The Berghaus Dragons Back Race Day 5 2015 – Meet the Runners

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“Remember this day, for it will be yours for all time!” – King Leonidas

Today, 80 runners departed the final Berghaus Dragons Back Race 2015 start line. Battle scarred, they once again face another gruelling day; 56.5km and 2300m of vertical gain.

But who are these brave souls?

Take a look, 4 days of pain engrained on each face. It takes a special person to enter the Berghaus Dragons Back Race but it takes an extra special person to finish.

This race has thrown everything at the runners and in general, weather conditions have been good. Yes they have had rain, mist, clag and occasional strong winds but there has been no disaster days of torrential rain or storms.

It has been an inspiration to share the journey of so many and to document it. We look on in awe at the front of the race and how Jim Mann and Jasmin Paris (and others) can run so fast and effortlessly over such tough and challenging terrain. But Jezz Bragg summed it up for me at the end of day 3 when runners finished well into the night only to get a few hours sleep and then get up and do it all again:

‘These guys are the heroes. They are out all day from 6am, marching on and then they finish at 11pm. They have no rest, no recuperation, no time to eat properly, hydrate and just manage themselves; I couldn’t do it!’

Just last night, the last official runner completed the course in just a few minutes under 11 hours. He was told:

‘You need to start at 6am in the morning so that you have a fighting chance to make the afternoon cut off and complete the race.’

Without hesitation or grumble, they say ‘OK!’ and off they go.

It was never meant to be easy

I can confirm 100% that this race has not been easy, I would actually go as far as saying that this has been one of the toughest races I have worked on. It has been special.

As today draws to a close, the faces below will arrive at Carreg Cennen Castle having run the Dragons Back of Wales. I am looking forward to welcoming each and everyone of them at what will have been a life changing journey.

The Berghaus Dragons Back Race Day 4 2015 – Race Images

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Day 3 took its toll on the runners in the 2015 Berghaus Dragons Back Race and on the morning of day 4; over 50% of the field had withdrawn. It’s fair to say that the Dragons Back Race is one of the toughest multiday races in the world. The relentless terrain, continuous climbing and descending, navigation, sleep deprivation and long days really do make this a toughie!

However, the terrain changed today for day 4. Green fields and rolling hills replaced the dramatic and rugged landscape of the 3 previous days.

Rolling terrain and less vertical ascent does in principal equate to more runnable terrain. However, no matter how runnable the terrain may be, you still need the legs to run! As you can imagine, the runners left in the race do have somewhat sore legs!

After a cloudy start and slight drizzle, the sun slowly broke through the grey but it did take a while; the final hours of the day were baked in glorious sunshine.

Although beautiful, the day 4 course did not have the challenging terrain of the previous days and it was another long day at 64km with 2273m of vertical gain.

It was a routine day at the front of the race with the main protagonists from the previous 3 days confirming their status as the strongest runners in a quality and determined field. Unfortunately, the front of the race did loose a top contender!

 

Jez Bragg had had a tough day during day 3 with stomach issues and then during the night he had chills, sickness and little or no sleep. He did force some breakfast down and start the day but it soon became clear he was depleted. He reluctantly pulled out of the race.

Jim Mann obviously decided that his 1hour 30min lead over the rest of the field was enough and decided to run day 4 with 2nd overall and 1st lady, Jasmin Paris. Paris was a favourite coming into the Berghaus Dragons Back Race and she has excelled showing everyone a clean pair of heals everyday and in the process she has looked fresh and confident.

Beth Pascall and Lizzie Wraith both looked strong all day, Pascall said post race said, ‘I felt as though I couldn’t go any faster but then I hit the last section. All road! I decided I had to get that over with as soon as possible so I speeded up. Just goes to show, it’s all in the head!’

Wraith came into the race with a bug and had said that she was unsure how her week would go. Obviously it has gone well and just this morning, before the race started she said, ‘If I can finish top 10, I will be over the moon.’

Equally consistent at the front end of the action has been Konrad Rawlik and Damian Hall. Rawlik is 3hour 30min ahead of Hall so we have no fears of a last minute surge on the final day. That would take some serious navigation error!

