British athletes Hugh Chatfield and Robyn Cassidy have beaten the heat and their competition to claim wins at the 2023 Montane Dragon’s Back Race, which finished in Cardiff Castle.
Hugh, from Hitchin in Hertfordshire, was the overall winner of the six-day, 380km multi-stage mountain race through Wales. Robyn, from Breedon on the Hill in Leicestershire, won the women’s race and was also third overall. Polish runner Jakub Wolski claimed second place overall.
The Montane Dragon’s Back Race started in Conwy Castle in North Wales on Monday morning, when 298 participants from 25 nations set out to tackle an average of over 60km a day and a total of 17,400m of ascent (almost twice the height of Everest). After a week of unprecedented heat at the event, only 87 runners were still in the full race by Saturday morning. An additional 135 runners were still active in the event, by taking on a shorter course each day called the ‘Hatchling’. This was a new option for participants this year, who either chose it in advance or changed to it during the week, after they were timed out or retired from the full distance race.
Hugh Chatfield’s winning time was 47 hours, 38 minutes and 44 seconds. Jakub Wolski finished in 51:11:04 and Robyn Cassidy’s time was 54:25:05. Fourth overall was Tristan Stephenson (56:36:25), followed by Welshman Owen Rees (57:54:51) and Iain Best (58:41:47). The USA’s Alyssa Clark was seventh overall and second in the women’s race in 59:15:03, while Spain’s Silvia Ainhoa Trigueros was third woman and eighth overall in 61:31:42. The top ten was completed by Robert Woolley (63:15:22) and fourth woman Holly Wootten (64:50:50).
The Dragon’s Back Race was first held in 1992 and after a gap of 20 years, was resurrected in 2012. The race has since been established as a regular event on the calendar and now takes place every year. It is widely regarded as the toughest multi-stage mountain race on the planet and this year, under a third of the starters will complete the full course within the cut-off deadline of 11:00pm, to earn the much-coveted trophy for every finisher, and title of ‘Dragon Slayer’.
Hugh Chatfield, 28, who works for a social enterprise, said: “It’s amazing. Thanks to everyone for the support. I was told at the start that you’ve got to have your ‘why’ when you take on this race, because you’ll go through highs and you’ll go through lows. Everyone who makes it here, whatever distance they’ve come, has had to draw on that at some point.
“At the end of day four, I had a cry on the road section when I saw my parents. If you haven’t cried, I don’t think you’ve run it properly.
“Kudos to Jakub who has never even seen these mountains.”
Robyn Cassidy, 35, who is originally from Somerset, and is a physiotherapist, comments: “There are no words to describe this moment. It’s been the hardest, hardest, most emotional week. I’ve met the most amazing people and amazing runners. The team are incredible, the volunteers makes it one big family. Absolutely nothing else can compare to that week.”
To find out more about the Montane Dragon’s Back Race and enter the 2024 event visit www.dragonsbackrace.com, find the event on social media: Twitter – follow @DragonsBackRace; Instagram – follow @DragonsBackRace; Facebook – DragonsBackRace. A series of short films from this year’s race is available at Montane Dragon’s Back Race – YouTube.
Header image: Race winners Hugh Chatfield and Robyn Cassidy at the 2023 Montane Dragon’s Back Race. Credit: No Limits Photography