The ballot gods have spoken and so for the most part the adventures for the coming year have been decided.
A few people have asked me recently about where I find these races and why I do them. A while back I wrote a bit of a blog about the types of race which pique my interest. The short answer is that I find them by looking for them, following the trail from one running community to another. As to why, it is simply for the adventure.
I think we sometimes get a little bit insular in our running community here in Scotland. We have some great races, but there is a whole wide world of trails and racing beyond our shores. There is a great mountain tradition across many parts of Europe with many long established races over traditional paths through the mountains, which give us some perspective from which to view our own races.
I have a wee bit of a bucket list that I have built over the years. I am not saying that I am geeky or obsessed but my bucket list is actually a spreadsheet which sets out possible race plans for the next 5 years…..
More than anything else, for me, it is all about the adventure. The adventure starts long before race day. It starts with the challenge of finding exciting races, I love planning the logistics of the voyage, the adventure of traveling to new places and discovering new cultures and finally the adventure of standing on a start line not knowing if you will make it to the finish, the ups and downs of the race, and experiencing the emotions which result from your success or failure. Every race teaches me a little more about the world and a little more about myself. What’s not to like?
So with little more ado here is the line up for 2020:
https://www.transgrancanaria.net/en/ Transgrancanaria is a big ultra marathon event which takes place in early March. Despite being a holiday island GranCanaria has a large mountain range which provides some really difficult courses. This is an event I had hoped to do last year, but didn’t start due to injury. One day I hope to go back and do the big race as it is very demanding with great mountains and trails. This time around I have dropped down to the 42K event and will be treating this as a nice warm weather training event as I build to bigger things later.
This is without doubt one of the best marathons in the world. It is a real runner’s race. I have done it a number of times previously, Rotterdam is quite a nice city for a weekend break and the logistics are easy thanks to the good train connections to Schipol. It is a nice change to pound the tarmac and see how fast the old legs can go.
https://www.miutmadeira.com/en/ The Madeira Island Ultra Trail, 115K long with 7100m of climb is a real beast of a race which I have done twice. I had a successful finish the first time and a DNF the next time. It is one of the more challenging and technical races out there and has been known to humble much better runners than me. It is a spectacular race with great big mountains, horrendous descents, cliffs, ridges, mud, heat, cold and stunning views. Despite being renowned for its warm climate, it is the only race where I have spent several hours running while wrapped in a foil blanket. After my DNF I said never again.
Mont Blanc Marathon
https://www.montblancmarathon.net/en/ The Mont Blanc Marathon is part of a week of running events in the Chamonix valley. It manages to cram 3000 metres of climb into its 26 miles. We have been in Chamonix for this week for a few years now. It is a bit more low key than UTMB week and throws in some fun with a Vertical Kilometer and 10K races as well as the marathon and 90K races. I love these trails so that makes for happy running.
Verbier St Bernard
http://www.trailvsb.com/en/Races/X-Alpine-111/ The X-Alpine 111Km race has been on my bucket list for some time. It has 8000 metres of climb and promises nice alpine trails, big hills and stunning views in the corner of the Alps where Switzerland meets Italy and France. Just to add spice it is the week after the Mont Blanc marathon.
John Lucas Memorial Ultra
Just to add some home running, the John Lucas Ultra has been reincarnated as a mixed terrain race of around 46 miles. Under its new race director it promises to go from strength to strenght. I took part in the race last year and was surprised by how much I enjoyed it, so shall be doing it again as a way of getting time on my feet before the final race of the year.
https://www.lechappeebelledonne.com/en/ Échappée Belle is another race which has been on my list for some time. I am very excited to get a place. It takes place the week before UTMB which means it is often overlooked but while it is shorter than UTMB there is more climb, more technical terrain and finishing times are generally longer than UTMB. It is all quite beguiling. It is 149Km long with 11400 metres of ascent and descent. The fact the distance isn’t a round number hints at the culture of the race. Even the introduction to the race by the Race Director hints at something different:
THE “ECHAPPEE BELLE” : TRAIL? RAID? OR TRECK? « It doesn’t matter ». Above all, it’s an adventure, your adventure! We offer a complete crossing of the Belledonne mountain range, from Vizille (Isere) to Aiguebelle (Savoie). This spectacular 149km run, with 11400m D+, will take you from 250m at its lowest point to the Cross of Belledonne at 2950m. The run passes through many different alpine landscapes from mountain hut to mountain hut. You’ll discover over 30 mountain lakes and forests, over stones and moraines, glaciers and torrents, and if you’re lucky see some chamois and mountain ibexes. An uncompromising crossing, at altitude, off-road, on mountain tracks. A crossing that requires thorough preparation, both physically and mentally. Welcome to Belledonne, here we sow the seeds of courage and perseverance, and we reap a harvest of wonder.Florent Hubert
President of the Association Échappée Belle
I have never visited the Belledonne mountains and that is part of the attraction. Stepping into the unknown. It will be enormously challenging but I can’t wait
So that is it. It is a nice mix of the familiar and the unfamiliar with more than a little fear in the mix. Some big challenges which will really test me physically and mentally. All I need to do now is train hard, hope the mountain gods smile on me and enjoy the adventure