First off, I think you need to know this doesn’t involve a fan and definitely is not a dance. In fact it couldn’t be further away from either of those things. This is tough and challenging and certainly not for the faint-hearted. By all accounts though, it’s fun.
The FAN DANCE is a gruelling 24km SAS Selection test march staged over Pen y Fan, the highest mountain in the Brecon Beacons. The infamous march is the world’s oldest Special Forces test and is used as the first major indicator of whether a candidate has the physical and mental aptitude to complete the legendary Selection course.
The AEE Fan Dance Race Series event is the original version with a provable and undeniable heritage. Founded, organised and managed by veteran SAS &SBS soldiers, the ethos is of integrity and the unrelenting pursuit of excellence. As per the real Special Forces Selection course, the FAN DANCE event will be staged in both summer and winter.
This is not easy, so you may ask why do the Fan Dance? Because you can! People from all walks of life, ages, sizes and abilities have picked up the gauntlet by entering. For many that was the hardest part, finding the courage to face the unknown in pursuit of something out of the ordinary. For most participants it becomes a life changing experience and the best event they ever been a part of. The lure of Pen y Fan is calling and 95% of those who line up at the old red phone box on race day make it to the finish line.
The starting point is that 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 RV (Checkpoint 1& 3) of Pen Y Fan, whose outline is said to be engraved onto the heart of every SAS man. 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 RV Two (half way check point), located at Torpentau, the highest point and last stop on Brecon Mountain Railway line, still serviced today by an old steam train. After a brief tea 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 march. After logging in at the mountain RV (checkpoint) again, meaningful time gains can be clawed back by bombing downhill to the FRV (final checkpoint) at the old red phone box. At the finish line a warm hand shake from the DS and a coveted Fan Dance cloth finisher’s patch awaits.
FAN DANCE FACTS…..
Route: Across the Brecon Beacons from the Storey Arms to Taf Fechen forest and back again.
Distance: 24 km (15 miles)
Ascent: 1200 metres (4000 feet)
Record Time: N/A
Estimated Finish Time: The official cut-off for Special Forces recruits weighed-down with army kit is 4 hours.
On it’s own, 15 miles in the Welsh countryside is actually an enjoyable thing, and you are likely to see a range of people out walking the hills. Team the route up with a run loaded with gear and you’re set-up for a challenge.
When To Go:
You can take on the route all year round, but in winter the route is likely to be in winter condition with snow across the entire route. They run two organised races across the route, once in summer and once in winter conditions.
What Do You Need?
Decent trail running gear for an unladen speed attempt on the route and decent walking gear for anything else. If considering a proper military-style weighed attempt, good boots and a decent large capacity pack are essential. You should also carry the kind of hill essentials with you too (plenty of food and water, waterproofs, map, compass and mobile phone)
How To Get Ready For The Dance:
It’s simple to say but not so easy to do. Get out there and work on your cardio. Hill reps and pounding up hills will certainly help. If aiming for the fully-weighted attempt, practice carrying heavy loads on your back at speed.
As for the summer FAN DANCE. The dates are on the 19th & 20th September.
The winter series, by its pure nature is going to be that much tougher. Take a look at the video and the snow covered mountains, along with the look on the freezing faces should tell you all you need to know.
The Winter Series runs on the 2nd, 3rd and 30th January 2021. If you’d like details on either event, and what you can expect when you arrive, take a look at their site.
Obviously registration is key if you are planning to take part, there is also a lot of information to digest to help you plan the event itself. If you’d like to book a place and get more information, and believe us when we say there’s a lot of it, go here. DANCE