Athlete Interviews

Coastal Challenge

The Coastal Challenge (TCC) 2017 Race Preview

The Coastal Challenge is multi-day race over 6-days starting in the southern coastal town of Quepos, Costa Rica and finishing at the stunning Drake Bay on the Osa Peninsula. Considered by many an ultimate multi-day running experience, it challenges even the most experienced runner.

TCC’ is not a self-sufficient race, but don’t be fooled, MDS and other multi-day veterans confirm the race is considerably harder and more challenging than many other adventures they have participated in. It’s a race that can provide a steep learning curve; intense heat, high humidity, ever-changing terrain and the need to adapt!

Hugging the Talamaca coastline, The Coastal Challenge travels in and out of the stunning mountain range that runs parallel to the sea. Dense forest trails, waterfalls, river crossings, long stretches of golden beaches, an abundance of palm trees and many winding and interconnecting dusty access roads provide a unique challenge.

 “A backdrop of some of the most breathtaking rainforest and coast on the planet, The Coastal Challenge has joined the exclusive club of iconic multi-day ultras.” – Steve Diederich, UK agent for TCC

Reigning ladies’ Champion, Ester Alves will return after incredible memories of the 2016 event, “Everything is special, the heat, the forest, the solitude of the race, the hot pacific sea, the intimacy between organization, camping, athletes, workers and locals from the little villages. The closeness between my new ‘coastal family’ was enormous and in a week of racing and relaxing, I created bonds for life… it’s what makes the race so special.”

At times, technical, the combination of so many challenging elements are only intensified by heat and high humidity that slowly but surely reduces even the strongest competitors.  In 2017, Ester will have a tough race with competition coming from Anna Comet, two times winner of The Everest Trail Race and 2015 Marathon des Sables champion, Elisabet Barnes.

The Coastal Challenge

Elisabet raced the ‘The Coastal Challenge’ in 2016, “It was great to race against Ester in 2016. She is a lovely girl and a genuinely nice person. I am very happy for her that she won the race. I now know more about her strengths relative mine and how I can improve to reduce the gaps that led her to victory.”

The Coastal Challenge

Anna Comet will no doubt push Elisabet and Ester every step of the way on the 2017 journey and of course, at this stage, other female elite racers may decide to enter the race. The TCC has a long history of the top female competition – Anna Frost, Jo Meek, Julia Boettger, and Nikki Kimball to name just a few. “I’ve been twice to Nepal and won, now I really want to go to Costa Rica,” said Anna. “I like to compete against strong competition. I think it’s a chance to grow as an athlete and to become better. And of course, I will be happy to meet Ester and Elisabet in competition and then relax later in the camp chatting.”

Finally, Chile’s Veronica Bravo is returning to the race she loves. She has run the race many times and notably, in 2015, won the race ahead of Nikki Kimball and Maria Rivera. ‘Vero’ knows the terrain, can handle the heat and after missing the 2016 edition, she will be looking for another victory.

The ladies race will, without doubt, be special, however, the men’s line-up is beyond impressive with UK based mountain/ sky runner Tom Owens traveling from the cold, snow and ice of the UK to the heat and humidity of Costa Rica, “The heat and humidity will be massively challenging. I’ve not worked out how to run well in these conditions. It will be my first big block of running in 2017 and so interesting to see how the body holds up. I also find running in the sand really tough…”

The Coastal Challenge

We all know Tom can handle the rough and technical stuff – the river and bouldering sections will be terrain that he loves. But Costa Rica will have sand too, albeit not soft sand. It may well be a whole new learning curve. Costa Rica may well prove to be much more of a test with Sondre Amdahl participating alongside Hardrock 100 winner, Jason Schlarb. This duo are good friends and raced each other at the 2016 Marathon des Sables.

“One of the aspects of stage racing I appreciate the most, is being able to spend quality time with other athletes over multiple days,” said Jason. “There are great opportunities to make lifelong friends at stage races. I look forward to reuniting with my Norwegian Altra teammate Sondre Amdahl at TCC.  Sondre placed 8th and I was 12th at MDS. I wouldn’t mind setting things right and beating Sondre at the Costal Challenge in February :)”


I caught up with Sondre from his home in Norway,” The tropical climate is a real attraction and it will be a great escape from the cold winter in here. I can’t wait to run on the beach and explore the rainforest”

Renowned for specific training, Sondre often immerses himself in preparation for a key race. As he has said, Norway is not going to be the ideal training ground for a high humidity race with hot temperature. It begs the question; how will he train for this challenge?

“TCC will be my main target for the winter/spring of 2017. I have had a couple of easy months after a DNS at the Tor des Géants (due to injury). I have had a good block of training in November, December, I raced at Ultra-Trail Tai Mo Shan in Hong Kong (115km) on New Year’s Eve which I won and then in January I will go to Gran Canaria to prepare for TCC.”

Jose Manuel ‘Chema’ Martinez placed 4th in the 2016 edition of TCC, he also placed 5th at the 2016 Marathon des Sables. Chema is a 2:08 marathon runner and has an impressive history as a 5000 (13:11:13) and 10.000m (28:09) runner. He represented Spain at the Olympics on two occasions. Chema is coming back to Costa Rica for victory… watch out!

And finally, a last-minute entry by Vicente Juan Garcia Beneito will, without doubt, make all the other runners turn their heads and wonder what this Spaniard will bring to the race? Vicente placed 2nd in the 10th edition of TCC behind Michael Wardian, who at the time set a course record. Vicente is a multi-day specialist and has gone on to win Grand to Grand in the USA, Everest Trail Race in Nepal amongst many other top results. He is the only runner, in history, to have won all of the 4Deserts (Atacama, Sahara, Gobi, and Antarctica) in one year.

“Reaching the 13th edition is humbling and gratifying. It is a privilege and not to one to be taken lightly. We are happy and grateful to have made it this far.” – Rodrigo Carazo, race director, and co-founder.

One thing is for sure, The Coastal Challenge has experienced some epic battles over the past years, now in its 13th edition, with this line-up, 2017 is once again going to be another epic year! It’s important to note that a wealth of talent will join the race from Costa Rica, with Erick Aguero and Ashur Yousseffi who will run his 3rd TCC. In addition, runners will travel from all over the world to take part in what will be a classic edition of The Coastal Challenge, Costa Rica.

