Dear Shane,

Many competitors on the Dragon’s Back race feel shafted because you misled them into entering a race that they could not finish. You were responsible for vetting them for their suitability and so it is your fault that so many people did not complete. You wanted a full race; I wanted “the Dragons Back”, I didn’t get it; I got your cut up then cut down version of it.


The quote “Many consider the Dragon’s Back Race to be the toughest mountain running event ever organized” however it is used, is totally meaningless and no more than P.R blurb.


You have asked for feedback; this is mine


1) Race information and Application Procedure

The information given on the website should have given the applicant enough substance to make an assessment of whether they feel capable of completing the race.

Comments like “Many consider the Dragon’s Back Race to be the toughest mountain running event ever organized” are not quantifiable and so are not used by the potential applicant to assess their ability to complete the race. Criteria used by potential applicant to assess their suitability are distance, route and cut offs. You provided the following:


a) “We believe that the quickest route is 186 miles (300km) with 50,000 (15,300m) of climb. So we have increased the climb a little but saved many miles off the route”

b) “We expect the fastest competitors to be out for approximately 8 hours each day and the slowest 16 hours each day”

c) “The cut off times are generous and would comfortably allow someone to complete that section of the day’s route”


This information led applicants to believe this race was shorter, but “marginally harder to complete than the 1992 route”. Times are often used to assess one’s ability to complete the course and the applicants could only use the times  provided above and the ones from the 1992 race to assess whether they thought they were capable of completing the race. Therefore they applied using the information provided.


2) Vetting Applications

By not publishing the route it became the responsibility of the race organizer to assess the applicants ability to complete the whole race. This is a very responsible position to be in and accepting applicants into the race should not have been undertaken without serious consideration. I have a serious criticism of your application procedure here as it became your responsibility, not the applicants to assess whether they could complete the race. When you say “I feel most competitors had underestimated the severity of the course” that is because they did not know the severity of the course. Only you knew that and that puts your integrity in question.


The quote “Many consider the Dragon’s Back Race to be the toughest mountain running event ever organized” is not quantifiable and should be discarded as such.


In future I recommend using given criteria and races. Using a points system like the UTMB, to assess each applicants ability to finish all 5 days would be more appropriate and accurate.


3) Maps

At the Pre-race presentation on Sunday evening we were told “the maps do not have a legend on them but I imagine everyone knows what features we use in the UK”


I consider that this is unacceptable and in future would recommend that all the maps have legends on them or at least competitors are given the legends separately. No competitor, let alone an oversees competitor should be expected to use a map without a legend.


I notice in your information for the Dark Mountains Event that “maps will either be 1:40,000 or 1:25,000 (to be confirmed).” I suggest that this information should be made available to competitors before they enter the race especially if they are to be the “1:40,000 with OS 1:50,000 data on them” which are no more than an enlarged 1:50,000 OS road map. These maps do not have walls or fences on them and so are not accurate in agricultural and urban areas.


4) Cut offs

It is always hard to estimate / measure cut offs that are both safe for all involved in the race and manageable to attain for the competitor. I can understand that with so many cut offs that was bound to be errors in this area. However you did say at the pre-race presentation that “the cut offs are reasonable and I have walked each day within them”. This became obviously untrue when certain splits were examined closely. eg

a) Cnict to Moelwyn Mawr cut off time being 45 minutes apart which is less time than a contender running on the Paddy Buckley takes, having reccied it and with support.

b) Support cutoff on Day 2 of 4pm. From there it took me 5 hours to get to the overnight camp so if I had left at 4pm I would have arrived at 9pm. I do not think it took you 8 hours to walk to the finish (to be within course cut off of midnight) and so that cut off was an estimate and should have been at least 5pm.

I recommend that you adopt a less rigid format allowing competitors to make a case for their re-instatement into the race and be allowed to continue the following days. This would also work if in the case of Crib Goch you had to change the rules yourself for unforeseen circumstances. You are not expected to time everything perfectly but should accept your failures and work together with the competitors.


5) Kit checks

There were no kit checks. I expected a kit check on my overnight bag and also my day sack.  As an organisor of races held under the FRA I know how much importance they place on kit checks and also personally believe they are extremely important.

On your website it said “Having the right kit could be essential for yours or other competitor’s safety during the event. We have also made certain undertakings on behalf of the competitors to landowners and authorities about what safety kit competitors will be carrying. Therefore each day there will be random kit checks for many competitors. Certainly the leading runners can expect a kit check. “

I recommend that all runners are kit checked – both the overnight bag and the day sacks, at least once during the week.


I appreciate that you have put a lot of time and effort into this race but think you went too far in trying to make it something I don’t believe it should be. That is my personal view; I had no wish to do the toughest anything, my wish was to complete the iconic Dragon’s Back race as it was in 1992. I hope that you take everybody’s criticism and advice and use it to make your future events better for all concerned.

Yours Nicky Spinks