Tomorrow is the final day! It’s fair to say that anyone who has now finished the first 4 days will finish day 5. Of course, there are no guarantees – a fall, an accident or a serious navigation error could stop all that but lets cross our fingers; believe me, everyone is going to deserve the finish line.

Results day 4

1 – Jim Mann 7:58:50

2 – Jasmin Paris 7:58:54

3 – Beth Pascall 8:27:31

4 – Konrad Rawlik 8:28:25

5 – Damian Hall 8:47:52

6 – Lizzie Wraith 9:11:03

7 – Owen Rees 9:42:01

8 – Jonas Mollare 9:45:26

9 – Lawrence Eccles 10:30:20

10 – Charlie Sharpe 10:38:38

 

The Berghaus Dragons Back Race Day 3 2015 – Race Images

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It is day 3 of the Berghaus Dragons Back Race and despite a very long day for all the competitors yesterday (53.9km), today they have a whopping 68.3km to cover. Ouch!

Needless to say the runners are exhausted and this is reflected in the current drop out rate of 30% (+/-.) This will change as today progresses! Early morning good weather had been replaced with clag, drizzle and colder temperatures. It’s a difficult combination to contend with; navigation will be considerably harder due to a lack of visibility and of course colder temperatures and wet increases the risk of hypothermia.

It was going to be tough.

Starting in a timing window of  0600 – 0900, the runners looked in good spirits as they climbed up to the first control at Gau Craig (683m.) Today they finished with a final climb of Pumlumon Fawr (752m) but before that, they have 5 peaks to ascend and descend and a total of 10 controls to meet.

An epic day and one that confirms the Berghaus Dragons Back Race as one of  the (if not THE) toughest events I have worked on.

From the early action, as one would expect, male leader Jim Mann and female leader Jasmin Paris looked the strongest. However, it was long day with some challenging navigation and in these conditions, anything could happen.

Lizzie Wraith and Beth Pascall both looked strong as they tried to close the gap on Paris and notably, Jez Bragg appeared to be getting stronger as the race progresses but this only lasted for so long as unfortunately Bragg’s stomach caused him issues during the day which really impacted on his pace.

Mann continued his dominance producing another spectacular performance and Pascall rallied producing the fastest time for the ladies just a couple of minutes ahead of race leader, Paris.

Konrad Rawlik and Jez Bragg once again ran consistent performances and placed 2nd and 3rd men but they were both beaten by Pascall and Paris.

Bragg said post race, ‘My stomach flared up. It can do that every now and again. I usually have it under control but on multiple days like this it can become fragile. Have to say, this is a seriously tough race. It is relentless! It’s also great to see the top 3 ladies doing so well; they are so consistent.’

So, although Mann is providing everyone a masterclass performance at the Berghaus Dragons Back Race, the ladies trio of Paris, Pascall and Wraith are providing some serious inspiration for all.

Day 4 is going to be another long day and as I write this, another 13 runners have retired from the race. Cut off is 2300 hours and I will update more tomorrow and provide an insight into the day 4 route.

Results Day 3

  1. Jim Mann 9:12:03 – 25:02:47
  2. Beth Pascall 9:42:50 – 28:20:17
  3. Jasmin Paris 9:44:26 – 26:37:06
  4. Konrad Rawlik 10:01:53 – 27:26:16
  5. Jezz Bragg 10:07:37 – 28:28:41
  6. Damian Hall 10:18:31 – 28:13:47

Lizzie Wraith was 10:20:09 – 30:31:40

Overall results after 3 days:

  1. Jim Mann 25:02:47
  2. Konrad Rawlik 27:26:16
  3. Damian Hall 28:13:47
  1. Jasmin Paris 26:37:06 (2nd overall)
  2. Beth Pascall 28:20:17
  3. Lizzie Wraith 30:31:40

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The Berghaus Dragons Back Race Day 2 2015 – Race Images

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What a day! Wales looked magnificent in bathed in glorious sunshine but as you can imagine, running 50km+ in intense heat over some of the most gruelling terrain is not a match made in heaven.

Runners struggled and buckled.

However, Jim Mann once again made what is extremely tough look relatively easy. He finished the day in 8 hours! At control 1, the summit of Cnicht, runners appeared in dribs and drabs due to the staggered start. Mann, starting last rocketed up and as he ran past us he was made aware of his time. His response was cal calculated, ‘Good, looks like I am gaining time!’ He then proceeded to come off the clearly defined trail and turned right down the scree slopes using his navigation skills to the full.

