A Run for Your Money – Running Holidays Abroad

Travelling is something I’ve always loved ever since I was a kid but it wasn’t until my mid 20s that I got into running. Until then I’d always thought of running as being some kind of torture and wondered why anyone would want to subject themselves to it. This was mostly because I’d never had naturally good stamina and so found it difficult and unpleasant. However when I dedicated myself to it and started setting achievable goals, I found it to be extremely enjoyable.

Fast forward a few years to 2014 and I decided to buy my first motorhome. Having a motorhome is something I’d always liked the idea of but either couldn’t afford to buy one or didn’t have the space for it. When I finally did make the plunge, I was delighted with it.

As I’m sure is the case with many new motorhome owners, I was slightly hesitant to take my new vehicle/home overseas at first – worrying about things like insurance/fuel/weird driving laws (or lack of laws altogether). However this year I decided to take the plunge and go on a trip across Europe covering multiple countries.

person-stream-cliff-river

Not only did I want to venture further than I had before though, I also wanted to combine my love of running and travelling into one amazing adventure. I decided that wherever I went, I would run at least 10 miles a day.

One of the first things I did before I set off on my journey was to make sure I was properly covered. I called my insurance provider and asked them to add European cover to my policy. To my surprise this was actually quite a bit cheaper than I imagined it would be.

Once that was sorted I started planning my journey in detail. I knew I wanted to start in the Netherlands and head south, finishing my trip in Barcelona.

Below is an account of my travels, including all the countries I visited and how I was able to fit my daily run in.  

Day 1 – Hoek van Holland, Netherlands

I took a ferry from Harwich to Hoek van Holland. This was an ideal place to start since there are some great campsites in this area.

I arrived in the Netherlands on the first day and thankfully the weather was great. I was a little bit sea sick from the trip on the ferry but I soon got over it.

The weather was really good for most of the week I was in the Netherlands, making it ideal for running. I explored the area around the campsite where I was staying and found some great routes. Over the course of the week I explored further afield and found that there were also some fantastic routes near the Hoek van Holland Haven railway station. 

Day 2 – Blankenberge, Belgium

After an amazing week in the Netherlands I headed to Belgium. I stayed in the beautiful coastal town, Blankenberge. Blankenberge has a great beach and promenade making it perfect for me. There are tonnes of great things to see there too, so it’s not just for campers or joggers.

Depending on what I was doing on any particular day, I would vary my run from 10-20 miles, but always made sure I did at least 10 miles each day. My stay in Blankenberge was definitely one of the best parts of my entire trip.

Day 3- Paris, France

France was up next so I started driving towards Paris, which was where I was planning to stay for the third week of my trip across the continent. It might be surprising to learn that Paris actually has some great campsites, making it ideal for motorhome owners.

In addition to offering great food, sites and things to do; Paris also has some fantastic routes, which I made the most of for the entire time I was there. In Notre Dame there’s a great route that runs for around 7km and crosses the Seine. I used this particular route many times while I was staying in Paris.

Day 4 – Barcelona, Spain

barcelona48983

I knew that I wanted to end my journey with a trip to one of the sunny beaches in Spain so I headed to Barcelona. I’ve been to Barcelona plenty of times before and have always loved the city. With Barcelona you get the best of both worlds since you’ve got a great bustling city, with a beach right next to it. Although Barcelona might not have the longest beach in the world (approx 4m) it is ideal for running thanks to the soft sand.

Here is a great stretch that leads from La Rambla to the main beach in Barcelona that’s perfect for running. It’s extremely wide so even when it’s busy during the peak of the day, you still have plenty of room. This is where I did the majority of my running while I was in Barcelona. Any days I planned to finish my run on the beach I got up early since it’s just too busy during the day.

Heading home

After a week in Barcelona I headed north to Santander so I could get the ferry back home. When I arrived in back in Portsmouth I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was almost as sunny as it had been in Spain. I decided I’d head to London and spend the night there before heading back home.

