Doing The Fan Dance

Up, down, up, down on Pen Y Fan

A bank holiday weekend working at Cotswold Outdoor can make you plan silly things. In fact, you get a kind of skewed perspective working at Cotswold as it seems like the whole of the UK is out and about doing crazy challenges, madcap mountain inspired adventures or hatching harebrained holiday plans.


With this skewed perspective in mind, I decided that on my day off, if the weather held, I would do my own bit of adventuring. With the help of Google on Monday evening I decided to have a go at the infamous Fan Dance, a 24km endurance route reportedly used as part of the SAS selection process. Let’s just be clear though, the Army recruits do it with 25kg of kit and a rifle as well…I wasn’t planning on that. I planned to run it carrying only my water and food.


Setting off, I spotted the famous red phone box and figured it would be a welcome sight if I made it back in a few hours, probably not as welcome as the greasy snack bar across the road.

The Infamous Phone Box

So off I went up with Corn Du my first target. I’d heard that you pretty much red line it from the start, and it’s true. My heart rate shot up to the high 170’s bpm and I was already thinking about what gradient it needs to be before it’s faster to walk! Eventually I did walk the steeper bits but with Killian Jornet inspired hand pushing on the thighs to make myself feel like it was ok!


I plodded my way up Corn Du,then curved round and did the last 50m of climbing up to the peak of Pen y Fan. At this stage I was still buzzing from the amazing weather and views so I stopped and quickly took some photos for a few walkers then picked up my stuff and set off down Jacobs Ladder.


It was starting to dawn on me that the Fan Dance isn’t hard because of the distance, or even the 1000m of climbing, it’s because of the terrain. The rockiness means you have to watch your footing all the way and I had good conditions, if it had been wet it would be very tough. So you come down Jacobs Ladder which is pretty steep and head down the “Roman” track (apparently it has nothing to do with the Romans!) and it’s about here that I was really relaxing and enjoying myself, the direction of this was that I ended up stubbing my toe on a rock and landing on my face in the dirt. My first thought wasn’t “have I broken anything” as I went down pretty hard, no, my first thought was “did anyone see that?”. It’s embarrassing falling over in your thirties even if you think you’re being a hardy trail runner.


It’s quite a long descent down to the halfway point where you turn back around and do it all again in reverse. I stuffed some tasty lime flavoured sport beans down and off I went buzzing and amazed I’d made it half way. I prefer a circular route normally and going back on myself grated a little.


The way back was tough, particularly up to the summit of Pen y Fen but I loved every minute, and I’ll be doing it again. It took a little over 3 hours.


Chances are you’re into gear if you are on the Cotswold Community so here’s what I had on:


Shoes: Inov-8 X-Talon 212 (amazingly comfortable and grippy)


Socks: Smart Wool Phd running socks (the best socks I’ve ever had for running)


Shorts: Salomon Trail Short (comfy)


Top: Rab Meco 120 (Comfortable in pretty much any running conditions)


And…the big surprise for me was that I thought I’d try some of the Stride Out Foot Oil. I was skeptical, I must admit, but my feet have never felt so good after a tough run. I will definitely be using this again on rough ground trail runs. Amazing stuff.


Try some of the Stride Out Foot Oil. I was skeptical, I must admit, but my feet have never felt so good after a tough run. I will definitely be using this again on rough ground trail runs. Amazing stuff.

Posted By

Duncan Hyde


Duncan has been running on roads, trail and mountains for more than 15 years and is a self–confessed Strava addict. When his legs won’t run anymore he’s out on his bike or walking the hills of the Brecon Beacons.

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