Ultimately, it was day that was all about the ladies; Jasmine Paris, Beth Pascall and Lizzie Wraith all embraced the terrain, the heat and the course and finished within the top 5. Jez Bragg also had a great day, ‘I’m feeling better today, the legs are feel good and I’m finding my pace.’

Unfortunately, Konrad Rawlik and Ed Catmur had tough days. Catmur fell while running in a strong position at the front of the race which resulted with a visit to hospital with a leg wound. Rowlock finished the day but looked dejected. He started the day 2nd overall but the terrain took its toll on his knees and he struggled.

‘Today was a tougher day than in 2012 as day 1 was made a little easier,’ said Shane Ohly race director. ‘It has been a very tough day, relentless some may say and of course the heat added to the severity.’

Camp 2 is in Llanelltyd in the grounds of Tymer Abbey. It’s quite the setting! Hot food is being consumed in vast quantities, cake and custard eaten in multiples of 2 or 3 and to top it all, as each runner finished, Ohly had an ice cream waiting for them.

Tomorrow is a big day. Read into that what you will but we can conform that the course will be 68km with 3700m+

My advise to the runners is sleep and sleep as soon as possible! They are going to need all the recovery time as possible.

Top 6 day 2

  1. Jim Mann 8:00
  2. Jasmin Paris 8:41
  3. Jez Bragg 9:03
  4. Konrad Rawlik 9:12
  5. Beth Pascall 9:29
  6. Damian Hall 9:42

Overall Results

  1. Jim Mann
  2. Jasmin Paris
  3. Konrad Rawlik
  4. Damian Hall
  5. Jez Bragg
  6. Beth Pascall
  7. Andre Jonsson
  8. Alexander Beaven
  9. Jonas Mollare
  10. Owen Rees

Ladies:

  1. Jasmin Paris
  2. Beth Pascall
  3. Lizzie Wraith

The Berghaus Dragons Back Race Day 1 2015 – Race Images

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MANN ON FIRE – Day 1 The Berghaus Dragons Back Race 2015

Jim Mann took the fire out of the Dragon and blazed a trail on day 1 of the Berghaus Dragons Back Race. Mann crossed the line to record a time of 7:49 almost 1 hour ahead of predicted time. Post race apparently was heard to say, ‘I was taking it easy today to safe myself!’ That is a worrying sign for the other competitors.

Andre Jonsson finished 2nd 11 minutes behind Mann; a great run! However, it was interesting to hear how Jonsson’s fatigue compared to Mann on the line. He has his work cut out if he hopes to topple Mann.

The weather is always a significant factor in any mountain race and it was an up and down day of rain showers, clag, cloud and sun. When the sun came out it was incredible to see; particularly for those runners who were on Crib Goch.

Jasmine Paris (8:11) placed 1st lady and crossed the line with Konrad Rawlik, Ed Catmur and Damian Hall just behind. Steve Birkinshaw was next to finish running day 1 as a single stage for the Berghaus relay team. The Spine female winner, Beth Pascall (9:07) looked strong all day and finished 2nd. Lizzie Wraith was 3rd lady in 10:06.

Day 1 camp is in Nant-Gwynant and as per all Ourea Events; all runners are looked after with homemade fresh food, constant tea and coffee supplies and an abundance of cake. In contrast to other Ourea Events, participants do not need to provide their own ten, Berghaus as race sponsor have provided large 8 man tents and runners sleep together similar to bivouac at the Marathon des Sables.

As I write this runners are still out on the course and therefore we can only update on retirements when the 2300 cut off has elapsed. However, one of the pre race favourites, Pavel Paloncy (Spine winner) took a fall and has had to retire.

Day 2 will have a staggered start with runners departing between a window of 0600 and 0900. Start times are based on finishing times from day 1.

All times are provisional and will be confirmed in due course.

 

The DRAGON has been unleashed #DragonsBackRace 2015

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The DRAGON has been unleashed and the 2015, 3rd edition of the #DragonsBackRace is underway. Here are a few images from the first summit of the day, as you can see, the rain is already here and the wind was blowing in strongly from the sea.

