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Billed as the ‘toughest five-day mountain race in the world’, the Dragon’s Back can get the better of the most experienced of ultrarunners – as Ceri Rees finds out. Luckily, Euan McGrath is on hand to see the race through



Photography Ian Coreless


If you are not a good boy scout, don’t even think about entering the five-day Dragon’s Back Race. In fact if you aren’t a seasoned ultrarunner with multi-day experience and competent navigation skills, with the ability to run through a zombie dawn, just don’t. Why would you?

Because that is part of the allure of this 315K race (with 15,500m of ascent). The legend of the event belongs to Ian Waddell, a para and fell runner, who conceived of the race 25 years ago, partly as a logistics training exercise for mates in his regiment. Back then, only 15 pairs and six solo runners crossed the finish line at Carreg Cennen Castle after five days of adventuring through the mountains.

In 2012 marketing consultant Shane Ohly and his multi-franchise outfit Ourea Events revived the race and it has since become one of the cult monoliths of endurance running. Perhaps that’s why the organisers can justify a price tag of £800 to enter. The reputation for toughness and beautiful landscapes, at least, is warranted and the marshals – who number more than 100 – would do any Olympics proud. Support points are clearly waymarked in advance and downloadable GPX files added on the website thanks to Ourea’s navigation supremo Gareth Tompsett – a huge advantage for participants compared to 1992.

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About Men's Running

Nothing ventured, nothing gained. A phrase, I’m sure, that can be applied to you and your running journey. At some point – many years ago or perhaps very recently – you decided to lace up your trainers for the very first time, step foot out the door, and go for a run. Whether it was for a school sports day, a New Year’s resolution or simple curiosity, you stepped out of your comfort zone and, presumably, liked what you discovered. This issue is all about pushing boundaries and stepping out – like that very first run – into the unknown. For Adharanand Finn, author of Running with the Kenyans, that meant a trip to California for his first ever ultramarathon: the Miwok 100K. Head to page 42 to find out how steel cups and flat Coke fit into his lessons learned from going ultra. At the sharper end of the field, the pros, too, have been attempting to step (really, really quickly) into the unknown – specifically, by trying to run a marathon in a frankly ridiculous sub-two-hour time. Nike’s recent, high-profile Breaking2 attempt saw Eliud Kipchoge fall agonisingly short with a time of 2:00:25, but what can we mortal runners learn from the event? Turn to page 48 to see how you, too, can maximise performance by echoing the project’s meticulous attention to detail – if not the millions of pounds of funding. Of course, inspiring stories, cutting-edge kit, training tips and nutrition advice also feature, in an issue made with motivation in mind.