How To Tame The Dragon (In Theory)

It is now just a matter of days until the 2017 competitors line up to begin the Dragon’s Back Race.

Over 315 kilometres long with 15,500 meters of ascent across wild, trackless, remote and mountainous terrain – the Berghaus Dragon’s Back Race™ is the toughest 5-day mountain running race in the world.

The original Dragon’s Back Race™ happened in September 1992, and ever since it has been whispered about with a mixture 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 race took place.

However this dragon can be tamed and one man that can say this is the 2012 winner Steve Birkinshaw. What follows is Steve’s thoughts on each of the days and what the competitors will have to bear in mind to make their best time.


Day 1 (49.3km, 3823m ascent).

A classic mountain day taking you over most of the 3000 feet summits in Wales. The distance is the shortest of the days but do not think it will be easy, the amount of climb and the rocks make this a hard day.

For some the rocks and exposure on Crib Goch will be the highlight of the week for others it will be a terrifying experience that they will be happy to have completed.

Day 2 (53.9km, 3544m ascent).

A real mixed day going up some of the best hills in Wales. The route starts up the delightful Cnicht and the Moelwyns. There is some easier running until the Rhinogs are reached, these are not the biggest hills in Wales but some of the roughest.

If you come off the best lines you can waste a lot of time.

Day 3 (68.3km, 3712m ascent).

The longest day and it is really hard after two long days on the legs. But once you have reached the end of this day then there is a great chance you will complete the race.

It starts over the beautiful Cadair Idris after this there are a succession of smaller hills, trails and forest tracks. Save something for the final climb of the day up Plynlimon, the highest hill in mid-Wales.

Day 4 (64.0km, 2273m ascent).

The day with the most distance on big tracks and roads. However, the remaining sections through the Elan valley are rough and slow with big tussocks. It is worth worth thinking about running in trail shoes (rather than fell shoes) on this day.

Day 5 (60.5km, 2360m ascent).

A day of two halves. The first is undulating with lots of tracks and roads. The second half takes you up onto the Black Mountains with some brilliant running along ridges (if you are still running at this stage) until you eventually reach the finish at the western edge of the Black Mountains.

Once you get up onto the Black Mountains there is usually no running water so make sure you are carrying enough.

Good luck everyone,
Steve Birkinshaw