©iancorless.com_DragonsBack2015Day1-3996As in 2012, a Welsh male voice choir started the race and on the stoke of 0700 the runners were off! Running around the Conwy Castle walls they all have a tough day ahead that includes the Snowdon horseshoe route and the challenging Crib Goch. At just under 50km, it’s going to be a challenging first day.

Live tracking is available here: http://www.dragonsbackrace.com/live-tracking/

Followon Twitter – @DragonsBackRace @TheRealBerghaus @talkultra

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Berghaus Dragon’s Back Race Preview 2015

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The legendary Berghaus Dragon’s Back Race™ will be taking place for only the third time, starting on Monday 22nd June.
The race is one of the world’s most challenging running events and follows the mountainous spine of Wales from Conwy Castle in the north, to Carreg Cennen Castle in the south. An incredible 5 day journey the route is approximately 300km long with 16,000 metres of ascent across wild, trackless, remote and mountainous terrain.
In September 1992, the original Dragon’s Back Race™ was held and it soon entered into running folklore for its extreme difficultly and surprise female winner. A 20-year absence and it took Shane Ohly and the Ourea Events team to revive it in 2012.  Helene Whitaker (neé Diamantides), the 1992 winner alongside Martin Stone returned to the event and incredibly finished fourth and renowned adventure and Wainwrights record holder, Steve Birkinshaw was the overall winner.  In the 2012 edition only 32 runners managed to complete the full course from 82 starters. Thhe reputation of the event as one of the hardest mountain races in the world was confirmed.
The 2015 race has once again attracted a strong field of 140 runners from Britain and around the world. It will be interesting to see how many manage to climb the iconic steps into Carreg Cennen Castle on the fifth day.
Leading Contenders
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The standout competitor in the men’s race is naturally Jez Bragg who as a UTMB winner, Fellsman and Te Araroa Trail record holder has been a force within ultra running for many years.  His top class pedigree means he attracts attention whenever he races.
However, race director Shane Ohly, does not think for a moment that a Bragg win is a foregone conclusion:
“It is a five day race over rough terrain and anything can happen. Jez, also completed a record breaking Ramsay Round the weekend before, which is an interesting approach to preparing for such an arduous event as the Berghaus Dragon’s Back Race™.”
Ohly continues:
“There is a strong field of both male and female runners and while I do have an opinion on who I think will win, I keep that to myself for now!”
Lining up alongside Bragg are top British mountain ultra runners including Ed Catmur and Berghaus sponsored athlete, Charlie Sharp.
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Catmur has an orienteering background that is similar to the 2012 winner Steve Birkinshaw and in recent years he has excelled at the longer endurance races. He has competed over the 100 mile distances with some very fast times, placed highly at the Skyrunning UK 3×3 and has won the Saunders Lakeland Mountain Marathon and Spine Challenger.
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Sharp has recently joined the roster of Berghaus sponsored athletes and is a prolific racer. He runs all distances from 5k to 100 miles plus and has great success. In 2013 he raced The Spine and although not directly comparable to the Dragon’s Back Race it does show that Sharp will be a podium contender in Wales.
The main international competition would seem to be from André Jonsson. The impressive Swedish runner has a load of podium results at tough mountain races in Europe including stage wins at the GORE-TEX TransAlpine. Rumour has it that he has been training in Wales earlier this year…
There is also a cohort of other strong British runners, including the likes of Jim Mann, Konrad Rawlik and John Duggan, who Ohly believes are likely to feature high up in the field. He explains why:
“It is such a tough race. Runners get injured, some fade mentally and as Patrick Devine Wright proved in 2012, a relative unknown runner with a determined approach can record a superb result.”
Ohly continues: “It’s easy to dwell on the men’s race, but I actually think that the women’s field is more interesting with a pack of extremely talented runners. I believe that any one of these has the ability to feature at the front end of the overall race.”
Scanning though the list of female entries, Jasmin Paris, Lizzie Wraith, Beth Pascall, Carol Morgan and Joanna Zakrzewski stand out.
Paris has been tearing up the mountain racing circuit for last few years but has managed to keep a relatively low profile, despite some impressive wins. She recently smashed Nicky Spink’s Fellsman’s record by over 40 minutes and recorded the highest ever place for a female runner.
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Wraith, with superb results at the UTMB, Lavaredo Ultra Trail and a  her UTLD Lakeland 100 win (and course record) make her the one to watch. However, she has had a very bust race schedule recently with multiple races in Nepal, the GL3D and representing GB at the IAU World Trail Champs. Will Wraith be fresh for  the Berghaus Dragon’s Back Race™ as her final target?
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Pascall in particular has impressed. Her slow and methodical run at the UTLD (Lakeland 100) and strong 2nd place behind Debbie Martin Consani was a revelation. She then followed this result up with victory at The Spine. The Berghaus Dragon’s Back Race™ will most certainly suit Pascall’s skill set. Finally, the dark horse, Zakrzewski is relatively unknown in the mountain running world but she is a star of world 100km athletics with team and individual medals at the world championships. A regular and high place finisher at the iconic Comrades in South Africa, most notably her success at multi-day races such as Atacama Crossing (2010) may well be more relevant to the Berghaus Dragon’s Back Race™.
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The Berghaus Team 
Berghaus, Britain’s leading performance outdoor brand, is the title sponsor of this iconic event and is supporting the event in many ways. Race director Shane Ohly comments:
“What is really great about working with Berghaus is the depth of talent they have within their staff and sponsored athletes. Impressively, staff members Ivan Muckle, Angela Foster, Luke O’Connor and Dan Smith will be completing a day each of the race in a relay, with Berghaus athlete, and 2012 winner, Steve Birkinshaw leading them on Day 1.” 
The relay line up looks like this:
Day 1     Steve Birkinshaw
Day 2     Ivan Muckle
Day 3     Angela Foster
Day 4     Luke O’Connor
Day 5     Dan Smith
What is fascinating about this line up is the impact that 2012 winner Steve Birkinshaw may have on the rest of the field, especially given that he is running the first, and arguably the toughest, day of the race. Certainly, the other competitors would be well advised not to race with Steve if he intends to go full throttle.
Alongside his colleagues in the relay team, Berghaus Castleford store manager Dan Gerachty, will be attempting to complete all five days alone. Certainly, he will have tales of amazing adventures to share afterwards with customers in store.
Following The Race Live
For the third edition of the Berghaus Dragon’s Back Race™, members of the public will be able to follow the race live with GPS tracking of the competitors and a leaderboard of their positions as they pass through each checkpoint.
Award winning Slackjaw Productions will also be filming the event and publishing multiple 90 second videos on the event website as the race unfolds each day. 1992 winner Helene Whitaker will be presenting these films and providing expert commentary.
It is going to be exciting and compelling viewing, which all kicks off on Monday 22nd June.
Also, keep an eye on Twitter for updates from @DragonsBackRace and @TheRealBerghaus, @talkultra and on Facebook – facebook.com/iancorlessphotography
#DragonsBackRace.

