Ultra Trail Picos de Europa,(UTPE) tú mismo haces el recorrido.
El próximo año nacerá una nueva prueba de larga distancia en los Picos de Europa, pero con un formato algo diferente. La organización sólo obliga al paso por unos refugios; cómo los enlaces y llegues a ellos es cosa tuya.
Martes, 11 de Diciembre de 2012 - Actualizado a las 10:26h. Ultra Trail Picos de Europa (UTPE)
El auge que vive el trail running en los últimos años ha hecho que florezcan cientos de carreras sólo en nuestro país. Por ello, para diferenciarse y ofrecer sensaciones distintas, los organizadores se rebanan los sesos ideando nuevos formatos de competición que atraigan a los corredores, que son los que al final pagan una carrera.
Con esto en mente, los organizadores del Ultra Trail Picos de Europa, que se estrenará el año que viene, han ideado una carrera a medio camino, combinando trail running, larga distancia, autosuficiencia y, lo más importante, es que no hay un trazado único, sino que cada participante, en este caso parejas, tiene la única obligación de pasar por todos los controles de carrera, que coinciden con los refugios de la zona. Cómo unan todos estos puntos es cosa de los participantes, que podrán elegir la dirección e incluso la hora para comenzar a correr, por lo que además de correr, la estrategia será clave para el éxito en esta prueba. Se podrá escoger una ruta menos técnica, pero más larga; por el contrario, se podrá ir por una ruta más directa pero más técnica.
Para facilitar un poco las cosas a los participantes, éstos podrán contar con la ayuda de equipos externos a lo largo de todos los puntos de control del recorrido, aunque en ningún caso se pueda acompañar a los corredores durante el recorrido, que podrán usar sólo el material que sean capaces de llevar consigo.
Al más puro estilo del Tor des Geants, los corredores, que tendrán un tope máximo para enlazar todos los controles de paso de 50 horas, podrán elegir dónde pasar la noche y durante cuánto tiempo pernoctar, en caso de que así lo decidan. De esta forma, la planificación será tan importante como la puesta en escena a la hora de correr.
En el caso de la participación, al ser una carrera con un componente tan alto de aventura, no se permite la participación individual en ningún caso, teniendo que competir, al menos, en parejas. Si se quiere, también se puede decantar por la opción de relevos, por el cual dos parejas podrán relvarse en los puntos de control. Los equipos también pueden estar formado por cuatro integrantes de una misma organización o empresa, que deberán realizar todo el recorrido de forma conjunta.
Con el fin de hacer de esta carrera un evento más completo, también se celebra conjuntamente un rogaine, una especialidad de maratón de orientación basado en la estrategia de elección de controles a visitar, en el trabajo en equipo y en la navegación de larga distancia, con un tiempo límite, donde los participantes compiten por equipos de 2 a 5 personas. El recorrido es libre, cada control tiene una valoración en puntos, y el objetivo de cada equipo es conseguir el máximo de puntuación en el tiempo definido.
En este caso, los equipos, de entre 2 y 5 orientadores, no pueden recibir ninguna ayuda exterior, aunque en este caso, no deben completar el recorrido como objetivo único, como en el caso del Ultra Trail. Además, la salida en el rogaine es en masa y no según lo desee cada escuadra.
Como la limitación de la fecha es también importante para los corredores, la organización ha apostado por un formato que ya ha tenido éxito en otros recorridos, como Cavalls del Vent. Se trata de modo Off Road, por el cual cualquiera puede realizar la unión entre los puntos de control entre el 1 de junio y el 30 de septiembre. Eso sí, se recomienda encararlo sólo si el objetivo en términos temporales no excede de las 50 horas. Los tiempos se subirán a una web para poder compararlos con los de los otros participantes en esta modalidad.
Spartathlon en español Espartatlón, es un Ultramaratón donde se recorren 246 kilómetros (152.85 millas) entre las ciudades griegas de Atenas y Esparta y se celebra desde el año de 1983.
