The Berghaus Dragon’s Back Race had its first chasing start since 1992 this morning and there were nerves, tears and tension on the start line.
In both 2012 and 2015 the leaders were well ahead and there was no need to have a chasing start and set up a first across the line finish, but in this race it is much, much closer. So at 08.00 precisely the two race leaders, Sabrina Verjee and Marcus Scotney set off together, feeling like they had targets on their backs.
Day 5 - First ever chasing start
Day 5 - The first ever Berghaus Dragon's Back Race chasing start!Posted by Berghaus Dragon's Back Race on Thursday, 25 May 2017
Scotney had his right leg and knee heavily strapped and told me he had treated his injury with self applied acupuncture as well. “It was a very tough night,” he said. “My knee hurt and I didn’t get much sleep. I made the mistake of reading some ‘Dragon Mail’ too (messages sent in by friends), and there were a few tears shed.”
It wasn’t an easy decision for him be on the start line. Naturally he wants to finish, but this is not a race to carry an injury, and there can be long term consequences. Lead runners in the past have taken a very long time to recover. And this morning he was in a racing start, knowing Jim Mann would be setting of 8 minutes and 08 seconds behind him. His eyes were downcast and he looked uncertain and worried as he moved onto the start, but did say he would be racing.
Verjee was little more relaxed, spending time checking over the map with Scotney and with other runners. “There is a lot to do as you get ready to go,” she said, “but this morning I feel good. I was too asthmatic to run well yesterday, but slept really well. I don’t like a chasing start. Obviously I would rather start behind, then if you can catch up all you need to do is stay with them, but it might still favour me. I think Carol ran with a couple of the guys yesterday and that helped her. She won’t have that option today.”
Next to start at 08.06.53 was Carol Morgan and she was very, very nervous, refusing to speak to the video crew and keeping her head buried in her map, though perhaps she was not seeing any details. As she stood on the start line she was taking deep breaths and in tears, with Race Director Shane Ohly calming her and putting an arm around her shoulders. She told me she had never been in a chasing start before but could say no more and when the time came she set off at a fast pace, relieved to be on the move.
Early morning route-choice tactics could be mission critical with how tight it is at the front of the race. Above, 287 - Jim Mann, 256 - Sabrina Verjee, and 218 - Marcus Scotney. The orange-red line is only a recommended route, allowing participants to choose their own route.
Jim Mann left next, to chase Scotney, and looked relaxed in comparison. He knows what he has to do, and will be trying not to concern himself with any of the uncertainty around Scotney’s injury. Of this morning’s lead starters he is the only one who is familiar with chasing starts.
Last of the chasing starters to go was Caroline McIlroy who entered the start tent with a big smile on her face, the most relaxed of all. When I asked if she had been in a chasing start before she replied, “I’ve never been in a multi-day race before. Day two was new for me!” She added, “I did wonder how I would go on days 3 and 4 but it’s been fine and I feel good. It’s just day after day of running in nice countryside and mountains in the sunshine!”
She left at 08.15.15 and the chasing start for the leaders was complete. Now they are in a straight race to the finish and this afternoon we will see who our champions will be.