Running the Dragon's Back Race with an Accordion!

Is the Dragon's Back Race not tough enough? Find out why Carmine De Grandis chose to complete it with an accordion!

Callum Robinson
By Callum Robinson

23/10/23

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What attracted you to take on the Dragons Back Race? 

 

The UK is my second home. Over the years as I have been introduced to Wales and its mountains I dreamt of crossing the as an adventure. I had heard of the original race in 1992. Then I followed the re-birth of it in 2012. I thought: could it be me one day when I am fitter and stronger? I grew as a passionate and competent mountain runner, but overstrained and I almost gave up the dream.

 

However, unable to give up running I set the important goal to run the Dragon’s Back as my ultimate goal. My friend Kim Collison Coaching helped me and the impossible happened in 2019 when I took part and completed the race. To celebrate I played the accordion at the end while crossing the finish line.

 

I loved the experience so much and when this year Scarpa offered me the opportunity to run and represent the Scarpa UK Trail team, I decided that I wanted to give something back to spread joy and carrying/playing the accordion on the mountains to give strength and courage to all taking part. I chose to do the “hatchling course” and completed the race with 200km and 10000m elevation and lots of tunes played.

 

How did you find carrying the accordion all that way?

 

 

It was very rewarding, but quite hard, The only pack I could find to fit one of my accordions in was a climbing pack, large and heavy. I had to carry all my kit, food and lots of water so the bag weighed between 10-12+kg every day. The scrambling sections, especially downhill, where rather scary at times, yet I loved every step.

 

What sort of training did you do in the lead up to the race?

 

The training involved weeks of 30 to 60 miles per week, often doing hill repeats with the accordion. To test I could, I took part in the Great Lakeland 3 Days event carrying the instrument and playing. For a little more fun I run a couple of Parkrun playing all the way (5km) with my best time being 23m50s at Blickling Parkrun in North Norfolk.

 

What kit did you take out with you?

 

I carried all compulsory kit to stay safe on the hills. I had a RAB synthetic coat, a spare long sleeved top, spare sock, compass, map, whistle, my trusted Fenix head torch and for nutrition Voom bars and Voom energy.Lots and lots of water too.

 

What were the biggest challenges and how did you take them on?

 

Day one was the most technical runningwise. The other days were hard as I go more tired. Reminding myself why I was doing it, raising money for Climbers against cancer motivated me when I was tired. However, smiling and sharing the miles with others was what helped me succeed… Of course, I love the mountains so whenever I looked up, I wanted more of it.

 

How did you fuel your race?

 

Getting nutrition and hydration right is key to complete a multi day challenge. I packed a mix of energy and protein snacks. As it was so hot the Voom energy lime and lemon bars were the food I used most. At camp we had lots of hearty food. I ate so so much.

 

What were your favourite parts or aspects of the race?

 

 

There are so many moments which stand out. The start at Conwy Castle was magical. Playing on the highest points as athletes came past was incredible and rousing the hatchling athletes before the start of their race or playing for onlookers who had her of “the accordion on the mountains” was super special too.

 

However, what has touched me the most are the kind words and messages I have received since finishing the race. I have felt very humbled and undeserving of so much love and kindness. People donating to my cause have also brought a tear to my eyes more than once.

 

What was the atmosphere and running community like there especially towards you playing the accordion?

 

Absolutely crazy! People dancing la Bamba, friends singing songs… especially Melany Hoy, a participant from the USA who has the most beautiful voice and sang one of the songs from the film “The sound of music” on day 5 on one of the peaks of the Brecon Beacons National Park.

 

I was also touched by athlete’s families who thanked me for playing for their loved ones.

 

For anyone looking to take on the Dragons Back, what would your three top tips be?

 

Train well. Prepare at least one year in advance.

 

Look after your feet and plan meticulously - make good use of camp opportunities and routines -

 

Do not doubt - You can do it… just keep moving.

 

For those wishing to donate to your charity fundraiser, where should they go?

 

 

I have set up a fundraising page where the donations go directly to Climbers Against Cancer, a charity set up to support Cancer Research. This is the link: https://tinyurl.com/mw7epvvk

 

Thank you for going to read my story and for considering making a small donation in memory of those you love who have lost their battle with Cancer.

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