“This is no easy course. It’s a really tough event. I have loved every moment in Costa Rica. It’s a stunning race and the last day around Drake Bay is just so special.” – Iain Don Wauchope, 2x winner, and course record holder.

Catch up on the best “Hints ’n’ Tips” for The Coastal Challenge HERE

Credit ©iancorless.com


Michael Wardian – The Running Man (aka Forest Gump)

He keeps running and running. Michael Wardian just never stops. Many runners have been given the tag, ‘Forest Gump’ and in 2016 we certainly witnessed a couple of real-life ‘Gump’s’ in Pete Kostelnick and Karl Speedgoat Meltzer who respectively set two new records: Running Across the USA and setting an FKT on the Appalachian Trail. Kostelnick and Speedgoat produced two remarkable performances, but Michael Wardian raced 47 events in 2016, he raced 1,254-miles in total and in the process, he set 2 World records, had 8-victories, 22-podiums, 31-top ten placings, and 26 ‘master’s’ victories. Wardian is a man on a mission and 2016 is not an unusual year… this committed husband and father of two races like this, year-in and year-out.

Ask any runner, mention Michael Wardian and they will usually provide one of two answers:

“That dude is crazy, he races all the time, I don’t know how he does it?”

Or an alternate answer may be, “Jeez, he’s so inspiring, he races week-in and week-out, often racing 2-3 times in any 7-day period and he doesn’t ‘just’ complete but he competes and often wins!”

Whichever way you look at it, Wardian inspires! As 2016 ends we are already aware that he has entries for 2017 in two iconic races, Hardrock 100 and The Barkley. I’ve spent many hours with him on the trails, in 2014 I saw him in action at Costa Rica’s ‘The Coastal Challenge’ when he took each day as an individual day and he had a solid victory against some strong competition in a course record time.

But what makes him tick?

Michael Wardian

“I have a full-time job as an International Ship Broker and I fit all that I do in with the support of my family, work, sponsors and I work remotely a great deal if I have internet I can do my job anywhere on the planet.  I should say, that without the support of my boss, Keith Powell and my colleague and sister, Mariele Wardian, it wouldn’t be possible…”

That is some challenge, not only on a personal level but a work level. Mixing work, family and running to this level is a huge commitment and I am continually amazed at Wardian’s success at races. I wondered, how do work colleagues take it?

“They are big fans and supporters and help to cover for me, I also need to thank my clients as they definitely are a part of my team and always are asking where I am racing and if I won?” 

Family plays a key part in the success of Wardian and I am also amazed that on occasion, family joins on some of the more exotic trips – I guess it’s a way to find some balance and equilibrium. I asked about family and the role they play in the success of this unstoppable runner.

“I do have a family consisting of two boys Pierce (10 years) and Grant (8 years) and Rosie our 3-year-old Vizsla and my wife Jennifer.  I think finding a balance is key, Jennifer and I switch off days of the week to workout, she goes Monday, Wednesday, Friday and I go on Tuesday and Thursday in the AM. Then I normally race or do something on the weekend.  It works great.  As far as finding balance, Jennifer and I have been together for about 20-years so we have come to divide up the work really.”

You’d think racing as often as he does that Wardian would have no time or need to train, that is not the case. One thing you realize after talking for just minutes is that Wardian loves to run… training or racing, he just wants to run.

“I always try and keep my training as ‘invisible’ as possible so that I am back from a run when the boys are getting up or I run during work. At weekends, I go early if I am not racing and if I am racing and the family wants to go I try. I bring them as much as possible and I love having them there.”

Warden’s commitment amazes me, I’m left wondering what training is, it can’t be much I think to myself, I find the temptation and desire for knowledge too great and before I realize it, I ask, “I can’t believe you have time to train, what does a week look like?”

“I usually train 3-4 times a day during the week and race or run longer on the weekend. Training is straightforward; I like to do marathon type training and some workouts thrown in. This year I was racing a ton so a lot of weeks I was just doing pretty steady runs to get my legs back to do another long race the following weekend.”

That’s a crazy amount of running I think to myself. Does he sleep?

Michael Wardian

“Right now, I am running to work which is 6-8 miles, running at lunch (1 hour mostly on the treadmill at “big” incline from 8-12%, that is as high as treadmill goes at work), then I run home. I run 16-20 miles per day which is great!”

The thought exhausts me!

Is this what it takes to run at this level and so often? I don’t have the answers and in all honesty, I don’t think Wardian does. Running is an extension of his life, it’s like an arm or a leg, it’s connected to him and just what he does. He just happens to do it well. For many, this many hours or miles per week with racing intensity thrown in would be way too much… it would break them. A couple of years back it nearly broke Wardian, he had multiple stress fractures and hernia’s – his body was giving in to the punishment. Throughout this ‘downtime’ Wardian remained positive, never giving in, never doubting that he would return. I questioned if a return was possible and if possible, surely Wardian would run less?

He did for a while, he eased himself back but he was soon racing weekly and running back-to-back races at incredible speed with amazing recovery. 2016 has proven that Wardian is a phenomenon, a wonderful phenomenon in the amazing world of ultra-running. As one year closes, another year begins. It’s a dangerous question to ask Wardian, ‘what’s next?’ With most runner’s it would be a one or two-word answer, at best a sentence. With Wardian, no! A little laughter and then he reads out a list… you are going to see Wardian a great deal in 2017.

