Cooler weather greeted runners on day four of the 2023 Montane Dragon’s Back Race.
Cloud cover kept the temperatures down in comparison to the previous three days, but conditions were very humid and the 30 minutes timeout option at the support point was still in place. The fourth stage of the race is another long one at 69km, but the ascent of 2,300m is significantly less than on the earlier days. However, underfoot conditions can be tricky on the infamous tussocks of the Elan Valley hills, and in contrast to day three’s visit to a market town, the runners headed into remote and rarely visited parts of mid Wales, on the moorland plateau of the Cambrian Mountains.
Another fourrunners dropped out of the full race, leaving only 99 of the 298 starters still in the running to collect a coveted Dragon in Cardiff. In the Hatchling, 137 runners were still on the shorter course option after the day. The day four campsite is always popular, due to its proximity to both a river for cooling off, and the Towy Bridge Inn, which many athletes visited in order to rehydrate.
Hugh Chatfield completed the day in 7:37:05 and has an overall time of 32:06:22. He has extended his lead over Jakub Wolski (7:56:22 and 33:53:19) to around 1hr 47mins. Leading woman Robyn Cassidy has consolidated third place overall (8:31:28 and 37:11:34), ahead of third man Tristan Stephenson (8:55:49 and 38:17:22). Second woman, and fifth runner overall, Victoria Thompson had another strong run (8:36:29 and 38:20:51) to sustain her hopes of catching Robyn, and she increased her lead over sixth placed Iain Best (9:24:49 and 40:17:07) and Owen Rees (8:48:38 and 40:28:47) in seventh. Third in the women’s race is Alyssa Clark (9:08:09 and 40:34:35), who is eighth overall. The top ten is completed by Silvia Ainhoa Trigueros (9:37:42 and 41:41:01) and Ashley Mansfield (10:15:08 and 43:50:30).
The third fastest runner on the day was Holly Wootten in 8:01:18. For the first three days, Holly ran with a friend, but they retired, and she really pushed herself on day four. Holly plans to return to the Montane Dragon’s Back Race next year and hopes to be competitive at the front of the field.
By the fourth night in camp, the camaraderie among all of the athletes – and volunteers – at the event was really evident. While there is keen competition at the front of the field, participants are also consistently encouraging and supporting each other. The nightly accordion performances by Carmine de Grandis are proving to be very popular, and despite the weary bodies, there has even been dancing in the communal marquee.
Robyn Cassidy commented: “I’m so much better today. Just that little bit of cloud cover has helped phenomenally and it’s more runnable, which is nice. Once you get in a rhythm you can stay with it. It’s the stop-start that kills you off.
Speaking about what keeps her motivated, Robyn added: “The little Dragon Mail messages – I can’t talk about it or I’ll cry. They’re amazing!”
After finishing his day, Hugh Chatfield commented: “I had a great last few kilometres, because I saw my parents and that picked me up a bit. I’m really happy with my time. But how am I going to get up and do this tomorrow? I’m eating so much more food than I planned for, which is interesting. I ate myself out of food twice today.”
While the runners who are still in the full race will be starting to think about a finish in Cardiff, they still face 133km, including 70km and 3,200m of climbing in the Brecon Beacons National Park on day five.
The public can follow the progress of the race thanks to live tracking via www.dragonsbackrace.com, and the Dragon’s Back Race team will be posting regular updates on social media throughout the event: Twitter – follow @DragonsBackRace; Instagram – follow @DragonsBackRace; Facebook – DragonsBackRace.
Header image: Robyn Cassidy at a check point on day four. Credit: ©Montane Dragon’s Back Race® | No Limits Photography