El Espartatlón intenta seguir los pasos de Filípides, un mensajero ateniense enviado a Esparta en el año 490 a. C. a buscar ayuda contra los persas en la Batalla de Maratón. Filípides, según cuenta un historiador griego Heródoto, en las guerras persas, llegó a Esparta el día después de su partida. Heródoto escribió: "En ocasión de la que hablamos cuando Filípides fue enviado por los generales atenienses, y, según su propio relato, vio Pan en su viaje, llegó a Esparta en el día siguiente después de dejar la ciudad de Atenas.".
Con base en este relato el comandante John Foden de la Royal Air Force y otros cuatro oficiales viajaron a Grecia en 1982 en una expedición oficial para probar si era posible cubrir los casi 250 kilómetros en un día y medio. Tres corredores tuvieron éxito en completar la distancia: John Foden (37:37), John Scholtens (34:30) y John McCarthy en (39:00). Al año siguiente un equipo de entusiastas (británicos, griegos y de otras nacionalidades), basada en la Cámara Británica de Comercio Helénica en Atenas y dirigida por Michael Callaghan filheleno organizó el primer Abierto Internacional Espartatlón Race. El evento se corrió bajo los auspicios de SEGAS, la Asociación Helénica de Atletismo Amateur.
La carrera empieza a las 7:00 am, por lo general el último viernes cada mes de septiembre, a los pies de la Acrópolis de Atenas hacia la costa y se extiende a lo largo de la costa hacia Corinto a través de Elefsis, Megara y Kineta. La ruta llega al Canal de Corinto, en 78,5 kilómetros y el primero de los seis principales puntos de control està a los 81 kilómetros. Después de Corinto, la carrera se dirige hacia la antigua Corinto,Nemea, Lyrkia y en 159 kilómetros, alcanza la cima del monte Parthenio. Desde allí, continúa hacia el sur hacia Nestani y Tegea, antes de llegar a la carretera principal de Esparta justo antes de la marca de 200 km.
Los corredores deben pasar por los 75 puestos de control en el camino y cada uno tiene un puesto de control de horario de cierre. Los corredores fuera del corte pueden ser retirados de la carrera, aunque el retraso en la primera mitad de la carrera se tolera. Esta tolerancia comienza a desaparecer después del atardecer y en el último tercio de la carrera, los organizadores pueden eliminar a los corredores que están fuera del límite de tiempo o que presentan una fatiga extrema.
Para poder competir en esta carrera es necesario cumplir al menos uno de los siguientes requisitos:
El individuo ha terminado una carrera de al menos 100 km en menos de 10 horas, 30 minutos.
El individuo ha competido en un evento de más de 200 kilómetros, y ha finalizado la carrera.
El individuo ya ha competido en Espartatlón y ha alcanzado el puesto de control "Nestani" (172 km) en menos de 24 horas, 30 minutos.
record Yiannis Kouros, que ganó la primera Espartatlón todavía mantiene el Récord en un Tiempo de 20:25:00.
The Spartathlon The lunacy of the long-distance runner
Vomit, bleeding nipples and hallucinations. Why would anyone in their right mind run the Spartathlon?
Dec 22nd 2012 | ATHENS AND SPARTI |
THE Parthenon is lit, but Athens is still dark. In the gloom, a cleaner is sweeping the pedestrianised road that runs beneath the southern slope of the Acropolis. And in the trees beside the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, an ancient stone theatre, Lycra-clad figures are urinating everywhere.
These are the last few minutes before the start of the Spartathlon, one of the world’s toughest ultra-marathons. The 310 runners in this year’s race are doing their final stretches. Energy supplements are being taken; running belts are being checked; caps with neck flaps to protect against the sun are being adjusted. Many athletes have a crew to support them during the race; there is time for some final words of encouragement before the runners edge towards the starting line.
At 7am precisely, as dawn approaches, the race begins. The field strings round the Acropolis and past the agora, the heart of ancient Athenian life, before heading into the early-morning traffic. The pace is gentle: an average runner can keep up for the first kilometre easily. But this race is about distance, not speed. After that first kilometre, another and another and another lie ahead. Everyone in the field has completed at least a 100km (62-mile) race. For this event, they will have to run 245km (or almost six consecutive marathons) within 36 hours. Only 72 of them will end up making it all the way to historical Sparta.
