Photo: Dragon's Back Race | No Limits Photography
A continental Conwy awaited registering racers at the 2023 Montane Dragon’s Back Race, with a heatwave providing unseasonably hot weather. Those taking part this year would need to be ready to manage the additional challenges that come with running in hot conditions.
The 04 of September dawned and 298 ultra runners from 25 nations descended on the startline at Conwy Castle. As the racers gathered and the sun began to creep over the crumbling castle walls, a Welsh choir was on hand to set the stage for a thrilling week ahead.
Joining them this year included 3 #TeamMontane athletes, including familiar face Katy Parrott, joined by recent BTU Mountain Ultra Kyrgyzstan winner Jon Shield and 2nd female winner of the Lakeland 50 this year, Victoria Thompson.
6 AM struck and with it, the Dragon’s Back Race had officially begun. Keep reading to discover our highlights of the week…
British athletes Hugh Chatfield and Robyn Cassidy beat the heat to win the 2023 Montane Dragon’s Back Race. Not only did Robyn come first woman, she also came 3rd overall, with Polish runner Jakub Wolski coming 2nd. All 3 runners were early pace setters on the race and have successfully claimed dragon slayer status. Hugh’s winning time was 47 hours, 38 minutes and 44 seconds.
This year, the race saw the introduction of a new shorter ‘Hatchling’ event, enabling runners to choose to continue in the race, had they been timed out, or retired from the full Dragon’s Back Race. Significantly, by Saturday only 87 runners were still active in the race, with an additional 135 still active and taking on the hatchling event.
As for our #TeamMontane athletes, it was a week of incredible highs and lows. After an exceptionally strong start, Jon Shield who was tracking 3rd male, retired on Day 3 owing to blisters on the balls of his feet. Fellow racer Victoria Thompson also had a phenomenal week, tracking 2nd woman and 5th overall. Sadly old injuries resurfaced through the week and on day 5 they became too much, with Victoria also retiring from the race. We have a feeling they may both be back to re-take on this challenge before long…
A final shout-out goes to racer Katy Parrott, taking on her biggest race to date. After 2 tough days on the Dragon’s Back Race, Katy was timed out on day 3. Despite heavily blistered feet, Katy was determined to defy the odds (and pain) to push through and take on the Hatchling course instead. Katy conquered a total of 260km of the course and we're incredibly proud of her positivity and determination to make it through the week and claim her Hatchling title!
A huge thanks to No Limits Photography for capturing these special moments throughout the week…
And they’re off! An atmospheric start as always at Conwy Castle
Race winner Hugh Chatfield & #TeamMontane’s Jon Shield pace setting as they head out on the Dragon’s Back trail into the early hours of Monday morning
#TeamMontane’s Jon Shield sets his sights high on day 1
#TeamMontane’s Victoria Thompson on Cnicht, the so-called ‘Matterhorn of Wales
An extra water point on day 2 was much needed in the intense heat
Racers descending from Cadair Idris on day 3
A welcome spray down for one racer
Dragon Mail at the end of each day is always the ultimate pick-me-up for weary racers. Apparently, 16,000 were sent this year!
#TeamMontane’s Katy Parrott keeping her spirit high as she takes on the Elan Valley on Day 4
Hugh Chatfield traverses the Brecon Beacons on day 5
Race winners Hugh, Jakub, and Robyn secure their dragon slayer status at Cardiff Castle
That’s a wrap on the 2023 Dragon’s Back Race! For those feeling eager to find out more about this incredible challenge through Wales, don’t miss our official story behind the race. Or, for those eager to tackle the race for themselves next year, 2024 entries are now open - go on, we dare you…