A jubilant Simon Roberts crosses the finishing line. Photo: No Limits Photography

A jubilant Simon Roberts crosses the finishing line. Photo: No Limits Photography

Runner Simon Roberts has won the Montane Dragon’s Back Race, having led the field for all but one day.

His victory is the first for a Welsh runner in the event, which involves running the length of the nation.

Katie Mills took the women’s trophy in the gruelling event, having led from start to end.

Roberts arrived at the Cardiff Castle finishing line on Saturday in a time of 45hrs 42mins 11secs, after completing the 380km route and 17,000m of ascent.

English athlete Mills’s time of 61hrs 12mins 54secs gained her the women’s prize, and placed her seventh overall.

Russell Bentley was second-placed runner, crossing the line with Roberts and posting an overall time of 47hrs 8mins 55secs, with Matt O’Keefe third in 52hrs 8mins 13secs. In the women’s race, Elaine Bisson claimed second place in 66hrs 53mins 28secs, with Cat Slater third in 69hrs 49mins 14secs.

The 2021 Dragon’s Back was extended by one day and 65km, to bring the runners to the Welsh capital. It saw a high attrition rate, with early high temperatures after the start at Conwy Castle causing numerous dropouts. Organisers said they expected only a quarter of the 367 starters to make the finish in time for the 10pm cut-off on Saturday. “If they fail to meet the deadline by even one second, they will have fallen agonisingly short of completing the epic race,” they said.

Simon Roberts said after finishing alongside Russell Bentley: “I am elated. I said at the start that I would win. I had trained enough and I was confident I would win. I have done what I set out to do. But I still can’t find the words to explain how I feel.

“I have so much respect for Russell as an athlete. He is a tough runner, a proper runner. He has tested me, especially on the road sections. He is awesome and a top bloke.”

First woman Katie Mills arrives at Cardiff Castle. Photo: No Limits Photography

First woman Katie Mills arrives at Cardiff Castle. Photo: No Limits Photography

Bentley said: “I feel ecstatic. The crowd is brilliant and the castle is gorgeous. I am over the moon.

“When it gets tough it is your kids you think about. You get dark times in an event like this. It tests you like you have never been tested before. It is thoughts of the kids that get you through.

“Racing against Simon has been great. He was a very aggressive competitor. I was trying my best every day to shake him. I didn’t have an easy day. I have got to hand it to him – the better guy won. I really gave it everything and there was nothing more I could do. He had more than me. He is rising star and a nice guy.”

Katie Mills said, after crossing the line in Cardiff: “It feels really, really good to get here and to not run anymore.

“I just tried to hold it together all week. I am so proud to have finished it. That means more than anything. I have had injuries for the last few years so to get to the finish line in one piece is amazing. There are not too many girls who have got to Cardiff and I am so happy to have performed how I wanted to. All the guys and girls did amazing in this race.”

The progress of remaining runners, along with competitors’ times, can be seen on the Open Tracking website.

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