January 18-30, 2017: 7 Marathons, 7 Continents, 7 Days-Worldwide: www.worldmarathonchallenge.com

February 5-20, 2017: Tarawera 100K-New Zealand: http://www.taraweraultra.co.nz/

April 1, 2017: Barkley Marathon

April 2, 2017: Cherry Blossom 10 Miler: Credit Union Cherry Blossom

April 17, 2017: Boston Marathon: www.bostonmarathon.com

April 30, 2017: Big Sur Marathon: www.bsim.org

May 10-14, 2017: Kosovo…maybe for a trip for State Department

May 18-21, 2017: Ultra-Trail Australia: http://www.ultratrailaustralia.com.au/

May 28, 2017: Calgary 50K or 150K: http://www.calgarymarathon.com/races.html

June 24-25, 2017: Western States 100 Miler: Western States Endurance Run

July 14, 2017: Hardrock 100 Miler: http://hardrock100.com/

August 28, 2017: UTMB: UTMB®

Of course, this is ‘just’ the list, for now, I expect many races to be added in true Wardian fashion…

Some of Wardian’s 2016 statistics are HERE

Credit ©iancorless.com

Jim Walmsley

Jim Walmsley's Record Breaking Year of 2016

By: Ian Corless

As years go, 2016 has been a cracker in the world of ultra-running. Pete Kostelnick ran Across the USA in a record time. Karl ‘Speedgoat’ Meltzer set a new ‘FKT’ on the Appalachian Trail, Zach Miller broke the TNF 50-course record with a trailblazing run and Jim Walmsley has turned heads with a display of hard and fast running that has left many wondering, what does 2017 hold for this sport?

Walmsley, 26-years old, was an unknown before 2016. He had a history in running but it was in ’16’ when the breakthrough came… Living just below 7000ft in Flagstaff, Arizona certainly brings advantages as he can train high or low. Kicking off a running year is always a difficult thing, for the experienced runner, the first race can often be key. Bandera 100k has always been a popular season opener and when Walmsley ran 7:46, he lowered the previous course record by some 16-minutes. Heads turned!

Lake Sonoma followed two lower-key victories at Moab and Mesquite and this 50-mile race was arguably when the ultra-running community started to take note, Walmsley ran just under 6:01 to lower the course record by 9-minutes!

A hard-earned place a Western States Endurance Run (WSER) was a just reward and Walmsley stepped up his mileage and prepared specifically for the big dance in Squaw Valley. Now, the 2016 ‘WSER’ had arguably one of the best line-ups ever at this iconic 100-mile, so, when Walmsley went on record pre-race saying that he was going to win and possibly set a new course record, the community wasn’t quite sure what to think. Everyone loves confidence but was Walmsley verging on arrogance?

As the race unfolded, Walmsley glided along the trails, at times almost levitating. He floated above the terrain running at a pace that few thought possible. Timothy Olson’s 2012 best of 14:46:44 was under threat! With each mile, this tall lean runner wearing an old-school crop top that harked back to the days of Scott Jurek (who won the race 7-times) was looking set to smash the record to a whole new level. At one point, he was over 30-minutes under the 2012 mark. At mile 92/93, disaster struck when Walmsley went of course. Dejected, broken, confused, Walmsley finally back-tracked onto the race route but the damage was done. He had lost momentum, enthusiasm and he walked in to finish 20th 4-hours slower than Olson’s record. Andrew Miller won the day, the youngest ever runner to win the Western States, but all the talk was about Walmsley and ‘what might have been?’

It was a tough experience for Walmsley but one that he embraced, he showed no bitterness or remorse, he accepted the roll of the dice and moved on! The ultra-world now knew all about Jim Walmsley and a sponsorship deal followed with Hoka One One. Coached by James Bennett, Walmsley is now only just finding out what is possible. In October, the Grand Canyon offered an opportunity for Western States redemption. Although not a race, the Rim-to-Rim, and Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim has somewhat become a Holy Grail of ultra-running ever since Rob Krar ran 6:21:47 (2013) for the 42-mile journey with over 10.000 feet of vertical gain. Walmsley lowered the record to an incredible 5:55:20 and in the process, lowered the shorter R2R record too.

Walmsley had gone on record, post-Western States that he would aim for victory in two iconic 50-mile races that close out the year, JFK 50 and TNF 50 which are just 2-weeks apart. Walmsley’s Grand Canyon run was just a stepping stone to these targets as were three victories at the Bridger Ridge Run, Franklin Mountains Trail Run and Flagstaff to Grand Canyon 55k. Clocking 100+ mile weeks in training, Walmsley arrived in Maryland on November 19th to take on the first challenge. The release of the starting pistol once again saw Walmsley scorch the trails and not only win, but he lowered the benchmark time of Max King’s 5:34:59 to 5:21:28.

Wisely, Walmsley missed the start of TNF50 just 2-weeks later, he realized that he is human after all and December is also a perfect time to rest, recover and set sights on 2017 when the ultra-running world will have all eyes on him to see what he can achieve.

For many, Jim Walmsley is ‘the’ male ultra-runner of the year. I agree. His race results are there for all to see. 2017 is going to be an exciting year especially with the rise of Zach Miller and Hayden Hawks. Looks like ultra’s in the new year will be all about racing and racing fast!