This year’s Spartathlon, which took place in late September, was the 30th. Its heritage goes back much further. The most famous ultra-marathon in history was that run by Pheidippides, an Athenian who made the journey to Sparta in 490BC. His mission was to ask the Spartans for their help in fighting the invading Persians; Herodotus, a historian, records that he reached Sparta on the day after he left Athens. (The Spartans were celebrating a religious festival, so could not offer help until after the Athenians had dispatched the Persians at the battle of Marathon.)
Herodotus did not appear particularly taken by Pheidippides’s feat of endurance. Since his “Histories” also includes tales of ants bigger than foxes, it probably seemed rather unimpressive. But in 1982 his terse description sparked the interest of a British air-force officer and long-distance runner called John Foden, who wondered if it really was possible to run from Athens to Sparta and arrive the next day. With four other officers, Mr Foden decided to see for himself; after 36 hours’ slog they arrived in Sparti, as the town is now called.
Racing through history
That achievement inspired the organisation of the first Spartathlon a year later; the race now ranks as one of the world’s classic ultra-marathons. The Spartathlon’s allure has two sources. The first is the difficulty of finishing it. Any race that is longer than a marathon can call itself an ultra-marathon, but no self-respecting ultrarunner gets excited about finishing, say, a 48km course. The most talked-about events in the calendar are the ones that look most incomprehensible to the average person.
Take the Barkley. This 161km trail race in Tennessee forces runners to makes climbs and descents of 18,000 metres each inside 60 hours. The Barkley has been going since 1986, and in that period only 13 people have managed to finish the course within the cut-off time. Badwater is another race that derives kudos from insanity. The 217km course in California runs from Death Valley to Mount Whitney in temperatures of 50°C and above. (“Nudity is specifically not allowed,” say the rules.)
The Spartathlon cannot claim such extremes. It is not the hilliest race, nor the hottest. But it combines lots of different tests. There is the heat of the Greek day, then the plunge in temperatures when darkness falls. There are climbs, too: the route includes a series of ascents, among them a 1,200-metre mountain pass negotiated in the dead of night. Above all, there is the relentless pressure of the clock.
Badwater gives competitors 48 hours to finish; the Spartathlon gives them 12 hours fewer to run 27km more. A series of 75 checkpoints ram home the pressure: if a runner is not at a checkpoint by a specified time, he is pulled out of the race. That explains why many Spartathletes mock the Marathon des Sables (MdS), a six-day, 250km run through the Sahara that has a much higher profile and also vies for the title of the world’s toughest foot race. The MdS allows for fripperies such as sleep. “A trekking holiday” is how one veteran of both dismisses it.
If the athletic demands of the race explain some of its prestige, a second reason is its heritage. Never mind that the first stages take the runners through a grim industrial estate outside Athens: the idea of retracing Pheidippides’s footsteps still grips many participants. “It feels like racing in history, passing through places where history began,” says Ivan Cudin, an Italian who won in 2010 and 2011.
The Spartathlon is thus a low-key example of a grand tradition, that of foreign visitors entranced by the idea of classical Greece. Western support for Greece in its war of independence in the 1820s was predicated on the philhellenistic idea that modern Greece had the same DNA as ancient Greece. Greece’s entry into both the European Union and the euro also owed much to the idea that Europe without the cradle of democracy was somehow incomplete. “Europe without Greece is simply not Europe,” said President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing of France in 1979, when the country signed its accession treaty with what was then the European Community. “It was here in Greece that the culture of Europe achieved its most vigorous expression, its admirable feeling for proportion and beauty.”
A glorious past, especially one heroised so relentlessly by the rest of the world, can be a burden, says Nikos Dimou, the author of a book of aphorisms called “The Unhappiness of Being Greek”, which was published in Greece itself in 1975, has subsequently become a big seller in Germany, and will appear in English in 2013. One of his pertinent reflections runs:
Any race believing itself to be descended from the ancient Greeks would be automatically unhappy. Unless it could either forget them or surpass them. The Spartathlon feels like a largely uncomplicated homage. But the gap between troubled modernity and shining antiquity still gapes uncomfortably at times. The stinging of tear gas in Syntagma Square two nights before this year’s race began was one reminder of Greece’s current problems. And when the citizens of Sparti stood to hear the national anthem of the winner, there was an awful inevitability to the sound of the Deutschlandlied.
