SOME of the world’s best ultra runners gathered in Conwy on Monday morning to embark one of the world's hardest mountain races.

Nearly 370 runners gathered at the starting line of the Montane Dragon’s Back Race at Conwy Castle to complete a journey across Wales in just six days.

This year the race has been extended from five to six days, challenging runners with 380km of distance and 17,400m of ascent, including a long traverse of the Brecon Beacons.

The race started at 7am and finishes at Cardiff Castle on Saturday, September 11.

The monster first day of the race will see runners tackle a 30-mile route from Conwy towards Capelulo, south to Tal y Fan and onto the Carneddau mountain range, past Llyn Ogwen, over Tryfan and Glyder Fawr, Crib Goch, Snowdon and ending near Llyn Gwynant.

Staged only five times, the Dragon’s Back Race has acquired near mythical status in the adventure racing and running community. The event was first held in 1992 and was then resurrected in 2012, since when entries have increased at each edition, growing steadily in 2015 and 2017, and then almost doubling to over 400 in 2019, all reflecting the booming interest in ultra running.

The race is widely regarded as the toughest mountain race on the planet and only around half of those who have started the event have managed to complete the full course and earn the much-coveted trophy for every finisher, and title of ‘Dragon Slayer’.

Race director Shane Ohly said: “We’re so pleased, and relieved, to be back racing again in Wales. That’s only possible thanks to the support of landowners and the Welsh Government – particularly in these unusual times - and we are grateful to them, and to our new presenting sponsor Montane.

"We have put extra measures in place to ensure the safety of everyone involved in the event and everything is ready for six exciting days of mountain running, from one iconic castle to another. Once again, the Montane Dragon’s Back Race is set to be an epic adventure, for runners and the event team alike.”

The ongoing impact of the pandemic means that the event capacity has not been increased this year and the majority of runners will be from the UK. However, the line-up includes many leading ultra runners, including former winners of this and other events, and holders of various running records.

The men’s race should be very competitive: 2017 race winner Marcus Scotney is returning to try and reclaim his title. He will be joined by fellow Montane athletes Mark Kerry and Tom Hollins, both of whom bring race winning and record setting experience to their first attempts at the event.

The live tracking is available here.