Certainly, it is impressive that she remains sufficiently fit and motivated enough to take on a challenge as demanding as the Dragon's Back RaceTM but remarkably she will be joined by three other 1992 veterans. Starting at Conwy Castle on 3 September and covering a distance of 200 miles (and 45,000 feet of ascent) over five days, the 2012 Dragon's Back RaceTM is being sponsored by Berghaus.
Race Director, Shane Ohly, commented that, "From the beginning the genuinely legendary status of the race has been an irresistible lure to many runners. The fact that four veterans from 1992 will be taking part is confirmation of the very special hold the race has over everyone involved".
In addition to being twenty years older, Helene also has a young family now and when asked how this affected her training and preparation said, "I don't have the selfish luxury of hours and hours roaming the hills! Nor do I want to anymore. My old joints certainly wouldn't thank me for it either if I tried to. It was my husband who encouraged me to enter, as I didn't think it would be fair to the family to commit the time and effort required to have half a chance of making it to the start line, let alone the finish line. I've had to concentrate on trying to get fit enough to train for the Dragon's Back RaceTM without something breaking"...
Helene Whitaker descending the steep trails at the 2011 Olympus Marathon. In case you are wondering she finished 40th overall and 3rd women. Photo: Olympus Marathon
Over the last few weeks, Shane Ohly has chatted with both Helene and her 1992 partner, Martin Stone, and asked them to reflect on their victory twenty years ago and their opinions on the resurrection of this iconic race.
In a series of fascinating insights Martin recalls that, "The race was completely absorbing, tactical and finely balanced. When the top teams were running with us, Helene and I revelled in games of cat and mouse. For a while we would all be mates running together across misty mountains. But the moment the opposition took their eyes off us, we were gone, evaporating in the mist, never to be seen again until the end of the day".
The Dragon's Back RaceTM enjoys near mythical status in the adventure racing community, both because it has only been held once before (in 1992) and because it proved to be such a tough challenge. After this year, it is hoped that the race will become an annual event, and Berghaus has stepped in to support the project.
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