From the start, the pressure of the clock leads to some bad decisions. The goal of many in the Spartathlon is to build up a comfortable time buffer in the first part of the race, which they can gradually run down when the going gets tough in the later stages. A reasonable plan, as long as you don’t go too fast too early.
In this year’s race, the weather meant anything other than sitting in the shade was going too fast. Late September in Greece is always warm, but this year the temperature was higher than usual. The heat thrown off by the tarmac and the roadside rock-faces made the air hotter still. Overheating and dehydration are the obvious dangers in these conditions, but drinking lots of water isn’t necessarily the right answer. Many runners found it impossible to keep food and drink down: the road to Sparti is paved with vomit. Drinking too much risks a condition called hyponatraemia, in which excess body water dilutes the amount of sodium in the blood. You can, in effect, drown from the inside.
“Those whose race ends prematurely are collected by “the death bus”, which slowly makes its way to Sparti, stopping to let off its passengers to throw up” The heat caused a very high early drop-out rate. Many people were timed out before the first major checkpoint, after 80km. Those whose race ends prematurely are collected by a bus (nicknamed “the death bus”) which slowly makes its way to Sparti, stopping to pick up more non-finishers and occasionally to let off its passengers to throw up.
The survivors run on, across the Isthmus of Corinth and into the Peloponnese. At ancient Corinth, 93km from Athens and barely more than a third of the way into the race, athletes sporadically arrive at another checkpoint.
All pain and no gain
The drama lies not in the competition between them but in their personal struggles. Many douse themselves repeatedly in cold water. Some briefly rest, grimacing as they rise to their feet again. One disoriented Japanese runner heads off in the wrong direction, and needs to be overhauled and turned around. James Adams, a British runner, arrives after about ten hours on the road, a great muddy stain of blood on his shirt, courtesy of unlubricated nipples. A couple of tourists sit in a nearby taverna watching the runners head off again. “Isn’t it amazing?” says one. “Or stupid,” responds the other. Her scepticism is understandable.
The race attracts some of the biggest names in the sport. The winner of the first two Spartathlons (and two others) is the best athlete you have never heard of: Yiannis Kouros, a Greek-turned-Australian whose records in this race and over many other distances are seen as untouchable. Scott Jurek, an American legend, has won three times. The biggest name competing in this year’s event was Lizzie Hawker, a British runner who holds the women’s world record for the longest distance completed in 24 hours on the road. Although no money is on offer for winning, athletes of this calibre have sponsors for which a Spartathlon victory counts as great publicity. But almost everyone else in the race is an amateur. These people are spending their own time and money to come to Greece in order to run for hours on end in sapping heat. Their reward, if things go well, is to keep going all night and the next day, too.
Their training regimes leave no time for the weekend lie-in. Rajeev Patel, an American, says that in the build-up to the race he ran for 10-12 hours on a Saturday, and then another 4-5 hours on Sunday to get used to jogging on tired legs. An Irish athlete tells how after clocking off from a late shift at work, she sometimes runs all the way through the night, only getting home in time for a quick shower before heading off for the next day. Neither even made it to ancient Corinth.
Such obsessiveness would be easier to dismiss as nutty were it not for the rising popularity of ultrarunning. Keith Godden, editor of ultramarathonrunning.com, an events-listings website, started the site as a hobby in 2008; it is now a full-time job. He says the number of races in Britain, for example, has tripled in three years. If this is madness, it is catching.
Some attribute the discipline’s growth to the fact that running a marathon has become so commonplace. Going farther is the logical next step for people seeking a challenge. The athletes themselves rhapsodise about the simplicity and self-sufficiency of running very long distances. Robin Harvie, who attempted the Spartathlon in 2010 and subsequently wrote a meditative book called “Why We Run”, says he was able to ignore the irritations of normal life when training. After a pause, he adds: “I may just have been exhausted.”
As night falls, so does the temperature. Many of the athletes have prepared bags for the organisers to place at specific checkpoints: this is when they pick up things such as head torches and warmer clothing. The landscape changes, too. The middle of the night sees the remaining runners scrambling up a mountain trail to crest the Sangas Pass, then down and across the plains to Tegea.
