Sunday, June 12, 2011

Madeira Ultra Races 2011 - Report by Andrew Fishleigh

Earlier this year my wife Janet and I decided to have a break in Madeira for10 days in May. I had spotted via a website search that the Madeira Ultra Trail races were on, with the 100k and 55 k being awarded points to qualify for the Mont Blanc 2010 Ultra race, an event for which I am supremely unqualified. 

However I felt that the 25k race was a good start since I have not run a marathon for 8 years or so, and I applied online back in February / March.

The pre race organization was brilliant with regular updates online, and the only problem was trying to pay the race entry fee of 25 euros without paying the same amount in fees to my Bank here…. But the organizers waived this and said pay on the day! The events’ headquarters were in Porto Moniz a few yards from our hotel, where my race would end.

One of the attractions was the location, since we had been out there before and love the island, as well as the fact that the hotel would give us a sea balcony, with breakfast and they would collect us from the other side of the island at the airport – all for 40 euros a night!! With swimming pool, jacuzzi and sauna thrown in we could not go wrong!

The races all started on Saturday 14 May so we got flights on the Wednesday in good time to attend registration on the Friday, and time for a practice run or two.

The 100k race started at 6am from outside the hotel at which time I was blissfully unaware of this event, as my race was a civilised 10 am start. We were bussed to the start 25k or so away in the clouds and the mountains, and I was glad that I was wearing longer running bottoms and a long sleeve shirt as 1200 metres up it was cold and damp.

The race involved about 500 metres of uphill climb over the first 8 miles or so but more downhill towards the end. There were about 35 of us in the 25k. I decided to go off at a decent pace and was in the first 3 for about a mile and then what looked like 5 runners went past me in a flash, so I was 7th. The race was all off road and well marked by streamers in the trees and bushes. After about 4 miles I was sure I had taken a wrong turn, so went back and retraced steps only to find I had been ok all along…. So wasting precious minutes.

I managed to bang my leg into a boulder crossing a stream after 6 miles or so which was painful and bloody and at about that stage was overtaken by another runner so I was 8th.

Shortly after this the first check in point was situated in a lonely tent in the middle of nowhere stocked with some welcome cakes, fruit and drinks and a computer pin check to ensure we were on the right track.

Following that I never saw another runner for 10 miles until the finish so quite a lonely run ensued, which passed another isolated check point and wound past miles of levadas ( Madeiran watercourses) still 1000 metres or so up and in the clouds. I managed to fall over about 5 times in total on ridiculous slopes and difficult terrain but the ground was soft and no further injuries resulted.

About 3 miles from the end a massive downhill run began, off road to begin with but as we approached the outskirts of Porto Moniz the course went on road. The hill leading into town was like going down an eternal Boniface Down with corkscrew bends, cobble stones and uneven flint paths everywhere!  I have tried to portray this in the pictures attached.

As I got to the bottom, my legs felt shattered but the sight of the finishing line gave me a bit of renewed energy and I came in 8th in just over 3.5 hours. The winner did it in 2.45.

I was happy to later discover that I was first vet 50 home, which made up for the fact that I had lost my bet with Paul Judge who said I ‘d do it in under 2.30!

We then watched others runners coming home in the 55k and 100k races which was very interesting especially when the French 100k winner came in as he looked as if he had been out for a stroll, being interviewed as he crossed the line and talking quite normally – he had managed the course in 14 hours and had got lost for an hour! It later transpired he was 5th in the last Mont Blanc Ultra race.

The next day all runners and partners were invited to lunch in a local restaurant. There were about 130 runners in total so it was quite a lively affair, and we managed to meet up on the same table with 2 runners from Nottingham one of whom had won the 55k race.

Overall the race and trip was well worth the effort and money. We had 10 nights there and with air fares and hotel the basic cost per person was about £300.  So a long weekend would be about £200 odd.

At this stage I am not sure what the plans are for next year as they have not decided on routes etc but if any WW runners are looking for a different race in 2010 this could be the event for you!

The web site is a good starting point –

and this will give an idea of the race course, times, accommodation costs etc.

Please speak to me if you are interested in 2012.

Andrew Fishleigh

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