Jim Walmsley’s results 2016

Bandera 100k 1st 7:46:37 

Moab Red Hot 50+ 1st 3:49:20

Mesquite Canyon 50k 1st 4:11:09

Lake Sonoma 50 1st 6:00:52

Don’t Fence Me In Trail Run 30k 1st 2:08:19

Western States 100 20th 18:45:36

Bridger Ridge Run 20m 1st 3:14:03

Franklin Mountains Trail Run 50k 1st 4:34:07

Flagstaff to Grand Canyon 55k 1st 3:30:44

JFK50 1st 5:21:28

Plus, the ‘FKT’s’ in the Grand Canyon

Credit ©iancorless.com 

Pete Kostelnick

Pete Kostelnick – Running Across the USA

Pete Kostelnick
As records go, the 36-year old record of 46-days, 8-hours and 36-minutes of Running Across America by Frank Giannini Jr is a classic. It’s the stuff of legends and it is actually one of the oldest records in the Guinness Book of Records. Well, it was one of the oldest records until Pete Kostelnick came along earlier this year and put the record at a whole new level.
As records go, this one started with little fan fair but Pete came to the challenge with a solid resume, he was the two-time winner of the Badwater 135. His last victory coming just months before his Run Across America.
Ironically, Pete says that had he been a skinny kid he may have not even become a runner, “I got into marathon’s about exactly eight years ago when I was 21. I did the Marine Corps marathon, really it’s just a test to myself, to get in shape, and drop a few pounds, there was really no competitive aspect to it for me, but that was where it all began. I tell people if I was naturally skinny I probably wouldn’t even be in this sport.”
Running over 70-miles a day for 42-days takes some mental and physical focus. In a recent interview, Pete said one of his secrets was running twice a day in training and accumulating weekly training mileages of 200+ miles. “I work a normal day job from eight to five, but what I would do this year in particular with the 200-mile training weeks was I’d really wake up at 5 am, and be running out the door by usually 5:15. I’d put in about two hours of running before work, so I’d get usually about 14 to 16 miles in, nothing crazy paced. I don’t really do really much of any tempo training. Then after work, I would go straight to the gym usually, and do two hours of treadmill running, usually about another 14 to 16 miles… on the weekend is where I do the longer continuous training where I’ll do a lot of times 30 to 50 miles training runs straight through.”
Running 70+ miles a day is a phenomenal physical and mental challenge, it’s difficult to comprehend that it is possible, but Pete has proven how remarkable the human body is. At 29-years old maybe Pete is in that prime age target where fitness and the body’s ability to recovery is optimum?
Hoka One teammate, ‘Speedgoat’ Karl Meltzer, who just recently set a new FKT on the Appalachian Trail confirmed that Pete was on a whole new level. “He’s done it the right way,” said Karl. “He started under the radar and he picked up momentum as the journey progressed. He will have been in pain for sure but he maintained those big days!”
In the first week, everything looked a little fragile as Pete pushed too hard, too soon covering 450-miles. He paid the price for the high mileage and on day 7 he took one full day off.
In retrospect, that day’s rest may have proven to be one of the most crucial days on this long 3100-mile journey. Tendonitis, aches, pains, tight muscles, sore hamstrings, swollen knee, tight hips, and so many more niggles were potentially going to break Pete. “I’ll admit I went out way over my head in terms of mileage,” Pete said. “It was good because looking back, I’m glad I did that, it really taught me a lesson early and I really latched on to that lesson that I had to be sensible.”
“It happens,” says Karl. “But the body is a remarkable thing, one day you feel lousy and then the next day you feel great. The pain travels and moves around and let’s be clear, when you run this type of mileage day-after-day you just become numb.”
Running Across America
Tracie Phan (Team Manager) commented that Pete got stronger as the days passed and it’s something Pete also confirmed, “It’s all about getting into a rhythm and routine. I love the terrain to be constant and smooth and if I have runners along to talk too, the miles can fly past. Ironically, the latter miles were some of the toughest in Pennsylvania, not because of fatigue but because of the terrain.”
A typical day started around 0400 and Pete covered in the region of 40-miles before taking a break to eat. Back out on the road, more miles would pass with an ideal daily target of 70-miles with an aim to finish around 5pm. “This is crucial for a successful attempt,” Karl confirmed. “Finishing early evening allows for quality rest, recovery, massage and it also means that eating and drinking is not compromised, you need to get those calories in!”
Peter linked the City Halls of San Francisco and New York in a stunning time of 42-days and 6-hours and the previous record holder was there to welcome him, Frank Giannini Jr. I wonder, could anyone break this new record?
“I would definitely welcome it,” said Peter. “Because one thing I learned from Frank was that he was so gracious to me when he handed the baton over in New York City. If someone goes for the record, I would love to see it. I think there are people that are definitely qualified, the interesting thing about this type of run and the reason I did it now rather than a few years from now is that it’s a huge undertaking personally and even professionally to get the time off to do it from work.”
The record books have a new chapter and Pete Kostelnick will be remembered for a long time to come. I personally see this record lasting for a long time just as Frank’s record stood for 36-years. The big question now is what is next for Pete, many people in the ultra-running community are interested to see?
“I’ll do some training and I’ll run through the winter, but I if I need 2/3 months early to get back to my regular running again I’ll be okay with that. I don’t really have any big races planned until hopefully in the spring and summer of 2017.”
Credit ©iancorless.com
Photo Credits: © Zandy Mangold & © Larry N Marsh

Carlos Sa

Carlos Sa : Ultra Runner and Ultra Entrepreneur

By Alice Hunter Morrison

Moroccan-based journalist, winner of Best Africa Blog, a writer for RunUltra, Lonely Planet Marrakesh Correspondent, author of “Dodging Elephants: 8000 Miles Across Africa by Bike” and Special Correspondent for IRUN4ULTRA.

“At any time of life, we can resume the race and be champions”Carlos Sa

Photo: Dino Bonelli
Carlos Sa, an amazing endurance runner, is the ultimate comeback kid. 
Born in Vilar do Monte (Barcelos, Portugal) in 1973, Carlos was a star athlete as a child. When he was 19, he decided to give up the rigorous life of an athlete and start L-I-V-I-N-G it up. Decadent foods, drinks and cigarettes were a staple for him. By the age of 32 he weighed 211 pounds and smoked two packs of cigarettes a day.
Carlos Sa
Photo: Carlos Sa
After looking inside himself, he decided this was not the life he wanted to lead. He decided to lose the weight and become an athlete once again. His open will and determination enabled him to rise to the top.
“I started running again to feel better, physically, and also to find a new path in my life, a healthier one,” he said. “But I got so passionate that I decided then to start testing my limits, and that is my goal, to see how far can I go.”
Within 5 years, he was a serious competitor known around the world. In 2013 he triumphed at Badwater 135, one of the most rigorous races on the planet. He came in first after running the 217km non-stop race through temperatures that reached 122 degrees in Death Valley in California. 
His list of first place wins is long and distinguished. In addition to Badwater 135, he won the Madeira Island Ultra Trail (Madeira – Portugal), Trail Morzine – Avoriaz 43km (Alpes France), Trail dos Abutres – 18km (Portugal), Trail Glazig – 18km + 42km (France),  and the Trail terras de Sicó – 38km (Portugal). He is also the Portuguese Ultra Trail Champion.
Carlos Sa
Photo: Carlos Sa
Sa also set the world record for the fastest ascent and descent of Aconcágua 6962m (Argentina). On December 27, 2012, he left for Argentina to break the world record of 20 hours and 35 minutes, previously set by Peruvian mountain guide, Holmes Pantoja Bayona, in early 2013. He smashed the previous time with a new record of 15 hours and 42 minutes despite the unbearable conditions with temperatures dipping to 4 degrees below zero and an oxygen level 40% the normal value.
Carlos competes in the Marathon Des Sables, the toughest footrace on earth that consists of 6 marathons in 6 days across the desert. In 2016 he ran as a member of Team I Run 4 Ultra as one of Hope So Bright’s ambassadors to raise ADHD awareness. The badass team placed second and Carlos came in 8th as an individual. He has run MDS every year since 2011, placing 4th twice and being highest placed European. 
Ultra Runner
Photo: Dino Bonelli
Carlos Sa is not only a world-renowned runner, but he is also a successful entrepreneur. He has taken on the role of encouraging the sport of Ultra running in Portugal, a country wonderfully suited to the sport and is responsible for the organization of many trail running competitions under the banner of Carlos Sa Nature Events . In 2016 he organized the BERG® OUTDOOR TransPeneda-Gerês Trail World Championships, a route of 85km with 4500m of elevation gain.
He trains rigorously – between 2 – 5 hours a day – and mixes up running with cycling to avoid strain on the joints and the body. He runs on trails and wears his trainers a size up for comfort. He likes to switch it up his runs to avoid monotony and although he does a lot of training alone, he enjoys the company of others while he runs. 
His company, Carlos Sa Nature Events, has 3 major events; Grande Trail da Serra d’Arga, Peneda-Gerês Trail Adventure, and Gerês Marathon. Each event brings a welcome influx of people to aide in the local development of the communities and their economies of Serra de Arga and Peneda-Gerês areas of Portugal. As you can see, he has an unwavering passion in all his pursuits, not only to better himself but also the community around him.
As his successes grow and Carlos Sa Nature Events flourishes, Carlos Sa remains an inspiration to all. Proving that you can transform into your best self at any time. 
Ultra Runner
Photo:Dino Bonelli

