© Image supplied with kind permission of Guy Boden. www.guyboden.com
Location: Brecon Beacons
24 km mountainous route
Original and authentic course as used by the SAS
WILL YOU BE THERE?
The Fan Dance is a gruelling 24km non-navigational race over two sides of Pen Y Fan, the highest mountain in the Brecon Beacons. This infamous route has long been a part of SAS (Special Air Service) and SBS (Special Boat Service) Selection and is considered the yardstick of a candidate's potential to perform well on Test Week and ultimately pass the Special Forces Selection programme.
The route is a real lung buster that throws everything at you, including the elements. There are steady slopes that allow a solid jogging pace, shocking inclines that have you almost on your hands and knees, loose stone tracks that require cautious foot placements and a forested vehicle track that allows for some rapid going. Even SAS recruits at the height of their physical abilities regard beating the clock in this event as a serious challenge, and all know its capacity to hurt. Aside from the race aspect of this event, just getting to the end is an accomplishment and something to be proud of. The Fan Dance is open to ANYONE looking for a unique challenge: be it personal, competitive, as a sponsored participant in aid of your favourite charity or as part of a team building exercise. As per real Special Forces Selection, the event will be staged in both summer and winter (both load-bearing and clean fatigue).
Each test march is essentially a TAB (Tactical Advance to Battle). In the Special Forces context the exercise replicates advancing in small teams from the point of strategic insertion towards the theatre of operations while remaining undetected. By definition the main part of the mission commences once the TAB has been completed. The ability to TAB is essential to SAS/SBS soldiers and other elite military units such as the Parachute Regiment and Royal Marine Commandos who are required to cover large distances at speed over arduous terrain while being completely self-sustained (carrying extremely heavy loads made up of essential personal equipment, weaponry and ammunition supplies, radio communication devices, survival provisions and food and water). If an SAS Trooper or SBS Marine is unable through injury, poor personal administration or lack of fitness to be operationally effective and fulfil his role, he will become a liability and have put others' lives in jeopardy. The ability to TAB, is therefore the bread and butter of the Special Forces soldier.
The nuts and bolts of the Fan Dance are so simple. Carry all you need over a certain distance. No man made obstacles or tricks, just man against nature. But simple does not mean easy. Simple can also be primeval, brutal… all the mental & physical excess swept away by necessity. What is left? The stark beauty of such an experience has to be tasted first-hand.
In our artificial world of mortgages, smart phones and the incessant chatter of the voice in the head, there is an urgent need to return to the simple raw intensity of man against nature: the human will pitted against an unapologetic and silent adversary of rock and earth. Sweat prickling the forehead and soaking the back, straps digging into the shoulders and the primitive urge to suck in the next breath and keep going smother out everyday concerns. The glorious feeling of the body working to its maximum capacity washes over you, jockeying for position with dozens of other competitors makes your heart feel as though it is attacking the inside of the rib cage. Fully dilated pupils drink in the richness of the surroundings as you pound up the mountain, scalding heat bursts through the leg muscles and the hypnotic rhythm of gravel underfoot and urgent breathing echoes around you. This is what it means to be alive: the vital and overwhelming awareness of the present moment thrust onto you by straining lungs and aching limbs. This is what it means to do The Fan Dance.