Jez  Bragg in action during this year's Fellsman

Jez Bragg in action during this year's Fellsman

Ultra runner Jez Bragg is heading west to tackle one of the world’s most challenging events.

The Dorset-based winner of this year’s Fellsman in the Yorkshire Dales is gearing up to tackle the Western States Endurance Run, a 100-mile (161km) ultra marathon in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California.

Saturday’s race, which follows the trails originally used by gold and silver miners in the 19th century, starts at the base of the Squaw Valley ski resort and ends at Auburn, taking in 4,737m (15,540ft) of ascent and 7,000m (22,970ft) of descent after its 5am start.

The North Face team runner Bragg, who moved from Warwick to Dorset recently, bagged the Fellsman record in May with a time of 10hrs 6mins for the 97km (60-mile) course which summits most of the Dales’ southern peaks.

He said: “The Western States is the absolute ultra race to run in the US, and year on year attracts all the best runners to battle it out on a fast but very challenging 100-mile course in the Sierra Nevada mountains.

“The race is a complete adventure in itself combining remote mountainous trails, heat – particularly in the several canyons – and altitude in the early stages.”

The race starts at 1 890m (6,200ft) and reaches a height of 2,667m (8,750ft) at Emigrant Pass. Organisers say snowfields 2½m (8 feet) deep still cover parts of the course.

Bragg continued: “I ran Western States in 2009 and, despite a mixed performance, managed to claim third place. In such a challenging and demanding race it’s inevitable that you make mistakes first time round and I did, so this year I’m excited about returning and performing better, hopefully mixing it up with the lead runners again.”

Last year’s race was won by Geoff Roes in a record time of 15hrs 7mins 4sec.

Jez Bragg also plans to return to The North Face Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc to defend his title in August later this year.

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