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The Dragon is back! #DragonsBackRace

by Press Release
Wednesday 17th June 2015
Tags  Dragons Back Race   |   Helene Whitaker   |   Steve Birkinshaw   |   Shane Ohly   |   Berghaus   |   Ourea Events   |   Jez Bragg   |   Charlie Sharp   |   Lizzie Wraith   |   Joanna Zakrzewski

Race preview: Berghaus Dragon’s Back Race™ - June 22-26, 2015

The Dragons Back - September 2-8, 2012  - Matt Fortes making the airy traverse along Crib Goch (Day One). Nicky Spinks tackling the tough terrain along Crib Goch (Day One) © Jon Brooke

Photos: Matt Fortes making the airy traverse along Crib Goch (Day One). Nicky Spinks tackling the tough terrain along Crib Goch (Day One) © Jon Brooke

The legendary Berghaus Dragon’s Back Race™ will be taking place for only the third time, starting on Monday 22nd June. With live GPS tracking and regular video updates each day this year’s event promises to be compelling viewing.

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. This incredible five day journey is approximately 300 kilometres long with 16,000 metres of ascent across wild, trackless, remote and mountainous terrain.

The original Dragon’s Back Race™ was held in September 1992 and entered running folklore for its extreme difficultly and surprise female winner. After a 20-year absence, the race was revived in 2012.  Helene Whitaker (neé Diamantides), the 1992 winner alongside Martin Stone, returned and incredibly she finished fourth.  Renowned adventure racer Steve Birkinshaw was the overall winner.  However, only 32 runners (out of 82 starters) managed to complete the full course and the 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

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 Catmuir and Berghaus sponsored athlete, Charlie Sharp. 

Catmuir 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 winning the Saunders Lakeland Mountain Marathon and Spine Challenger. Sharp has recently joined the roster of Berghaus sponsored athletes and is a prolific podium placer at ultra races, seemingly every weekend of the year and with a win at the recent Excalibur Trail Marathon he seems to be in top form.

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.”

Berghaus Dragon’s Back Race™ - June 22-26, 2015

Photos: Berghaus sponsored athletes Charlie Sharp and Joanna Zakrzewski © Berghaus

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. Wraith, with superb results at the UTMB, Lavaredo Ultra Trail and a Lakeland 100 win is another to watch and will be hoping to hit top form as she nears the end of a three months sabbatical from work, with the Berghaus Dragon’s Back Race™ as her final target. Pascall and Morgan are both contenders with second and first place results respectively at the Lakeland 100 in recent years. 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. Although she has less mountain running experience than the other ladies, she did win the multi-day Atacama Crossing in 2010.

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.

Berghaus sponsored athletes Charlie Sharp, Lizzie Wraith and Joanna Zakrzewski who we have already mentioned are likely to feature significantly in the race. There are pre-race interviews with these athletes HERE:

  • Charlie Sharp (HERE)
  • Lizzie Wraith (HERE)
  • Joanna Zakrzewski (HERE)

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, using #DragonsBackRace


Berghaus Dragon’s Back Race™ - June 22-26, 2015

Photos: Helen Whitaker (nee Diamantides) who won the original Berghaus Dragon’s Back Race™ in 1992 and returned to finish 4th overall twenty years later in 2012. Steve Berkinshaw, Berghaus sponsored athlete and winner of the 2012 Berghaus Dragon’s Back Race™ © Jon Brooke

Website: www.DragonsBackRace.com


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