Five-time Dragon Slayer – “You’ve got to have Faith!”
The Dragon Ride is one of the oldest and most iconic sportives in the UK, renowned as being the toughest and most legendary in the British Isles, and it will be returning to Margam Park for what will be the 18th edition in 2022. 70-year-old Faith Gladwyn from Swansea is a five-time Dragon slayer, and we caught up with Faith to discuss her reason for signing up and her dedication to the event.
Why did you first sign up to the Dragon Ride?
“I watched my brother riding in the 2015 Dragon Ride and decided I would love to challenge myself and give it a go. I was sixty-four at the time and I was not a cyclist, but I had an old bike so started training on that. Not long afterwards, my brother then gave me a much better bike as a Christmas present.
In the November of that year our elderly mother had fallen very ill and so every day was taken up with looking after her. I would snatch bits of time here and there to ride my bike up and down the hill outside her house by way of training. My bike represented the very few free moments I had from the time of her diagnosis and every ride, however short, kept me going.
The Dragon Ride remained my goal and it became hugely important to me as it would be my first free day in six months. My brother would be riding in the Medio Fondo, my sister-in-law would spend the day with our mother.
It was a fearsomely hot day and halfway up Rhigos mountain slowcoaches like me were being waved off the road by a member of the organising team to check that we were up to continuing. As can happen, I poured out my story to a complete stranger whose response was sympathetic and encouraging. Happily, I was declared fit to continue though I was not fit in the meaningful sense, I discovered I hadn’t done anywhere near enough training, so I ended up pushing my bike to the top of Rhigos!
Over eight hours after starting, I finally rolled in, and my brother was there and ready to congratulate me.
I have done a few other sportives in my time, but because of where 2016 came in my life the event has always remained very important to me. I associate it with a bright moment at a time when there were few, and over that time cycling became a lifeline.”
How many Dragon Rides have you completed?
“I have completed five Dragon Ride events! I have always ridden the 100km route and have fundraised for Macmillan Cancer twice. I took up cycling far too late in life to contemplate riding the longer routes. Training for the Dragon Ride is a great way to keep fit, I also swim in the sea and this winter it is my exercise of choice when the weather is too bad for cycling.
What the Dragon Ride meant to me in 2016 will always be incredibly important. The long climbs up Rhigos and The Bwlch; the hours of freedom; the camaraderie amongst the riders. 2017 was another special one for me because lots of friends came to the finish and we had a wonderful but windy ‘Thank you’ picnic for everyone who had helped me through a hard time.
2019 should have been my last but in these strange times I needed something in my diary and so I entered again last year. At seventy it was going to be a big ask so I did a lot of training, especially on the big climbs, and every ride I did was some part of my training. In other words, I did as I had always done but a lot more! I am very fortunate in that I live near the Dragon Ride route and so can train there.”
What advice would you give to someone thinking of signing up for the Dragon Ride?
“Cycling was my lifeline, helping me though a very difficult time. I’m sure it could do the same for many people. I came to cycling very late in life and it has been life-enhancing!
The Dragon Ride is a great goal, and for those who go down the road bike route it is a focus for all the effort. The reward is a ride in a beautiful area with people of a like mind, and a massive sense of achievement at the end. The Bwlch and Rhigos have always been my favourite parts of the Dragon Ride, I’m very slow, but the sense of achievement is always there when I reach the top and get to see the panoramic views. Coming through the finish is the best moment!
So, to summarise…Do it! But if you are as new to cycling as I was, make sure you do lots of training. If you can visit the course as well, you will do much better. Not only will it be a reality check, but it will inspire you too!”