Route variations over the years

1st Dec 2019

  1992  2012  2015 2017-19
DAY 1 44.8km / 3,184m 57.39km / 4,802m 49.3km / 3,823m 52km / 3,800m
DAY 2 53.0km / 3,091m 52.79km / 3,700m 53.9km / 3,544m 58km / 3,600m
DAY 3 59.5km / 3,084m 66.80km / 3,894m 68.3km / 3,712m 71km / 3,500m
DAY 4 65.1km / 1,783m 68.15km / 2,417m 64.0km / 2,273m 71km / 2,400m
DAY 5 67.4km / 2,004m 55.61km / 2,273m 56.5km / 2,313m 63km / 2,200m
TOTAL 289.8km / 13,146m 300.7km / 17,086m 292.0km / 15,665m 315km / 15,500m

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Route Variations 2017 – 2019

The course is broadly the same as in 2017 with a few key changes which are often due to the increased number of participants and the responsibility we have to minimise our impact on the flora and fauna.

  • Checkpoint Guidance Times have been updated to better reflect participant data and Cut-Offs.
  • Very minor route changes - some due to access and ecological considerations, and other small improvements.
  • There is an increase in the amount of 'Mandatory Route' - some sections that were 'Recommended' in 2017 are now 'Mandatory'. All Mandatory Routes now start at a Checkpoint.
  • The map and Viewranger GPX files have been improved to be better synchronised/aligned.
  • We have reduced the number of Checkpoints - removing a number but also adding in some new ones which coincide with the start of sections of Mandatory Route.
  • There is a change to the Cut-Off time on Day 1 at Pen-y-Pass Youth Hostel (to 17:15). This is to take into account the increased number of participants starting the race and the time it will take to leave Conwy at the start of the race.
  • There is a change to the Cut-Off at Abergwesyn on Day 4 (to 20:00).

Main route changes include:

Day 2

  • A revised descent to Tanygrisiau Reservoir, using a footpath.
  • A simpler mandatory routing for the final 4km including the use of a Toll Bridge (toll will be pre-paid on race day!).

Day 4

  • A new long section of mandatory route at the beginning of this day (was a late change in 2017).
  • A revised descent route to the Elan Village road and Support Point.
  • A revised ascent route to Drygarn Fawr.

Day 5

  • A new route over Fforest due to new forestry work (Note that Fforest is all private land and reconnoitring is not allowed. We have secured special permission to cross for the race itself, but not for any other access). 
  • A change in the route across the Black Mountain.
  • A long revised section of Mandatory Route at the end of this day, after the final hill checkpoint of Tair Carn Isaf.


Day 2 of the Dragon's Back Race

Heading over the Rhinogydd on day 2 of the 2017 race ©Guillem Casanova


Route Variations 2015 – 2017

We do not wish to continually reinvent the route and fundamentally there was very little change to the 2017 route (when compared to the 2015 route). However, there were a number of small incremental changes made to the route in 2017 that meant the overall distance increased from 2015. The reasons:

  • Most importantly we have measured the actual route on the ground more accurately, and the overall distance was under-reported in previous years.
  • It was not possible to arrange access to Carreg Cennen Castle (the finish for previous races) in 2017 due to landowner permissions, and the route has been extended on Day 5 to a new finish at Tregib Sports Facilities in Llandeilo.
  • There have been several deviations to avoid known trouble spots, which are usually farmyards with uncontrolled dogs. 
  • We have painstakingly tested on the ground a new ‘Recommended Route’, the Recommended Route is not necessarily the fastest/shortest route but it is the easiest to follow and has the most runnable ground. Based on considerable analysis of the 2015 routes taken by participants, the Recommended Route is mostly similar to what the majority of runners did that year.

The process of creating and testing the Recommended Route has meant that our knowledge of the ground and many different route options has increased considerably. The Recommended Route avoids obstacles like maintained stone walls, and is recommended for a good reason. Our strong advice is to follow it! 


Day 4

Map reading on Day 4 of the 2015 Dragon's Back Race® ©


Route Variations 2012 – 2015

The 2015 route was broadly similar to the 2012 route and the statistics in the table reflect this. However, it is also obvious that we shortened the first day. In 2012 only 29 of the 82 starters completed the first day in full and we anticipated that the combination of the increased daylight hours in June 2015 (the 2012 race was held in September) and slightly shorter course meant that more participants were able to complete the first day and have the chance to go on and complete the full course. However, 2015 participants were under no illusion about the difficulty and challenging nature of day one, which included more technical terrain than 2012; whilst day one may have been shorter in terms of distance and ascent, it was probably still the most testing mountain day that many participants experienced. We also moved the location of one of the overnight camps. Again, this caused a variation in the daily distances and height gains. Overall, the changes to the route in 2015 were done to fine tune what was already a superb course and thankfully these were almost unanimously appreciated by the participants.


Crib Goch 2012

Crib Goch in 2012 © Jon Brooke


Route Variations 1992 – 2012

Having carefully researched the route – both in literature, by speaking with 1992 veterans and extensive time on the ground – we felt that a route that genuinely followed the mountainous spine of Wales was more in keeping with the ethos of adventure and mountain running that is at the heart of the Dragon’s Back Race®. The original 1992 route had more road running and visited significantly fewer mountain summits when compared to the 2012 route. This is why the distance is roughly similar but the height gain increased dramatically. We also included all of the Welsh 3000ft mountains on the first day of the 2012 Berghaus Dragon’s Back Race®, which obviously made the first day much harder and added to the overall height gain. This was done because we knew the last day of the 2012 route would be shorter than the 1992 version and, in keeping with our interpretation of the Dragon’s Back Race®, we wanted a journey across the mountain summits of Wales to be integral to the race experience. 



Day 5 of the race in 1992 ©Rob Howard

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