CAPE WRATH ULTRA™ – SCOTLAND’S EXPEDITION RACE – MAJOR NEW ULTRA-RUNNING EVENT ANNOUNCED

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From the team that revived the inspirational Dragon’s Back Race™, an extraordinary new adventure has just been announced for June 2016 called the Cape Wrath Ultra™.
Billed as a once in a lifetime ultra-running expedition race, the Cape Wrath Ultra™ will weave 400km through the Highlands of Scotland. Starting in Fort William, the race promises to take competitors on an incredible journey linking ancient footpaths and remote tracks to the furthest northwesterly point of the British Isles, Cape Wrath.
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©BenWinston 

Race organiser, Shane Ohly from Ourea Events, describes the route. “Winding through the beautiful lochs, glens and mountains of the Scottish Highlands, the Cape Wrath Ultra™ is an ultra-running expedition through some of the World’s most inspirational landscapes, including Morar, Knoydart, Kintail, Torridon, Assynt and Sutherland”.
The new race is based on the Cape Wrath Trail, which is considered to be the toughest long distance backpacking trail in the UK. It crosses rugged landscapes, genuine wilderness and has great distances between support points. Hikers usually take at least 20 days to complete the trail and a new Cicerone guidebook published in 2013 has sparked renewed interested in this unofficial long distance footpath.
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©DaveCuthbertson