Marco Olmo

Marco Olmo: Legendary Double Winner of UTMB

By Alice Hunter Morrison

Moroccan-based journalist, winner of Best Africa Blog, a writer for RunUltra, author of “Dodging Elephants: 8000 Miles Across Africa by Bike” and Special Correspondent for IRUN4ULTRA.

Marco Olmo
Photo: UTMB
In a sport where the accolade, legend, is not easily bestowed, there is one man who everyone can agree deserves it – Marco Olmo. Marco Olmo is an Italian ultra runner came to fame on the ultra running scene when he won the most prestigious race of them all, the Ultra-Trail Du Mont-Blanc (UTMB) in 2006 and then again in 2007. What was extraordinary was not only that he won the race, but that he did so for the first time when he was 58 and the second time when he was 59.

Marco Olmo was born in Robilante, a little municipality in the Piedmont Alps, in Vermenagna Valley, not far from Cuneo on October the 8th 1948. He was born into a rural family and went on to work as a lorry driver and then a worker in the quarries of Robilante for Buzzi Unicem group which he did for 25 years.


He started to run at the age of 26, but he only started to win much later in his life and in his late sixties he is still running competitively and still winning. He came first in the UltraTrail of Bolivia this year.
He has often been quoted as saying that he runs as a form of vengeance against his life. ” In my everyday life I’m a loser….I run for revenge, I run for vengeance, ” he says.
“I come from the world of losers, peasants who have renounced the earth as I have done twenty years ago. At home there was sunlight, and water was out in the well.
Sport? I did not know what that was. But I was running to run, went up and down the mountain. I thought it was a good life: the food was always there, people are helped and did not need anything. Not as now when you have everything,”^
When he won his first UTMB, he was already known for his desert running exploits. In 2000 he came to prominence by winning the Desert Marathon in Libya and the Desert Cup in Jordan as well as coming 7th in the Marathon des Sables.
Marco Olmo
Photo: Dino Bonelli


In 2006, he went on to win the most important ultra on the planet, the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc UTMB. UTMB is a single-stage race and passes through three different countries as it follows the route of the Tour du Mont Blanc across France, Italy, and Switzerland. The race has varied slightly in different years but is around 170km with 10,000m of ascent. In 2006, Marco ran an impeccable race and took a commanding lead, winning in 21 hrs and 06 minutes.  
In 2007, he did it again, storming ahead after Champex Lac at 112 km,  and coming in at 21h 31mn 58s,  52 minutes ahead of the German, Jens Lukas.
His title was to go to the then young rising star of ultra running, Kilian Jornet in 2008 but his two wins had earned him a place in the history books, and he remains the oldest ever winner of the race.
It an extraordinary fact that Kilian Jornet, now acknowledged as one of the best ultra runners that have ever lived, was less than HALF of Marco Olmo’s age when he took his title at UTMB in 2008.

Age does not stop him

Statistical analysis has shown that after the age of 40 there is a decrease in race performance amongst athletes. Much of the decrease in race performance with age can be explained by decreases in oxygen intake, upper and lower body strength, flexibility, and muscular (explosive) power. Clearly, Marco Olmo has found a way to compensate for that decrease and to go on winning races.
Marco is 1.81 cm high, he weighs 66 kg and his heart rate is 34-35 beats per minute at rest. He has been a vegetarian since his mid-thirties and for him, it is a type of philosophy as well as an eating regime.
“An animal for me is not a meal, but a living being. And with vegetarianism we will solve much of the tragedy of hunger in the world,” he says, “I do have particular favorite foods, but based on local products:  potatoes, chestnuts, bread, pasta, polenta, a little cheese seasoning, extra virgin olive oil. The food of our ancestors.”^
He does not follow a complicated training regime, but runs 1 ½ hours per day, with a long run of 5 hours if he is working towards a race.
Apart from UTMB, he is also famous for his participation in the Marathon des Sables. He has run the race, the toughest footrace on earth, six marathons in six days across the Sahara desert over twenty times. In 2016 he ran the race as an Ambassador for Hope So Bright coming second in the team competition with Team I Run 4 Hope and 30th in the overall rankings with a time of 29h 32 for the 258 km covered in the race.
As his fellow teammate, Harvey Lewis said about him after the race, “Marco Olmo is very special. He has run this race 21 times. I want to be like him in 28 years! He is 68 years young and can outrun anyone from my hometown!
^Quotes from One Step Beyond
Marco Olmo
Photo: Dino Bonelli


Caroline Chaverot Triumphs this Weekend as the IAU Trail World Champion

This year’s IAU Trail World Champions contained the excitement that many ultra-marathoners dreams of competing in. Dealing with the never before raced course in Peneda-Gerês National Park of northern Portugal, combined with the terrain and mixture of humid weather set the pace for what was perhaps the closest women’s podium race the running community has seen. 

