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.”
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.
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.”