Shane Ohly continued. “Our Cape Wrath Ultra™ route will be similar to the Cape Wrath Trail but with some important variations as we mold the journey for an ultra-running perspective. Detailed planning has begun and Gary Tompsett has been appointed as the Race Director and Planner”.
Gary Tompsett is the logical choice for the role, having planned the 2007 Adventure Race World Championships in the same area and having previously worked with Shane Ohly at Rat Race Adventure. Shane Ohly explained, “Living near the Highlands of Scotland, Gary has a deep knowledge of various route options, the terrain, the weather, and the endless possibilities for a rich experience”.
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Two previous winter Charlie Ramsay Round record holders together: Gary Tompsett (left) and Shane Ohly (right). The photo is taken moments before Shane Ohly sets off on his epic 2012 record attempt.

 The race is described as a supported ultra-running expedition, in which competitors’ equipment will be transported each day and tented accommodation and all meals provided. This is the same successful formula that Ohly employed when he revived the Dragon’s Back Race™ in 2012.
Ourea Events claim that the Cape Wrath Ultra™ will be the supreme ultra-running trail race. With a 400km canvas through the Scottish Highlands and Ohly and Tompsett’s pedigree – they are both former winter Ramsay Round record holders – in delivering iconic, adventurous and challenging events, who would want to argue!
Entries open in January 2015.
Date: June 2016

MARMOT24™ – A NEW 24-HOUR MOUNTAIN MARATHON

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The World’s first 24-hour mountain marathon, the inaugural Marmot24, will be held on the weekend 2nd and 3rd August 2014.
This exciting new event combines the very best elements of the predominantly British mountain marathon phenomenon with aspects of the more international, 24-hour rogaining events. With mountain running and navigation at the heart of the event competitors will have 24, 12 or 6-hours to visit as many checkpoints as possible on a score format course. With the 24-hour race starting at noon Saturday, the 12-hour race starting at midnight Saturday and the 6-hour race starting at 0600 on the Sunday morning, everyone will finish at 12 noon on the Sunday in an exciting and dramatic finale to a memorable weekend of racing.
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©JonBrooke

Seven times OMM Elite winner, Steve Birkinshaw was quick to state that, “A non-stop 24-hour mountain marathon has been missing from the UK calendar, the Marmot24™ fill this gap. It sounds like a great event that I am really looking forward to competing in.”
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©RobHowar 

Race Director, Shane Ohly explained his thoughts about the new race, “I’ve actually been injured since August and this has given me some extra time – when I would normally be running – to think about concepts for events and as Steve Birkinshaw said, a 24-hour mountain marathon really was the missing piece in the current range of mountain marathon events in the UK. So, by this time next year, there will be high quality mountain marathon events each month from the Highlander in April through to the OMM in October. There will also be a great variety of events with the 3-day format Great Lakeland 3Day™, score format races like the RAB Mountain Marathon and even an overnight winter event with Marmot Dark Mountains each January. 
Marmot24 will have a central event centre within the event area where all teams will start and finish. The location of the controls is such that competitors can choose to pass through the event centre during the race, with the two-person teams making the choice whether to rest, or eat, whilst the four-person teams can tag-in their team mates; swapping tired runners for fresh runners. The event centre will be a hub of activity with a large marquee, race control, retail shop, catering and camping for competitors and supporters. Supporters are actively encouraged and they can provide help for the competitors at the event centre.
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©JonBrooke

With events like the Dragon’s Back Race™, the Great Lakeland 3Day™ and Marmot Dark Mountains™, Shane Ohly and his team from Ourea Event have been steadily building a reputation for delivering high quality mountain running events in recent years. This years 2013 OMM Elite winner, Nick Barrable, was happy to lend his endorsement, “Experienced race organiser Shane Ohly, always puts on a good show and I am sure that much fun will be had.”
Marmot UK Sales Director, Hugh Harris said, “After the great response to Marmot Dark Mountains™ (MDM), we wanted to extend Marmot’s support of mountain based events. MDM is brilliant, but it’s deliberately extreme and targeted at experienced, and seemingly masochistic participants! After working very successfully with Shane Ohly and his company Ourea, on MDM, we asked him to create a brand new summer event for us that would be open to a much broader range of participants. The result is Marmot24, and we’re really excited to be launching it this week.”
Key Event Information
Date: 2nd & 3rd August 2014
Venue: Northern England
Entry: from £55
Courses: 24-hour, 12-hour and 6-hour

Dragon’s Back Race – DVD

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“YOU ARE MOST ALIVE WHEN YOU ARE MOST FEARFUL”

I love a good movie! I don’t mind if it is in the cinema or at home. Both have pluses and minuses.

