Dalbeattie 10K Half Marathon 2016

Dalbeattie 10K Half Marathon 2016

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Frank's Valentine Run 2017

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Criffel Hill Race 2017

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Devil Takes the Hindmost 2017

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The Dragon's Back, Wales

22/06/2015

The legendary Dragon’s Back Race follows the mountainous spine of Wales from Conwy Castle in the north to Carreg Cennen Castle in the south. This incredible 5-day journey is approximately 300 kilometres long with 16,000 metres of ascent across wild, trackless, remote and mountainous terrain. It is not a trail race, it is one of the hardest mountain races in the world...

The original Dragon’s Back Race happened in September 1992 and ever since, it has been whispered about with a mix of awe and trepidation. Its reputation had reached legendary status with fell, mountain and ultra runners the World over by September 2012 when the second Dragon’s Back Race happened......only 32 of the competitors completed the full course.

The third edition was held from 22-26 June 2015 and potential entrants were carefully vetted by the race director to ensure they had the pre-requisite experience to attempt the race. Unfortunately, this meant that 200 keen applicants were unable to start the race. Dumfries Running Club's Jo Zakrzewski was someone lucky (or foolhardy?) enough to be standing nervously on the startline at 7am in Conwy Castle with 126 others as the Welsh male voice choir sent them on their way.

After an initial exciting run around the castle walls, they were off up into the hills with the week consisting of a variety of rough ground, tussocks, bogs, scrambles, exposed ridges, trails, grass, rocks and even some road. The days can be briefly described as follows:

Day 1. Carneddau, Glyders & Snowdon 50k, 3,824m of ascent

Day 2. Moelwyns & Rhinogs 54k, 3,544m ascent

Day 3. Cadair Idris & Plymlimon 68k, 3712m ascent

Day 4. Élan Valley 64k, 2,274m ascent

Day 5. Brecon Beacons 57k. 2,214m ascent

The runners had the added difficulty of navigating their own routes between the checkpoints as they were only given their daily map on each start line. This did provide considerable entertainment for friends at home who were following the compulsory trackers attached to the runners' packs.

Despite several tumbles (the worst one being on day 1) and many moments of self-doubt (such as when paralysed with fear on Crib Goch, or when stuck in very poor visibility being pelted by almost horizontal rain on Black Mountain), Jo managed to complete the course in just under 52hrs and 36mins in 12th position (4th lady) out of the 65 that managed to complete the full race, and was actually the fastest person on a "10k time trial" on Day 4 (after a hilly 30 mile warm-up). 

Having very much doubted her ability to complete the whole race on such demanding terrain, she was stunned and delighted with her finish position, but more that that, she really enjoyed the whole experience of being so far out of her comfort zone, meeting and forming strong friendships with many new people, being inspired and motivated by them, yet also would like to thank her clubmates for following her progress and sending emails of support and encouragement.

Photo credit: Angela Foster.

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