Experienced multi-day runner Sondre Amdahl just recently completed and won The Jungle Ultra located deep within the Amazon Rainforest. Taking place in the Manu National Park, the route goes from the Andes mountains to the Madre de Dios river. It’s hot, humid, uncomfortable and the dense jungle provides no escape as the runners place one foot in front of the other as they cover 230km in 5 stages, Daytime temperatures vary from 20 to 30 degrees, at night the temperature drops to 10 degrees and below.
Like the Marathon des Sables, the race is self-sufficient – runners must carry all that they need! This not only includes clothing and personal essentials but food, safety equipment and the capacity to carry 2.5 liters of water. Some comfort is provided in the evening when participants sleep in research stations or lodges, however, the humidity makes nothing easy – especially if the day’s efforts have been through mud and rain.
It’s not an easy race!
I caught up with Sondre Amdahl to find all about the journey and what advice he would provide for those looking to take on the challenge of a rainforest multi-day run.
How was your build up to the event and what specific training did you do?
This winter has been very busy for me, with a lot of races. So, there has not been too much specific training for the Jungle Ultra. I did quite a lot of faster running before Ultra-Trail Australia and I think that paid off in the jungle. I also did a four day fast-packing trip in Sweden at the beginning of May (four weeks before the jungle). I did 50k + 60k + 60k + 25k and my pack weighed approximately 6kg, so that was great!
You completed MDS and The Coastal Challenge – how does this compare?
It is always hard to compare races. The good thing about the Jungle Ultra is that we saw the “authentic” Peru. We ran thru small villages and could relax in them too – this was something I didn’t get at Marathon des Sables as the race is so much bigger and we spend our time in bivouac.
In comparison to The Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica, the Jungle Ultra is more technical but the race is shorter. Without a doubt, TCC is hotter and more humid – that is tough but Jungle Ultra is “scarier” in terms of snakes and spiders.
Tell me about the conditions and the self-sufficiency.
We had to be self-sufficient from Sunday morning until Thursday at the finish line. The organizers provided hot and cold water that’s all. Everything else we had to provide just like in MDS – so you need to be prepared!
Any specific equipment that you used that was invaluable? Did you not take something and wish you had?
The most specific equipment was the hammock! That is an absolute necessity. I used a very light hammock from Hennessy. You do not want to sleep on the ground in the jungle! I brought very little extra, and that was good. I think I had one of the lightest packs in the field.
Which was the easiest day and which was the toughest, explain why?
Easiest: The first day was the easiest and eased us into the race. I felt very good the whole day. I enjoyed the jungle trails at the beginning of the stage, but also the road section in the latter part of the stage
Toughest: The last stage which was the long stage. It was 65 km and even if I had about an hour lead ahead of the next runner, I wasn’t sure that I would make it. 65 km in the jungle is hard and everything can happen. So, I followed the second placed guy (Fabian from Germany) the whole day. He tried to push hard and run away from me a couple of times, but I managed to follow him.
In Costa Rica, I felt slow and that I had only one speed. It was totally opposite in Peru. I felt a lot stronger and managed to switch to a “lower gear” when I needed to.
Hydration and food – what did you use and did it work – any tips?
I used the same as I used in the MDS. Muesli for breakfast, couscous for lunch and freeze-dried meals for dinner. This worked great! I took some liquid hydration for during the race (Tailwind) and some gels. Approx. 2400 calories per day.
Would you do it again?
Yes, absolutely. It was a very well organized event.
Can you give 3 top tips for future runners doing this race?
Practice with the hammock before the race. It’s essential – you don’t want to sleep on the
floor! You need good trail shoes and ideally, they need to drain water. The jungle is wet and muddy.
Come early to Cusco and acclimatize and you can also explore.