Caroline Chaverot

Photo Cred: Prozis

In an interview with Bryon Powell, Caroline Chaverot says she could not have imagined her win as World Champion.  Chaverot says, “Everyone told me I was prepared for it, but I knew it would be very tough. I knew there would be good athletes, and my season has been long. I didn’t feel that good the week before. When I was running, I was feeling good. I’m doing some heart check, and they were not so good. So I was not very, very optimistic, but I’d do my best.”

In a more intimate share on Facebook called “The Icing on the Cake” Chaverot says, “Despite my good season, I feel a deep will to race well, for me, but also for my adopting country, France, because a Team-title is on the balance.”

Chaverot goes on to come to recount her competitive grit with Spain’s Azara García, “..A little bit later, I hear a woman’s voice just behind me. Gosh!!! It’s Azara!! She seems to suffer a lot but she’s faster than me! I walk much faster, but the result is that I loose my breath again! I feel really bad and this climb seems to have no end. Each time I guess we reach the summit, I discover another summit behind! It’s a nightmare!

On the finish line, I am too exhausted to be able to realize what is happening. Then, the real happiness comes: I am World Champion!

Caroline Chaverot (France) — 9:39:40
Azara García (Spain) — 9:45:01
Ragna Debats (Netherlands) — 9:47:38
Nathalie Mauclair (France) — 10:13:37
Gemma Arenas (Spain) — 10:21:11
Kathrin Götz (Switzerland) — 10:30:41
Jo Meek (Great Britain) — 10:36:12
Beth Pascall (Great Britain) — 10:41:35
Michaela Mertová (Czech Republic) – 10:42:59
Teresa Nemes (Spain) – 10:44:07Caroline Chaverot
Sourire, c’est oublier la grimaceIAU Trail World


Ultra Running: The Single Stage Race versus The Multi Stage Race

By Alice Hunter Morrison

Moroccan-based journalist, winner of Best Africa Blog, writer for RunUltra, author of “Dodging Elephants: 8000 Miles Across Africa by Bike” and Special Correspondent for IRUN4ULTRA, a subsidiary of Hope So Bright.

The definition of an ultra running is any run that is over the marathon distance of 42.195 kilometers or 26.219 miles. For many people, once they have conquered their marathon and ticked that off their bucket list, they look to move up to the next challenge and discover the joy of ultras. There are two main types of ultra: the long single stage race and the multi-day stage race. 

Ultra Running

Single Stage Race

50km or 31 miles is a very popular starting distance as it is achievable for most fit marathon runners. However, make no mistake. That extra five miles at the end of your marathon can feel like a very long way indeed.

The next jump up, if you are going for straight runs (i.e., not multi-day runs), is 50 miles or 80.5 km and this really does signify a big change to the way that you have to approach a race and how to train for it. One marathon is hard enough, but two back-to-back means you have to be crazy, no?

Well, apparently not. Ultra running races, including both long day and multi-day races, have tripled in the last decade, with more than 12,000 races now held annually in the U.S. alone and that number continues to increase.

Stepping Up

So, what does it take to step up from a marathon to a 50 miler and then a 100 miler or more? Whereas an average beginner marathon training program varies weekly from 15 to 45 miles per week, you need to be running a weekly volume of 50 to 60 miles I order to attain your first 50. If you have run a marathon before, a good plan is to add 10 to 15 percent to each week’s total mileage. Increase the mileage for three weeks, and then give yourself a break to recover during a fourth week by dropping your mileage down to the same range as week one. The long run must remain sacrosanct. This is the foundation for your race and will give you the confidence to succeed.

Why do people take on these ultra long distances?

I like to compete.  And, I like to work hard.  I’ve made this point before:  an ultra is the fairest sport out there.  It doesn’t discriminate by race, gender or really even genetics.  The harder you train, the better you do.  I like that . . . a lot,” says ultra runner, Dave Krupski. 

Matthew Inman had this to say about his first 50 miler: “The run itself was surprisingly enjoyable. After you’ve been running for 8+ hours every little thing becomes an incredible luxury. At mile 21, I drank a cup of flat Mountain Dew and I swear it tasted like unicorn tears. At mile 43, I ate a PB&J sandwich and it was like eating the entrails of a fallen angel.”    

Vanessa Runs says that it is all about the egalitarian nature of the ultra challenge:Ultras are hard for everyone. Ultras are just plain hard. Everyone struggles up that hill. Everyone has trouble breathing. Everyone feels the hot sun. Everyone is sweating. Everyone wants to sit down. You—sitting at your computer and reading this—would not be any worse off than I am on a steep, rocky hill. Trails can’t tell whether you’re an elite or a newbie. They’ll kick your ass just the same. So, you belong here just as much as I do and I belong here just as much as the dude who wins first place.” 

Ultra Running

The beauty of the long, one stage race is that you set your mind to it, you set off, you run/walk/crawl/complete it and then you are done. There is no break in focus or determination. You start and you go through to the finish, however hard and far away that finish is.

One of the other great joys of the long one stage race is that they are usually run off road on trails in amazing parts of the country. One of the most famous, Badwater ®135, is an exception as it is a road race, but it carries its own special beauty.

Top One Stagers

Here are three of our top one stagers:


Badwater®135 covers 135 miles (217 kilometers) of California’s Death Valley. Starting in the Badwater Basin, approximately 85m below sea level, the finish line is at Whitney Portal (Mt. Whitney) at 2,530m.

Started in 1978, the approximately 100 runners travel through Mushroom Rock, Furnace Creek, Salt Creek, Devil’s Cornfield, Devil’s Golf course, Stovepipe Wells, Panamint Springs, Keeler, Alabama Hills, and Lone Pine. Many of these names give a very good indication of the extreme July temperatures (well in excess of 40ºC) and the stark landscape that surrounds the brave participants. 

