Fan dance Brecon 26th June 2021

Saturday, June 26th saw nearly 300 people gather in the Brecon Beacons for the first post lock downstaging of a race that is based around the army’s infamous “Exercise High Walk”, more commonly known as the Fan Dance.

This is a 14.5 mile out and back route, with over 3000ft elevation gain and was historically used by the UK special forces as part of selection week. With a double ascent of Pen Y Fan, the second ascent up the notoriously steep Jacobs ladder, it is a challenging and demanding course.

The category I entered was ‘loadbearing’, which meant this had to be done carrying a 35lb pack, plus a minimum of 3 litres of water and food. The final weight was around 43lb, nearly 20kg. Hiking boots and trousers have to be worn as well. 

The event was hosted by The Special Forces Experience, all former SAS and SBS members, and
I had the pleasure of meeting Billy Billingham who gave us a fantastic pre-race speech.
It wasn’t too “SAS Who dares wins” and I only had one dressing down when I miss-quoted my race
number, had to drop my bergen and honestly thought he was going to make me do press-ups!
“What if it was a grid reference in enemy territory?!” All adds to the experience and atmosphere!

The weather was very typical of the area, it started off quite warm but at the top, there were low
lying clouds, very limited visibility and a dramatic drop in temperature, followed by a heavy rain
shower. Thankfully our mandatory kit list is very comprehensive and based around mountain safety, waterproofs are a must, and all the major path junctions had directing staff showing
the way.

After the first Pen y fan summit, it’s all downhill to the halfway point, along very uneven and rocky
paths making the going very difficult. It's all uphill on the return journey back to the top of PYF, this is physically and mentally tough, put one foot in front of the other sees you over the top and it's all downhill to the finish.