Overall it was an amazing experience travelling across Europe in my motorhome. Although the different driving rules took some getting used to, I had a fantastic time and it made me realise how important it is to find new routes all the time if you want to keep things fresh and exciting.

Skyrunning UK 2014 series kicks off in Wales

Posted in At the Races on Wed 02 Jul ’14

© Mick Kenyon / racingsnakes.com

Last weekend saw the inaugural race in the Skyrunning UK series for 2014, as 100 runners tackled the fabled slopes of the Welsh 3000m mountains, taking in such ridges as Crib Goch, for the V3K race

Niandi Carmont reports

Well what an epic start to the UK Skyrunning series and certainly no better way to introduce Skyrunning to the UK ultra-running enthusiasts.

The V3K on June 28th, 2014 was the first in a series of 4 Skyrunning events on the UK calendar this year. Organized by Race Director Kirsch Bowker the 55km ultra-Skymarathon with a total ascent of 4,500m takes in the Welsh 3,000’s – the 15 (formerly 14) peaks over 3000ft in Wales.

Now in its third year the course has seen entries grow from 30 in 2013 to 100 runners registered in its third year. As opposed to last year the course took the Skyrunners® across the infamous Crib Goch in Snowdonia certainly one of the most technical parts of any British mountain race. This was thus a new course with a new male and female course records.

The 100+ participants were convened at 4am on June 28th to take a bus transfer from the finish at Rowen to the start of the race at Nant Gwyanant at 5am. By this time day had broken and amidst excited chatter and last-minute kit adjustments the runners were on their way up the first climb up the ridge Bwlch Main to Snowdon, second and third ridges of Carnedd Ugain and the knife edged arête of Crib Goch.

The weather was chilly and overcast unlike previous days of clear skies and high temperatures. By the time the first runners had reached the dreaded crête Crib Goch the fog had already descended over the Welsh peaks and visibility was reduced considerably making race conditions harder for even the more experienced runners. According to one runner ‘conditions on Crib Goch were very greasy and slippery but thanks to the reduced visibility we could not see the sheer drops on either side.’

© Mick Kenyon / racingsnakes.com

After completing the first section, 4 summits and the most technical part of the course the route took the runners down via North Ridge and on towards Nant Peris aid station which is accessible by road. From the outset of the race, Jason Cavill set the pace in full preparation for the CCC in France later this year followed closely by Michael Clifford.

At Nant Perris Jason had a 3-minute lead on his rival and both looked incredibly fresh and strong as they blasted through the aid station barely stopping to pick up some extra kit. First lady through was Liz Barker who literally dominated the small female field of 14 until the end of the race opening up a huge gap between 2nd lady Claire Maxted and Sasha Habgood in 3rd position.

After a relatively short section of road the runners followed the route towards Glyderau, starting the second section of the course with a huge climb up Elidir Fawr, and the peaks of Y Garn, Glyder Fawr, Glyder Fach and Tryfan. By this time the fog had thickened so much and the grey weather had given way to a fine drizzle leaving the runners with even less visibility in the mountains. From the next aid station Ogwen accessible by road Jason could be seen descending fast dodging boulders with Michael Clifford hot on his heels.

The descent had taken its toll on Jason and combined with the foggy wet conditions fatigue was setting in. The two front-runners stopped briefly at the aid station to replenish and set off together. The third and final section of the course took the runners over the final 7 peaks of Pen yr Ole Wen, Carnedd Dafydd, Yr Elen, Carnedd Llewelyn, Foel Grach, Carnedd Gwenellian, and Foel Fras.

It was during this final section that the two front runners split as Jason took a wrong turn as he went off course and Michael Clifford took the lead descending to the final road aid station and onto the finish line which he crossed in 8.19m 30s. For Michael who had only run one ultra before the V3K and had spent 3 months in cross training due to an ITB injury this was an unexpected win.

