The 2017 Berghaus Dragons Back Race concluded today in Llandeilo – five days of epic mountain racing over. By epic, we mean E P I C!
For those looking for one of the toughest races in the world, Wales and the Dragons Back Race is a perfect starting place. 223 runners toed the line in Conwy, just over 100 finished – yes, 50% of the field didn’t make the journey from the north to the south.
For the first two days the race was very much about 2015 champion Jim Mann dominating the race, for the ladies, Sabrina Varjee also built a very clear lead over her main rivals – Carol Morgan and Caroline McIlroy.
However, on day 3 it was all change for Mann. The 90-minute margin he had built over days 1 and 2 was wiped a way with two navigational errors and a charging Marcus Scotney. On day 4, the heat came and Mann used his 0730 start to press the pace and apply pressure. Scotney had a lead of almost 30-minutes, surely it was too much for Mann to pull back? Well yes, but he came close. The final days race was going to be brutal.
But the ladies race spiced up on day 4 with Verjee suffering in the heat and Carol Morgan having a great day – like the men’s race, it was all to fight for on the last day!
Morning in day 5 camp was one of mixed emotions, the end was in sight but a tough day was ahead and to add to the pressure, forecasts were predicting a scorching 30deg high.
The majority of the field started early at 0600 but all eyes were on the 0800 ‘chase’ starts. Scotney and Verjee would start on the stroke of 0800 and then 2nd placed runners, Mann and Morgan would depart as per their time deficits to the leader. The same applied for 3rd placed lady, McIlroy. Quite simply, the first man or woman across the line would be the 2017 Berghaus Dragons Back winner.
Scotney had complained the previous night of a sore knee and had contemplated not starting day 5, however, on reflection, he decided it was better to fight and run with a chance of victory in comparison to leaving questions unanswered. He was flying, the terrain suited him and allowed him to stretch his legs. By CP2, Scotney was pulling away from Mann and Verjee and Morgan were equally matched with McIlroy losing time.
More good running to CP3 and then the climb to CP4 and the run along the high ground with the impressive Llyn Y Fan Fact to the right saw Scotney extend his lead. When Mann arrived at CP5 he was over 30-minutes back and barring Scotney having any problems, the race was his for the taking. Mann no doubt paying a price for a tough first 3-days and a hard chasing 4th day.
Scotney crossed the line in 6:12:09 1st and Mann came in much later (7:43:40) having eased off the gas knowing that his place for 2nd was secure. Neil Talbott who had started later than the 1st and 2nd placed runners had a long day chasing all in front of him, his 3rd place secure in 7:31:04 placing 2nd on the stage.
In the ladies’ race, Verjee although in the lead to CP5 was struggling with the heat, the fatigue of 4-days of tough racing and being chased by Morgan and McIlroy. She looked agitated, stressed and not her normal self. By contrast, Morgan at CP5 was relaxed and when asked how she felt, “I feel great – fantastic!”
The possible threat of a blazing run from McIlroy didn’t happen and the race was now between Verjee and Morgan.
Morgan hunted Verjee down and by CP6 had caught and passed her. It was all about putting her head down and pushing on. Victory was hers in 7:57:16 and with it, the title of Ladies 2017 Berghaus Dragons Back champion.
Verjee and McIlroy made it to the line, 2nd and 3rd places in 8:52:04 and 9:30:54 respectively. Like Mann, Verjee’s final thoughts maybe ones of disappointment with questions of what might have been…
It’s been a tough race for all concerned but when you race over 5-days with the highs and lows that this type of race can throw at you, it’s about how the runner manages all aspects of the race and not just one day. The 2017 edition will go down in history as one of the most compelling, particularly in the final 2-days.
Attention will now turn to 2019 and the next edition of the race but as Ourea Events rightly say, don’t forget it’s the Cape Wrath Ultra in 2018 for those who need their fix!
- Marcus Scotney 37:58:37
- Jim Mann 39:38:14
- Neil Talbott 41:54:33
- Carol Morgan 48:41:17
- Sabrina Verjee 49:29:42
- Caroline McIlroy 50:23:47
Read day 1 report here
Read day 2 report here
Read day 3 report here
Read day 4 report here
All images will be at iancorless.photoshelter.com post race