Fan Dance Report by Emma Beer

Event date: 23 June 2018

For anyone who knows David Perkins, when he asks if you want to take part in an event, you should never answer YES until you know what it entails…this is the mistake I made and found myself signed up to Fan Dance and spent weeks accompanying David on his training up Win Hill, Lose Hill and Mam Tor.

So what is Fan Dance… The event was set up in August 2013 by a small cadre of ex UK Special Forces soldiers who organised the physical endurance event in the Brecon Beacons in remembrance of 3 men who had died while taking part in an SAS Selection on this course; this still today forms the first major hurdle on selection and an indicator as to whether a potential UK Special Forces soldier has the physical and mental determination to complete the course within four hours.

Starting at the iconic old red phone box the 24km race goes vertical from the off, with a demanding climb around Corn Du up to the summit of Pen Y Fan (2,907 feet) to the first checkpoint. After descending the south facing slope, the race passes through the aptly named Windy Gap junction onto the Roman Road, a rough dirt and stone track that ends at the edge of Taf Fechan forest. A narrow water crossing at the foot of a gully guards the way onto the narrow forest path, which leads to the half way check point. There is a safety cut off at the halfway point on the event, which is set on the day by the D.S (Directing Staff), dependent on weather conditions and conditions on the ground, in our case very hot and dry.

After a brief water and snack stop, Fan Dancers take the route in reverse, with the long and gruelling return leg back up the Roman Road before the battle for the Jacob’s Ladder, a brutally steep and unrelenting path back up to the summit of “the Fan,” which is by far the hardest and most dramatic part of the route. Upon the return I was pleased to see David going strong and quite frankly still upright. After logging in at the mountain checkpoint again, meaningful time gains can be clawed back by heading downhill to the final checkpoint at the old red phone box. At the finish line a hand shake from the Directing Staff and a coveted Fan Dance medal awaits, I was also pleased to be told I was the first lady ‘clean fatigue’ winner, where I later received a nice wooden framed photograph of Pen Y Fan.

This in itself seems like a challenge, however there is a small catch, true to SAS conditions you have to complete the event with a 35lbs Bergen and army boots, that doesn’t include the water and energy snacks you need along the way, on the start line David’s Bergen weighed in at 42lbs!! This was the ‘loadbearing’ option, luckily for me there was a ‘clean fatigue’ version which only requires a standard fell kit and fell trainers. As if one event wasn’t enough, if you complete the course on both the Saturday and Sunday you receive a Gemini medal and for those who truly like pain and want go a step further for good measure you can add a further 10 mile dark trail version at 10pm Saturday night to gain yourself a Trinity medal. Again both available to do as ‘loadbearing’ or ‘clean fatigue’. These guys and girls were a true inspiration…or possibly a little crazy! They also do a Winter Fan Dance in January, again offering all the same events. The course offers everything, just getting to the end is an accomplishment and something to be immensely proud of. We met some great people and everyone was more than happy to help, offer advice and encourage a fellow fan dancer! On the journey home we both vowed that we would not return, but a few days later once the pain subsided…now it’s a maybe, well maybe when David’s purple toes and loose toenails recover!

The event doesn’t publish a results list.