Jason’s course error had cost him 30min and he finished second in 8h39m. According to Jason:

‘The race was really the challenge I expected it to be. A great deal of climbing and technical descents. It was distance-wise not particularly long but certainly the climbing made up for it so it was tough.’

‘It was very thick fog on top of the course and even though it was well marked out and we’d recced it before, I dropped down before Yr Elen and went off course a long way so I got split up with Michael who I was sharing the lead with. I got back on course, got my head down, saw a marshal who told me Michael had come in 30m earlier. I was amazed I was still in second place.’

Third was Chris Baynham-Hughes in 9.11m.

The ladies race was won by Liz Barker in 10.29m 48s with a substantial gap between the rest of the female field. Claire Maxted was second in 12.36m 01s and Sasha Habgood and Shelly Hufner joint third in 12.49m 33s.

It was a long day out on the course for most of the runners as they had to negotiate with the tough weather conditions, the fog, poor visibility and the slippery technical terrain. Nevertheless this heightened the challenge and self-satisfaction for those who successfully crossed the finishing ­line to claim their locally made ceramic medal and be an official finisher of the first Skyrunning ultra in the UK.

In total 65 completed the V3K ultra, the last in 17.06m 36s and 17 participants did not finish or make the cut-off times.

More via the V3K site here

International theme is strong for 2014 Snowdon International

Posted in At the Races on Mon 30 Jun ’14

© Gwynfor James / Sport Pictures Cymru

Andi Jones on Allt Moses

After a hiatus of some years without a true international flavour, continental teams and global individuals will be present for the 39th Tyn Lon Volvo International Snowdon Race / Ras-yr-Wyddfa on the 19th of July.

Anticipation of the 2014 event is as high as ever with 600 runners, including six-time winner Andi Jones, getting ready for what promises to be one for the best ever races in less than three weeks. Preparations for one of the UK’s premier mountain races are once again in full swing, with a festival atmosphere guaranteed in Llanberis.

The race, now it’s 39th year, is considered as one of the greatest in the world of mountain running, and attracts some of the best racers in Europe. However, the event has grown over the last four decades to be one on the bucket-list of mere mortals across the world, as just completing the 10-mile race from Llanberis to the summit of Snowdon and back is something thousands aspire to, but only hundreds achieve, year-on-year.

The main race will be precluded once again this year by the Snowdon Super Cup / Cwpan yr Wyddfa – an invitational, uphill-only, race to the summit of Snowdon, starting at 11am on race day and featuring the 2013 World Mountain Running Championships silver medalist Emma Clayton.

Englishman Andi Jones will be pushing hard to make it number 7 at Snowdon, a record which surely will never be rivalled, in one of his last races before he relocates with his family to Qatar. Looking to take on Jones will be athletes from Spain, Malta, New Zealand, Italy, Japan and multiple World Championship representative from the USA, Ben Nephew. On the start line for Wales will be local men Alun Vaughan and Mathew Roberts, both aiming to challenge for top honours, with Vaughan in particularly good form recently.

In the women’s race 2012 winner Tessa Hill returns after a triumphant win two years ago, and will take on Sarah McCormack amongst others.

© ISF

Tessa Hill

Once again teams from the home nations will also toe the line with top males and female athletes from England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales in the international race.

Evidence of the general popularity has once again been visible as the 600 places available online went on sale on the 1st of March. Within 7 days all but a few had gone and Race Organiser Stephen Edwards was able to close entries by the 10th of March.

“As ever, we have been inundated with entries, and even since the closing date I have had numerous requests for entries for the race, even though the event is full. Little could the organisers of that inaugural race in 1976 have realised what this event would become some 39 years later. Snowdon is now recognised as the UK’s busiest mountain and that is part of the attraction for those runners who get that ‘Tour de France feeling’ as they ascend the crowds of people cheering on the slopes come race day.

