the toughest race in the world just got tougher.
IT takes in seven mountain ranges over 200 miles and five days but the organiser of the toughest race in the world has admitted: "I've made it harder."
When the notorious Dragon's Back race was last held in 2012, fewer than half the entrants made it through the first day.
Then, the race took in all of Wales' 15 peaks over 3,000ft - the equivalent of running up and down Mont Blanc THREE times.
But it was too soft for organiser Shane Ohly.
"It skirted around summits," the 37-year-old said.
"But I have changed it to include summits, which has made it harder."
He is still finalising plans for next year's race, which will run from June 22-26.
It is only the third time the Dragon's Back race has been held in more than 20 years.
By taking in all 15 peaks over 3,000ft the 2012 event was already twice as tough as the first, which was 20 years earlier in 1992 and only included seven.
"I didn't let the competitors know until the night before," said Shane.
"It was a decision that I thought carefully about."
It was worth doing.
"The instant reaction from the competitors was, 'That's brilliant, that is the right decision,'" Shane said.
"Over the fullness of time the majority still think that."
The second day went through the Moelwyn mountains.
Day three headed south into the remote hills of mid-Wales. Then runners tackled the strength-sapping tussock grass of Elan Valley. The final day runners tackled the Black Mountains of the Brecon Beacons before finishing at Carreg Cennen Castle.
Of the 82 who started 32 finished.
"For me the challenge is the going through the mountains and the logical place to have the checkpoints is the summits rather than skirt around them," Shane said.
"I felt that a race that defines itself as one of the toughest in the world has to take that challenge head-on."
Athletes were cursing Shane for the 2012 route.
"One of my good friends taking part in the race said he spent the best part of an hour and a half thinking up the worst swear words to describe me," he said.
"This race is mostly about retrospective pleasure. When you are racing that far it is going to be tiring, you are going to have low, dif-ficult moments and you are going to be sore.
"Ninety per cent of our competitors said it was the best week of their lives and an incredible experience. Ten per cent said it was the worst. When you have very tough challenges it brings out extreme reactions in those taking part," Shane, from Falmouth, said.
"Quite a number of those who described it as the worst week of their lives are on the waiting list for an entry next year."
Not just anyone can enter. Applicants must outline suitability. In 2015 there will be 150 places. There has been interest from 1,600.
"People cannot compute how much ascent we are talking about," Shane said.
"If you could put an equivalent staircase in front of them it would go up into the clouds and beyond. It's a huge undertaking.
"It's easy to say the competitors must be barmy. But they are all pretty normal people searching for an experience."
Putting together the event is a logistical nightmare.
"There are lots of challenges from an organiser's point of view," Shane said.
The last event was blessed with mostly good weather.
"Bad weather makes life a lot harder for entrants because they will get cold and wet and they will go slower," Shane said.
"Rain brings low clouds so navigation becomes more difficult so they go slower. Everything becomes much more challenging. "Everything has to be organised on the proviso that it will be wet and cold and if you get better weather that is a bonus."
Competitors in the Dragon's Back Race 2012
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|Publication:||Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales)|
|Date:||Jun 1, 2014|
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