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The Fan Dance Winter Edition

13/01/2016

10/01/2016

This weekend Craig Malcolmson and Mo Khan made the long journey to the Brecon Beacons National Park to compete in the winter edition of the Fan Dance, a race which covers a total distance of 14.2 miles and has a total climb of 3185ft.

The race follows exactly the same notorious route as that used for Special Forces selection, taking in 2 climbs up PenY Fan, the highest peak in the Brecon Beacons.  The organisers hold 2 events:  load bearing which involves marching with a 35lb bergen, and clean fatigue which is aimed at hillrunners. With a strong emphasis on safety, the mandatory kit requirements for both events meant that we had to race with heavier packs than we are accustomed to (my shoulders are still complaining!). 

Starting at the iconic old red telephone box next to the Storey Arms, the route begins with a sharp climb up towards Pen y Fan. There had been snow showers just before the race but these cleared leaving blue sky just in time for the start. After the initial climb, the path eased as we skirted the foot of Corn Du before the push towards Pen Y Fan summit.  The views were pretty spectacular from the summit although we didn’t have too long to admire them as we then had a technical descent down Jacob’s Ladder, made all the harder by snow and ice. Once off the summit, there was a runnable stone track which made for enjoyable running all the way down to the turning point. 

The reverse route posed a new set of challenges. That ‘enjoyable running’ along Roman Road swiftly transformed into a hard upward slog to the foot of Pen Y Fan. The legs felt like jelly for the climb up Jacob’s Ladder. This was not helped by a second snow storm which was accompanied by a harsh wind. The only solace came in the form of the descent from the summit, which was ideal for those used to downhill running. Not before long the red telephone came back into view and you knew were at the finish. A really nice touch at the end was the fact that race organiser Ken Jones personally greets every finisher as they cross the line to award them a patch.

Craig started off strongly and he soon realised that he was in with a podium shout. He ran strongly to the turning point well within the top 10. He then focussed hard on the return leg, overtaking the first placed Masters runner ( age 45+) after the second ascent of Pen Y Fan.  He then cut loose in usual style to make sure he was not overtaken on the downhill stretch to the finish. He ran a fantastic race finishing in 2h43. In winning the Clean Fatigue Masters category, he clearly surprised the race organiser who quipped at the prizegiving, ‘you don’t look like you’ve got it in you!’. 

I ran a steady pace to the turning point, making the halfway point in 1h31. I found the second climb up Pen Y Fan tough but dug deep to finish in 3h25, 5 minutes faster than my target of 3h30. We both agreed that the trip down to Wales had been more than worth it. In keeping with the tradition of the Fan Dance, there is a summer edition of the race in July as well as a back to back for those who want to do the course on 2 consecutive days. I believe Craig is looking for volunteers to accompany him on the latter….

Mo

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