The hills are alive ... with the sound of pounding feet.
World's toughest 217 km trail ultra-marathon in Vasa Kellakiou, Limassol, Cyprus.
The sleepy but picturesque Cypriot village of Vasa Kellakiou, Limassol, will be the scene of a world-class international running event on Saturday, May 20 when it hosts the Universal Life Cyprus Ultra Marathon, billed as one of the "toughest ultra-marathons in the world." Athletes from England, Ireland, Scotland, USA, Russia, Denmark, Hungary, Poland, Germany, Sweden, Finland, Portugal and of course Cyprus will take part and attempt to complete one of the five race distances from 10 km, 21 km, 50 km, 100 km and 217 km (135 mile). The last of these has a cut-off time of 46 hours, which means running up and down mountains (quite literally) for two gruelling days and nights.
How tough can it be? Well, as a guide, in past years only two competitors have ever managed to even finish the 217 km course in summer: US resident Gilbert "The Machine" Gray (he just keeps going and going) in 2012, and British endurance phenomenon Mimi Anderson in 2014. Mimi is currently gearing up to run USA coast-to-coast.
The organisers airily dismiss comparisons with other similar distance races "We are so much tougher than anything else of a similar distance," declares race director Michael Rivers, a British Cypriot now living permanently in Cyprus. "This is a proper old school ultra, no pacers allowed, no air conditioned vehicles for you to jump into for ice tea and a massage." Summer race conditions range from sauna humidity in the mosquito-infested bottom section of the route to chicken-grilling UV exposure on the high mountain ridges. And hills. Lots of them. Never-ending hills. Then running at night by the light of a head torch. The late spring edition of the race may bring slightly milder temperatures, but without access to shade on the trails, the ‘feel-like’ temperature manages to pack a punch too.
Why would anyone want to put themselves through such torture? For the challenge. For the world-class cachet. For the highs (literal and metaphorical) of mountain running. For the discovery of limits to body and mind. For the feeling of achievement, even if (like most) they only manage to complete part of the course. For the camaraderie and the sharing of a unique experience.
The number of competitors has been growing steadily year-on-year since the inaugural race in 2012. This year the number is capped at 150 for organisational and safety reasons, but the organisers count on growing the race incrementally in following years. Apart from the main 217 km event, the distances of 100, 50 and 21 km each represent a major achievement in their own right for experienced trail runners. Finally there will be a "fun run" of 10 km. For many of the 10 km runners it will be their first experience of trail running (not flat, not on tarmac). They are in for a rude shock.
But the rewards are more than personal, as the race is also a major boost to the local economy. With competitors from all over the world that's a tidy sum in air fares, hotel business and local services such as taxis and restaurants. It also puts the village of Vasa Kellakiou firmly on the map. The Mukhtar (Mayor) of Vasa Kellakiou, Mr Pantelis Georgiou, seeks to promote Vasa Kellakiou as a beautiful area of natural beauty in Cyprus and a special place that welcomes the world. Behind the event stands the Platinum sponsor and co-named event of Universal Life - Cyprus Ultra Marathon. Other main sponsors include My Mall Limassol and Agros Natural Mineral Water.
Note for editors: hi-res pics can be downloaded from www.cyprusultra.com
Contacts (for interviews, journalists' questions etc.): Michael Rivers on +357 95508007
Universal Life press relations +357 2288222
Pre-race tour of the course (for competitors and journalists): [email protected]
Press centre on the day(s) of the race: football field, Vasa Kellakiou
Race start place/time: 10 am May 20th 2017. Vasa Kellakiou community centre, Limassol.
Journalists are welcomed to interview competitors and take photographs at the start.