A big plus of the cinema is popcorn from the ticket desk and of course, when I am in my seat, that is it. I don’t move until the movies over… you see, I am always easily distracted. I always have ‘something’ to do!

At home I can kick back, put my feet up, get a glass of wine and hopefully relax. If the movie doesn’t grab me, I often find I am reaching for my laptop and then I somehow multi task. More to the point, my work gets my attention and the movie drifts away from my mind and it becomes a distant memory.

This didn’t happen with the Dragon’s Back Race!

Running movies are a tough call. If you are ‘interested’ and by that, I mean a runner or enthusiastic sports person, you can often continue watching a poor movie because the content enthrals you. Very few running movies have been ale to combine key elements and not only provide a great story but also be able to tell it in a visual way, with thoughtful dialogue and importantly a great soundtrack. For comparison I mention ‘The Runner’ by JB Benna, a story about David Horton running the Pacific Crest Trail (2,700 miles) and most recently, “A fine line – Summits of my life” by Sebastian Montaz-Rosset. As I am sure many of you will know, this movie documents Kilian Jornet over the first of his Summits series. I consider the latter filmmaker, Seb Montaz, a master of his craft.

Lets cut to the chase!

I loved the Dragon’s Back Race dvd. It provides a movie experience for all. I strongly feel, very much like the James Cracknell documentary on the Marathon des Sables, that this movie is extremely watchable and intereting for all concerned.

It really does tick all the boxes.

An epic journey, stunning scenery and locations, thoughtful and meaningful story telling, glory, pain, struggles and strife. Not only that, but for the most part, the sun was shining in Wales… that doesn’t happen often, does it!

Documenting the story of eighty four runners, from fifteen countries, the Dragon’s Back Race takes hold of you from the start as the dulcet tones of a male voice choir and the views on Conway Castle lead us into a journey of 300km over five days and altitude gains of 17,000m. The last year this race was held was in 1992.

The film takes you into the heart of the 2012 race as the competitors navigate an individual path down the spine of Wales. Never has Wales looked so good on film.

It’s a compelling and beautiful story. Remote, relentless, ruthless but ravishing.

“I expect to suffer much physical pain” says Rob Baker, eventually placing second overall.

As with all races, somebody comes first and somebody comes last. Without doubt, the film follows the battle for the front of the race between Steve Birkinshaw, Rob Baker and Patrick Devine Wright. But for balance, a wonderful insight is provided into Helene Whitaker (she raced the Dragon’s Back in 1992 and won it). She conveys true mountain spirit, “You don’t enter something like this if you know you can finish it”. And she is right, by day four, from the eighty four starters, only 28 people are left in the race.

One of the twenty eight, is no61 and of course, she is sixty one years old, Wendy Dodd. Also a participant in the 1992 race, she personifies true mountain spirit, guts and a desire to achieve, “It is far more harmful to be inactive than active” she retorts, poles in hand as she powers up a climb. On leaving a checkpoint after a well earned rest and refuel, she stops, turns to the camera and says, “Got to get to the post office before it closes, I need to get my pension”.

It is this humility, this passion and I guess the quirkiness of all those who undertake such challenges that gives the Dragon’s Back Race such broad appeal.

If anyone asks you in the future, “What is mountain running like in England, Ireland, Scotland or Wales?”

Point them in the direction of the Dragon’s Back Race dvd. They won’t be disappointed.

Links:

The dvd is available HERE

What others are saying:

“Breathtaking” – Trail Running Magazine

“Awesome endurance and stunning filming” – UKHillwalking.com

“One of the great running documentaries. A must see for any runner” – Sheffield Adventure Film Festival

“A film of epic proportions” – MudSweatandTears.co.uk

“Remote, Relentless, Ruthless and Ravishing” – talkultra.com

Many thanks to Shane Ohly for my advance copy of the dvd and the opportunity to review it, *Please note, I am not connected to the Dragon’s Back Race in any way. This is an impartial review.