one gave clear instructions what he wanted them to do and thanked them for their patience.)
Hot work once the cloud burns off! ©iancorless.com
After crossing Cadair Idris and another range of smaller hills the runners are today heading for the town of Machynlleth where the support point is for the day. This is the first real town they have passed through and it is market day today so the streets are full of stalls and there will be ample chance to stop for an ice cream and a cold drink.
They will need them as by lunch time the mist had finally burned off, the sun was out and the temperature up. It will be a hot afternoon on which they will finally need that sunscreen, as they trek over the hills of mid-Wales and cross Pumlumon Fawr, heading for a camp set up in a field by the A44.