“I am particularly delighted that we have been able to attract some more countries to bring their athletes over for the race this year. With runners from the US, Japan, Italy, France, Malta and Spain as well as there usual strong home countries and Irish teams it should be a real international affair this year, this along with the Super Cup once again in the morning means that we will create a mountain running festival with something going on from 11am through until late afternoon.”

The Super Cup race will once again include some of the UK’s top mountain running talent, as GB internationals Emma Clayton and 2013 Super Cup winner Olivia Walwyn go head-to-head in the women’s event. In the men’s race GB international Rob Samuel will look to go a few places better after his 5th place finish in 2013, as he takes on the likes of top English talent Tom Adams, Adam Osborne and Japan’s Yurijo Iida.

© Ray Wood Photography

Olivia Walwyn with her Super Cup trophy!

Edwards is keen to point out that the event is now much more than just a race, with major sponsors, attractions and a sense of festival which almost brings Llanberis to a stand-still on its traditional third-weekend of July race date:

“It’s amazing really. The buzz in this little village come Snowdon Race weekend is unbelievable, you have to be here to be able to understand that. This race means so much to the area and the people of Llanberis, they are proud of the race and what it portrays to the thousands of visitors that come here for the race and the weekend. We will have Ty’n Lon Volvo as our headline sponsor once again this year, TV coverage on S4C and the usual family festivities on the race field throughout the day. 2014 is basically going to be bigger and better than ever!”

For further race information visit www.snowdonrace.co.uk

2014 Skyrunning World Champs – France leads – Jornet and Kremer take combined titles

Posted in At the Races on Mon 30 Jun ’14

© Jordi Saragossa

Sunday’s torrential rain at the final race of the Skyrunning World Championships in Chamonix didn’t dampen the excitement and magic atmosphere of three days’ world-class competition….

3,400 athletes from 47 countries took part in the weekend’s events where the world’s top runners participated in three skyrunning disciplines for the prestigious World Champion titles, the Combined titles, and the Country ranking.

Coming out on top for the country ranking, based on the sum of three men and one woman, was host nation, France followed closely by Spain and Italy. New entries on the international skyrunning scene are confirmed here with Norway (4th) and USA (5th). Most significantly, strong performances were recorded by Australia, Poland, Sweden, Czech Republic, Holland, Japan and China – all countries to look out for in future competitions and underlining the pool of talent and international growth in the sport.

World Champions of the three disciplines are: Vertical – Spaniards Kilian Jornet and Laura Orguè; Ultra – Spaniard Luis Alberto Hernando and Sweden’s Emelie Forsberg; and Italian Elisa Desco; Sky – Kilian Jornet and Italian Elisa Desco.

© Jordi Saragossa

Kilian Jornet – world champion, again…

Kilian Jornet yet again proved is prowess as king of skyrunning, taking the Combined title with straight wins in the VK and Marathon, while American Stevie Kremer (2013 Sky Series Champion) took the women’s title with a second place in the VK and a third in the Mont-Blanc Marathon.

© Ian Corless

Stevie Kremer

An ecstatic Luis Alberto Hernando took the Ultra World title after a glorious win in Friday’s Mont-Blanc 80K which he led from start to finish. On his heels throughout the race, was last year’s winner, Frenchman Francois D’Haene, who crossed the finish 2nd just 3’40” later. New Australian talent has left its mark with no less than two top ten places in the men’s category, with 21-year-olds Ben Duffus and Blake Hose.

Emelie Forsberg and Anna Frost ran a strong race in a highly competitive women’s field, which included Nuria Picas, Uxue Fraille and Fernanda Maciel. Emelie’s time of 12h38” crowned her decisively queen of the Ultra distance, confirming her status at the top of the ISF Ultra ranking. Notably two completely new entries on the international scene: Poland’s Magdalena Laczak, 3rd , and China’s Li Dong, 9th. It is the first time that the Ultra distance has been disputed in a World Championship since its introduction by the ISF in 2012.

