Journey to the Dragon’s Back Race 2019- Sabrina Verjee

This year’s Berghaus Dragon’s Back Race (BDBR) is set to be the biggest ever, with 450 individuals aiming to conquer the Dragon in a five-day race completing 315km and 15,500m of climbing in the Welsh mountains.

While participants will now be thinking about their final weeks of hard training, over the coming weeks we’ll be checking in on several participants and their journey to the race so far.

First up, we pose questions to a renowned BDBR competitor, Sabrina Verjee.

What made you enter the Dragons Back Race 2019?

I always enjoy linear races because they feel like an adventure. The Dragon’s Back is a journey with friends – new ones you make along the way and a chance to reunite with old running buddies. The scenery in the Welsh Mountains is breath-taking and I was fortunate when I raced the Dragon’s Back in 2015 and 2017 that we had fantastic weather and incredible mountain views.

In 2017 you did incredibly well in this arduous race, did you know you were going to enter again in 2019?

I am looking forward to racing again in 2019 to improve my overall time and to run with like-minded individuals – for me it is a chance to escape the business of day to day life. It’s amazing to literally do nothing but get up, eat, run, eat, sleep and repeat for 5 days straight with no mobile phones, no laptops, no work! This is truly mental relaxation.

Having entered other ultras but this is the only 5 day race I have ever done and I keep coming back to this race because it is well organised, the route is beautiful, the participants have always been friendly and it’s nice to race in your own country where you can chat freely without language barriers to fellow racers.

When did you start training and how is it going?

In 2015, I didn’t train specifically for the Dragon’s Back I relied on fitness from adventure racing and cycling – although I finished and did well, I was a little injured for days 4 and 5 and it took some time to recover.

During 2017, I was more prepared (read about Sabrina’s 2017 race here); I had a simple training plan starting around January to build up my daily running from 10km each day with a rest day per week to 40km per day until 3 weeks before the race and then I tapered over 3 weeks. I would have liked to repeat this training program as it worked exceedingly well for me but sadly work has got in the way so far.

At the moment I just have to take what I can get with my days off so I have been running 20km to 30km on 2 to 3 days a week when I have had days off then doing the odd 5km to 10km after work when I can.

Sabrina Verjee training for the Berghaus Dragon's Back Race 2019, Berghaus Athlete, Runner, Mountain Running

Sabrina training for the Berghaus Dragon’s Back Race 2019

Have you set yourself any goals to achieve during the race?

  1. Finish
  2. Do it faster than I did in 2017
  3. Finish in the top 10
  4. Be the first female to cross the line
  5. Be the first person to cross the line.

Goals are an interesting thing – the first one is completely reliant on myself and I would say this is almost a given. The second is dependent on the weather – we had the best conditions I could have hoped for in 2017 so I will have to run a better race probably just to get the same time. The other 3 goals are all about who else enters the race and I have no control over these so they are not really my goals – at the end of the day I will run as well as I can run so where I finish relative to other people will depend on who else is entered and how well they race. At the end of the day the most important thing is to enjoy the week of running and afterwards to feel that I did the best I could.

Do you have a piece of kit that you wouldn’t start a race like this without?

Kit is very important to me – in a race of this length I cannot stress enough how essential it is to be comfortable.

My favourite piece of kit is the Berghaus hyper 100 – it weighs only 90g and packs to the size of a packet of crisps! It has saved me on so many occasions when I wouldn’t have packed a waterproof at all as it didn’t look like it was going to rain! During training, I got caught in the most horrendous thunderstorm on Whitbarrow Scar – it was completely exposed with nowhere to hide and the jacket kept me bone dry. It is the best and lightest waterproof I’ve used and a highly recommended piece of kit for the Dragon’s Back.

Would you say you have any barriers to overcome during training or the race?

One mental barrier that I need to deal with is “Day 5” – my problem is that I am having such a good time running that I don’t want the race to end, I’d like to race hard into the finish this year.

What advice would you give to anyone considering entering a race of this kind?

My advice for anyone wanting to race ultras is to be kind to yourself. This means giving yourself realistic goals, not beating yourself up if you cannot run fast everyday, listen to your body if you have over-trained then take time off to recover, make sure that you have a training plan appropriate to the race you want to enter. If you are currently unable to run 10km everyday for 5 days then don’t enter a race like the Dragon’s Back now, instead enter a 50km to 80km ultra with some hills which would be like running day one of the Dragon’s Back. Once you have achieved this then build your running up gradually, increasing your ability to run further and faster giving yourself achievable targets that will boost your confidence and not break your untrained body!

Finally, my advice for happiness in life is to run and eat cake whenever possible.

During the race (20-25 May 2019), Berghaus will be providing live updates of the race, so make sure you’re following us on Facebook and Instagram to see if Sabrina is the first female to cross the line.

Sabrina, eating a slice of her own advice whilst training.