Keep Calm and Carry On

5th Sep 2012

Reporting by Rob Howard /

Day 3 of the Dragon’s Back Race, a magnificent late summer’s day for running across Cader Idris, and the day when the race has settled down after the shock of day one.  The camp, transport and food arrangements are all operating smoothly and now the racers truly understand the nature of the Dragon’s challenge it’s clear who the leaders and contenders are, and everyone is coming to terms with what they hope to, and can realistically achieve.

At the front of the race Steve Birkinshaw has a 51 minute lead over Rob Baker and the real surprise so far is that third place overall is Helene Whitaker, though she is only a couple of minutes up on Patrick Devine Wright.   (Mabybe it is not a surprise to those who know her well.)  There is still a long way to go of course, but to be in such a position 20 years after winning the first race with Martin Stone, is an amazing achievement.

Two of the other ‘returnees’ (Joe Faulkner and Wendy Dodds) are still racing the full course as well, but sadly Steve ‘Dubby’ did not start day 3.  “My hamstrings are in a bad way,” he said, “and it is really difficult going downhill at all.”  He was seeing the race doctor and hoping to be OK to complete the second half of today’s route.

Many other racers are doing the same and one of these is Mike Dacar of the USA.  He is a very experienced runner with many ultras trail races and multi-day events on his racing CV, but said, “This is too hard for me, I’ve just not trained well enough. There is no one thing which makes it so hard, it’s a combination of the ups, downs and underfoot conditions and it’s a real experience – I’ve not competed in anything else like it.

“This is my first time in the UK and Wales and looked at the mountains being only 3000 feet and the distance of 200 miles over 5 days and thought it was not too bad ... but it a lot tougher than I expected.  I’m not a navigator either, but that has not been too hard, the maps have been OK to find the paths.  It’s definitively not a trail run though – I train on bigger hills and at longer distances, but my mistake was to train on the trails.  I should have left the track and found the hardest way possible and trained on that!

“I’ve managed to complete a half day each day and that is enough for me.  The scenery is amazing and I love it. I’m having a lot of fun.”  He had earlier told Shane Ohly he’d been to many races saying they were among the toughest in the world ... but they are not!

In the cloud yesterday he had joined the Spanish group of runners who are laughing and joking more than anyone around the campsite and having a great time. Race Director Shane Ohly said, “I think the Spaniards were totally taken about at how hard it was, but they’ve now realised the situation and accepted it.  Now they’ve relaxed and are doing what they can of the course they are really enjoying it and are very happy.  They’ve chosen fun over pain!”

A large group of runners have taken the option to start at half way today and 51 started from camp to set off up Cader Idris.  (Those restarting at half way are the 9 Spanish racers, Vincent Germain and Legrans of Frances, Mike Dacar (USA), Neil Kirk, James Lurati, Andrew Pooler. Andy Towne and Derek Jackson.)

Full results and updated overall results will be posted on as soon as possible.


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