Western States 100

First, run in 1974, this race stretches just over 100 miles (or 161 kilometers) from Squaw Valley to Auburn, in California along the Western States Trail. Steep and remote, it must be completed in less than 30 hours. Some of the nature spots along the way include Emigrant Pass, the Granite Chief Wilderness, the canyons of the California gold country and the Middle Fork of the American River.

multi stage

From UltimateDirection.com

Hardrock 100

This race is a looped 100.5 miles of dirt trails along the San Juan Range of Southern Colorado with a total elevation of 67,984 feet. Starting at 6 a.m., the cut off time for the race is 48 hours. Runners cover extremely rugged terrain, steep scree climbs and descents, snow, river crossing, and boulder fields. Alternating between clockwise and counterclockwise every year, this extremely challenging course leads participants from Silverado through the towns of Telluride, Ouray and Sherman and back, crossing 13 major passes in the mountain range. Survival and navigational skills are required.

Multi-Day Stage Races

The multi-day stage race is a different beast from the one stage. As the name suggests, it is a race that takes place over a number of days. The total distance of the race must be over marathon distance to qualify as an ultra but each day does not have to be, so you will often find multi-day races with day runs ranging from around 35 kilometers or 21.7 miles. Often, the distance is around the marathon mark and with a couple of longer stages up to 100 kilometers or 62 miles. Each multi-day race is different.

As you are running over a number of days, these races involve having a kit, camping and food supplies. Every race is different, but typically a race organizer will provide the tents or overnight accommodations and the runner will take the rest of their kit and food in a backpack. The organizers may provide food and transfer of sleeping gear if so, this is great news for the runner as they don’t have to run with a big backpack. If not, then the issue of weight on one’s back versus taking enough food and warm clothes becomes an issue.

Training for a Multi Stager

The biggest piece of advice from experts on working towards a multi stager is to build up your endurance base. These races are going to call on you to perform day after day, so you need to be strong enough to withstand the strain that you will put on your body.  At the beginning of your training, work on your endurance with different disciplines – cycling, rowing, and hiking are all useful options. Then, when you are into your running program, focus it around the daily average mileage you will have to do for a race. Don’t forget to add in the variables such as extreme heat or cold, altitude, the amount of ascent and the varying terrain.

Psychologically, these races are different from the one stagers. You have to keep motivation high over a long period of time. They are not as immediately physically demanding as 130 miles in one go, but they definitely require mental pacing to maintain a positive attitude. Day three can be a bit depressing.

Three of Our Top Multi Stagers

There are so many great races out there to choose from. Here are three of our favorites:

Grand to Grand

The race starts from the awe-inspiring north rim of the Grand Canyon, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, and finishes on the summit of the Grand Staircase, one of the world’s most iconic geological formations. The course takes you through a high desert landscape of sand dunes, red rock canyons, buttes, mesas, and hoodoos. You will navigate compelling slot canyons and experience the remotest part of continental America in the way of the earliest settlers: the Navajo and Paiute Indian tribes. This is where Montezuma’s gold is still reputed to be buried.  Ultra Running

Marathon des Sables

Known simply as the MDS, the race is a grueling multi-stage adventure through a formidable landscape in one of the world’s most inhospitable climates – the Sahara desert. The rules require you to be self-sufficient, to carry on your back everything except water – everything you need to survive. You are given a place in a tent to sleep at night but any other equipment and food must be carried. 

Everest Trail Race

Set against one of the most iconic and awe-inspiring backdrops on the planet, the Everest Trail Race is one of the world’s toughest high-altitude ultra-marathons. Winding through the remote Solukhumbu region of the Himalayas in Nepal, the Everest Trail Race (ETR) is an annual multi-stage footrace, with a brutal altitude of more than 25,000 meters. Along hard trails of frozen earth, crunching through crisp snow and running over different types of rock, red, green and grey in color, prepare to cover a grueling 160 kilometers over six days. 

Inspired to Run?

Whether you decide that your next race is going to be a multi-stage or a one stager, you are probably already in the throes of training. Long days out on the road and trails that lie ahead, one of the most valuable things you can have in your program is a great partner. There you have it!  Happy Running.


Elisabet Barnes Interview: Ultra Running Champion and Irun4Ultra Ambassador

By Alice Hunter Morrison

Moroccan-based journalist, winner of Best Africa Blog, writer for RunUltra, author of “Dodging Elephants: 8000 Miles Across Africa by Bike,” and Special Correspondent for IRUN4ULTRA, a subsidiary of Hope So Bright.

Elisabet Barnes is one of the world’s best women multi-day runners on the circuit. She is the 2015 Women’s Champion of the Marathon des Sables and earlier this year won the Big Red Run in Australia outright.
She attacks all her races with a great spirit and good humor and always takes the time to encourage and support others. She is one of Irun4Ultra’s newest Ambassadors and the team is delighted to have her on board.

Hi Elisabet. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself

I am from Sweden but have lived in the UK since 2007. I met my now husband Colin at work and moved over… At the time I was working as a management consultant in London but now I have left the corporate life for running. I am a running coach, own a running shop with Colin, and I am part of Raidlight’s Dream Team. I am 39 years old and I did my first multi-stage ultra in 2012.

You are a star in the desert races with MDS and the Big Red Run wins under your belt. What were those two races like for you?

Every race brings something different and that’s what I love. Of course, winning is great but it’s not my primary drive. I love the adventure and the experience as well as the people you meet. The MDS is a tough race because the environment is very harsh and camp life is very sparse and simple. Therefore, even when you are “resting” in camp it can be tough, for example, if it’s really windy or hot – which most of the time it is! The Big Red Run takes place in a desert of different character and it has more support such as bag transport, hot water, and massages therapists. It makes a difference. The MDS is always the race that seems to take the most out of me although other courses can be harder to run.

Did it feel good to come first overall in the Big Red Run? Do you think women are moving up to equal the men in ultra-running?

It was great to win the race outright of course but I had to work for it. We had a good group at the top and we kept pushing each other. It was a great competition but also good camaraderie at the same time. There are several examples of women winning ultra-races outright. Women have good endurance and mental strength and we can be patient, pacing ourselves well over long distances. Theoretically, men should still have the advantage but it’s encouraging to see women in the top of races and hopefully, it can help inspire other women to believe in themselves and make their dreams possible.