It was above Tegea, according to Herodotus, that Pheidippides had an encounter with Pan, the god of the wild. At around this mark, almost 200km from his starting point, it would have been no surprise if Pheidippides experienced the first recorded case of exercise-induced hallucination. Many ultrarunners report seeing things as a result of exhaustion and sleep deprivation. Mr Adams recalls following a white line painted on the road at the Badwater ultra-marathon, and clearly seeing a man ahead of him picking up the line and shaking it around like a roll of toilet paper.
Come and get them
There are now 50km to go to Sparti. Anyone who has got this far can be fairly confident of finishing, but it will not be easy. The checkpoint closing-times must still be beaten. The sun rises again, and the heat on day two of this year’s race is just as searing as on the first. Running this far wears the body down: tests of ultrarunners before and after races show huge jumps in creatine-kinase and C-reactive protein, both markers of muscle damage and inflammation. The last bit of the race is almost all downhill, an extra burden on the joints.
The body’s stores of glycogen, an energy source, are depleted, too, whatever regime the athletes have been following to build them up. Loading up on pasta is by no means the only option for packing more glycogen into the muscles and liver. Some believe in the paleolithic diet, which is supposed to mimic the carnivorous diets of that era. One of this year’s Spartathlon finishers, Michael Arnstein, eats almost nothing but raw fruit.
But for those who do finish, mental fortitude explains more than physical preparation. These are people who simply will not stop until they reach their goal, whether they run, walk or hobble. The importance of mental grit may explain why older runners do noticeably well: the winner this year was 46, and the oldest finisher was 60.
Their destination is a statue of King Leonidas, leader of the 300 Spartans who died defending the pass of Thermopylae against another invading Persian army ten years after Pheidippides’s mission to Sparta. The statue’s inscription reads “Come and get them”, the Spartan response when the Persians asked them to put down their weapons. If being a modern Greek is tough because of the burden of the past, imagine being a man in Sparti.
The statue stands at the end of Sparti’s main street. A crowd gathers around Leonidas early on the morning of the second day, staying put until the final cut-off at 7pm. When the runners descend into Sparti they are met on the fringes by a posse of local children on bicycles, who first clap them past and then cycle behind them on their final loop through the town. People in pavement cafés, many of them participants who have been ferried to Sparti on the death bus, rise and applaud as each competitor shuffles past.
The first to reach the statue this year was Stu Thoms of Germany, in a time of 26 hours and 28 minutes. Ms Hawker easily won the women’s race, not only beating the course record but coming third in the overall race as well. But each finisher is accorded the same warm reception as they reach the statue, and slump against Leonidas’s feet. Mr Adams makes it home in just over 34 hours, his third finish and the hardest one yet. The last runner in, a Greek, does so with less than four minutes to spare.
Finishers receive a laurel wreath and water from schoolgirls dressed awkwardly in chitons. Such ancient rituals may well be a way of forgetting Greece’s current predicament as much as celebrating its past. Still, the images and ideals of classical Greece, from Athenian democracy to Spartan self-sacrifice, remain powerful; it may not be a bad thing for outsiders, and Greeks themselves, to be reminded of the different sort of renown the country has enjoyed. And pointless though the Spartathlon may be for many of the individual competitors, there is still something profound in this moment of exhaustion and triumph. The runners have huge salt stains on their kit. Eyes are sunken from a sleepless night. Many are overcome with emotion as they receive their wreaths, before being led away to a medical tent to be massaged, pampered and put on saline drips.
Euphoria is fleeting. Within a few minutes, joints start to seize up: after the race, the town resembles the set of a zombie film as participants lumber slowly around on legs that will not bend. Mr Harvie, the runner and author, recalls the effects of the Spartathlon on his feet: toenails lifted clean off, great chunks of dead skin on his soles. And the itch to do it all over again soon appears. Mr Adams refers to the character of Brooks in “The Shawshank Redemption”, who gets released after many years in prison and then hangs himself, to explain how the end of a very tough event can leave a runner feeling unmoored. This was one problem that Pheidippides would not have recognised. He had to run back again