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Lofoten Ultratrail

07/06/2016

Saturday June 4th saw the inaugural Lofoten Ultratrail, which Jo Zakrzewski was invited to take part in. 

The Lofoten Islands are reputedly the most beautiful islands in Europe and, as they lie within the Arctic Circle, they experience daylight 24 hours a day in summer.

There were races of three different distances - the 100mile race started on Friday lunchtime (so they ran through the midnight sun), the 50 mile race (in which Jo was competing) setting off on Saturday morning, and a 24k race at 4pm on Saturday. The shorter events joined the route of the longer ones so that everyone finished at the same point in Svolvaer town square.

Jo described the race as the most brutal but most beautiful event she has ever done. It was not just the weather (snow, hail, rain, sun and strong winds) that made it a tough day out, but the wide variety of terrain covered in the 52ish miles of the race. There was about 14,000 feet of elevation gained and lost over 35 miles of mountainous terrain (much of which had no paths so good navigational skills were essential) interspersed with 17 or so miles of tarred/gravel road running (for which trail shoes are not always the ideal choice).

The runners passed along and over fjords, boulder-hopped along beaches, ran along cliff paths, lowered themselves down rocky slopes, climbed snow fields, jogged along ridge tops, fought their way through bush and woodland, and dragged their soggy feet out of bogs over the course of the route, but no two sections were alike and the scenery was second to none.

At times Jo despaired of actually completing the race, especially when she hadn't seen another soul for several hours, or found herself aiming for the wrong side of a small lake marked on the map, but found some reserve strength for the last climb and was over the moon to finish 1st overall in 10 hrs and 38 minutes (over an hour and a half in front of the next competitor, the leading man).

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