Elisabet Barnes

Credit: Alexis Berg

How was your recent Grand to Grand Experience?

I loved Grand to Grand. The running was tough and involved a fair amount of hiking plus a bit of crawling on all fours to get up the steepest dunes I have ever seen! I thought the course was mostly scenic, the campsites were beautiful and the atmosphere was great throughout, with everyone supporting each other.

You say that stage races are your races of choice? What do you like about them?

Stage races are adventures over several days, mostly a week. I think that makes it interesting because a lot of things can happen. You need to think through your strategy and consider not only your running, but things like the changing terrain, the weather, your recovery etc., plus balance the weight of your required and recommended equipment as you often need to carry it all. You also get to meet a lot of interesting people.

What are the important factors for success in a stage race? What do you need to avoid?

You need to avoid getting carried away on Day 1 (pacing), and you need to avoid getting ill – (clean hands at all times). Avoiding blisters is also preferable but not always within your control.

What are you training for at the moment? And, what does your training consist of in an average week/month?

At the moment I am just recovering from Grand to Grand but I feel OK and will start running again shortly. The next race on the calendar is the Costa Rica Coastal Challenge in February so I will start building up to that. My training through the year is quite different in periods due to my uneven workload. (I work particularly long hours leading up to MDS which is not very practical for training). Unless a race is close, I do strength training three times a week and ideally, I run most days with one rest day, but it varies. Where I live is very flat and I do a lot of road running normally although I have access to the beach which is good training for desert runs.

What does a typical race year look like for you?

If this year is anything to go by for the future, it has involved five multi-stage races and a total of 29 days of racing…Of course, I try to spread the races out somewhat so I get a chance to recover. The good thing about multi-stage races is that you can recover during the race to an extent and it is not as physically draining as a long non-stop race. However, camp life can be taxing on the body: being cold, sleeping on hard ground, and eating freeze-dried meals.

You have raced all over the world, what is it like racing in different countries? How would you
compare running in Costa Rica with Richtersveld, for example?  Presumably, you have to change your style/strategy according to the environment?

Every first time is a new experience so you don’t really know what to expect until you are there. Usually the first day becomes a warm-up or “learning experience” before you properly can get into it. Costa Rica was incredibly hot and humid which I had anticipated, so I had done my best to acclimatize in a heat chamber before traveling. Because of where I live I do struggle a bit with technical terrain but I run well on flat surfaces, so on more technical trails I kind of learn as I go and get better as the race goes on. Richtersveld was dry, hot and incredibly arid. It was also a navigational race whereas Costa Rica had a marked course. I prefer marked courses although either is fine. In Richtersveld I had to do a lot of hiking due to the terrain, which in hindsight wasn’t a bad thing as the course was easy to run in Australia a week later.

Elisabet Barnes

Credit: Benoit Laval

You have signed up as an Ambassador for IRun4Ultra – how did that come about?

Linda approached me about running TransRockies for IRun4Ultra and, of course, I couldn’t say no to that. It is great if through my running I can contribute to raising awareness of important causes and inspire people to make changes leading to better health.

So, as you said, you will be running the TransRockies race IRun4Ultra – what are your goals for the race?

TransRockies will bring new challenges that I have to tackle, the biggest being the altitude (I live at sea level). However, this is not a bad thing as I will be doing the Everest Trail Race later in the year so I have to get the altitude training in… It also has a very good field so I expect that it will be tough to compete for the top places! Hopefully, I will be able to do the specific training I need so that I can perform to the best of my ability.

What are you looking forward to about the race?

I am, of course, looking forward to experiencing the Rocky Mountains. I’m sure the trails will be spectacular. I have also heard many good things about TransRockies as a race so I look forward to soaking up the atmosphere, meeting new people, enjoying the running and the camaraderie, and having a great time.

IRun4Ultra is campaigning to raise awareness about autism and ADHD in children, and to focus on diet and exercise to alleviate symptoms. Do you have any connection to the cause/comments/thoughts?

I do not have a personal connection as such to autism or ADHD but I am passionate about health and well-being. Modern society is increasingly encouraging a sedentary lifestyle, the consumption of poor quality food and drink, and unnecessary medication for many conditions. It’s mind blowing just walking into the supermarket and seeing what people put in their shopping baskets! Strong commercial interests from the food – and the pharmaceutical industries are not helping…I am a firm believer that if most people ate more healthily, exercised more and lived less stressful lives, we could prevent many lifestyle diseases, mental disorders, and other conditions. I can go on for hours about this as I am very passionate about the topic!

How will you prepare specifically for the TransRockies?

I will do some altitude training for sure. I just haven’t planned exactly how yet. There will be plenty of hill work too, no doubt.

You and your husband own myRaceKit (https://www.myracekit.com/) so what are your top kit tips for multi-stage racing and what are we likely to see you using for TransRockies?

Every multi-stage race has a different setup so my first advice is to check through the mandatory and recommended gear lists to understand the requirements. If the race is self-sufficient, it is incredibly important to keep your pack weight low. Anything that is only “nice-to-have” should ideally be left behind. Having said that you need to pack “right,” not just light. That means ensuring you recover well in terms of a good night’s sleep and eating enough food. As the TransRockies is well supported I will just be carrying a small race vest with the essentials. The rest will go in my kit bag.

And, finally and most importantly, who is Stig…

Stig is the best Great Dane in the world and he must be Scooby-Doo’s twin brother. He is nearly 7.5 years now and is our shop mascot. He loves trying out the sleeping mats, playing with our customer’s kids or just sleeping on the sofa…


Oliviero Bosatelli race Leader

Race Leader: The 1st to enter the Campo Vita was Oliviero Bosatelli. He arrived at Cogne at 4:55 and came out at 5:04.
In the photo, he’s exiting the Campo Vita. His physical and mental conditions were impressive: it seemed he had just left Courmayeur, he was really fresh, motivated, calm.
Oliviero Bosatelli

Race Leader Julien Voaffray arrived in 2nd position, with about 1 hour of delay.
Race Leader