© Jordi Saragossa

Emelie Forsberg was a popular winner of the womens 80km race

Champions past and present lined up for Saturday’s KM Vertical. Due to the steep, narrow course, the runners leave at intervals and are individually timed, making for tense moments at the summit, between joy and delusion as the times are displayed on the timing board. Spain’s Laura Orguè had the edge over stiff competition from Stevie Kremer, slicing 4 seconds off Christel Dewalle’s 2013 time, who came 3rd. For a moment, in the men’s field, it looked like Italian Bernard Dematteis had the title with time of 34’36”, but Kilian closed with a new record in 34’18” – 18” under last year’s record by Columbian Antonio Saul Padua, 4th. Italian Urban Zemmer, number one in the IS Vertical Ranking, was just one second behind Dematteis in 3rd position.

With torrential rain all day, Sunday’s Mont Blanc-Marathon, the highest section of the course was cut while maintaining 41km distance and 2,300m +/- elevation. Kilian dominated the race although Frenchman Michel Lanne pushed him throughout, finishing an excellent second.

The lead pack included Moroccan Zaid Ait Malek and Briton Tom Owens, who were challenged by Switzerland’s Marc Lauenstein. Tom gave it his all and accelerated to take the bronze for Great Britain. The women’s race was led by Azahara Garcia early on, followed by Italian Elisa Desco and Americans, Megan Kimmel, Stevie Kremer and Kasie Enma. In such a stacked field, Elisa believed she had no hope of winning, but in the second half of the race she took over the lead and found herself alone in the final stretches towards Chamonix, where she bagged the gold. Megan and Stevie were second and third respectively.

This third World Championship has underlined the enormous growth in the sport not only on a global level, but with very strong young talent from new countries able to compete at the highest level with the world’s best skyrunners. Apart from the two young Australians in the 80K top ten, it’s significant to note the performance of Spaniard Manuel Merillas, who raced the second half of the Marathon 1’40” faster than Kilian to finish 5th.

Marino Giacometti, ISF President who presented the top runners for each discipline before the events and awarded the medals, expressed his thanks to the Club des Sports for the superb organisation and for the support of the Comune of Chamonix, for hosting the World Championships in the most iconic and spectacular sports arena.

News of the next Skyrunning World Championships will be announced in early August. In the meantime, follow us for updates on Facebook and twitter.

At a glance

Individual titles
VK: Kilian Jornet ESP), Laura Orguè (ESP)
Ultra: Luis Alberto Hernando (ESP), Emelie Forsberg (SWE)
Sky: Kilian Jornet (ESP), Elisa Desco (ITA)

© Jordi Saragossa

Luis Hernando – supreme in the 80km

Combined titles
Mens’ combined titles (VK/SKY):
Kilian Jornet (ESP), Aritz Egea (ESP), Thorbjorn Ludvigsen (NOR), Eirik-Dagsson Haugsness (NOR), Gregory Vollet (FRA), Manuel Merillas (ESP)

Womens’ combined titles (VK/SKY):
Stevie Kremer (USA), Kasie Enman (USA), Maite Maiora (ESP) Azahara Garcia (ESP), Stephanie Jimenez (FRA)

Country titles
France
Spain
Italy
Norway
USA

Country ranking

Medals

Race results

Race website

More Skyrunning news via Facebook and twitter

Huge weekend of ultra running lies ahead…

Posted in At the Races on Fri 27 Jun ’14

© Ian Corless

With the Skyrunning World Champs, including the Mont Blanc 80km, the WS100 and the Lavaredo Ultra Trail, the world’s trail running media is going to be kept busy this weekend!

The very best coverage of the Western States 100 comes as ever via iRunFar.com, with previews, interviews and analysis galore. Follow their live coverage starting on Saturday via the sign-up page here and of course the highly accurate and speedy Twitter feed

For the Skyrunning World Champs, the UK’s Ian Corless is a very good source. The Talk Ultra man previews the racing here, and will be all over the race coverage via images, Facebook and Tweets. Ian also previews the Lavaredo Ultra Trail here.