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.