The strength of Canadian trail runners was explosive this past weekend. On November 17, Canucks escaped the cold and thrived at the Ultramaratón Guatemala (UTG) in Antigua–the city surrounded by volcanoes. In its third year, the race offers four distances: 21K, 42K, 77K, and a new 100K distance. The course claims to be highly demanding, as it runs through one of the most active volcanoes in Central America–the Fuego volcano. Just hours after the race finished, the Fuego volcano erupted.
The 100K race starts at midnight. Runners climb up Cerro Cucurucho, the highest peak in Antigua. With over 6,500 metres of elevation gain and a 28 hour cutoff, the course runs more like a 100 miler than a 100K. In the first 50K of the race, runners ascend and descend three volcanoes. Although 75 runners toed the line for the 100K, only 47 finished.
Montreal runners proved their toughness. Mathieu Blanchard won the 100K in 14 hours and 34 minutes, and Charles Benoit finished sixth overall. Caroline Côté was second woman and tenth overall in the 100K. On course she ran by locals working in coffee and corn fields. “People did not really understand our quest, but they saw it as something important.”
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Hola @ultraguate 2018, 100k 6500mD+ 🇬🇹 Midnight start local time. Welcome in our beautiful playground Antigua Guatemala. Cobblestones streets lined with brightly coloured colonial buildings, 16th-century ruins and with volcanoes surrounding it… It took me few minutes to be charmed by this Unesco-listed Latin America city. Vaaaamos 🌋🏃♂️ . @salomonrunning | @naakbars | @parcsante4877 | @nuunhydration | @lacliniqueducoureur | @brixalerable
Raphaël Metter-Rothan, also from Montreal, finished the 77K race, experiencing the volcanic eruption. Blanchard stopped for five minutes to enjoy the views in the jungle during the explosion. “I almost never stop in competition, [but it was] beautiful to run through an active volcano and see a small eruption very close.”
With 2,500 metres of elevation gain, the 42K race is tough. Laura Kos from Canmore won the female race and set a new course record. Adam Campbell dropped down from the 100K distance due to illness, but toed the line for the 42K race.
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Huge congratulations to @laurakos who crushed the @ultraguate 42km race up Volcán de Agua, a 3,760m volcano above Antigua. She won, set a course record and finished 4th overall, not bad for someone who “runs on the side”. She had a great time and crushed the incredible steep and technical jungle course. As for me, after a week of sickness I had a great time getting up and down the volcano to catch the sunrise – I’m finally starting to feel much better. It was really special to get to see all the competitors and local farmers heading to work on the side of the mountain – Guatemala, your people and countryside are truly special #visitguatemala
Even though no runners were harmed, approximately 4,000 people have been evacuated from the Antigua region. For Blanchard, the biggest highlight was not only the volcano, but experiencing the kindness of the Guatemalan people. The race felt authentic and true to the trail running culture, and “I really recommend it.”