The Jungle Ultra – What an experience!
I saw things that I had seen on TV: leaf-cutter ants wandering in a long line, butterflies the size of birds, thick undergrowth and trees reaching up higher than anything I’ve seen before, and rivers winding and cutting paths through dense jungle.
I have run in three multi-stage desert races in the last two years. I love the desert and kept returning as I learnt more about running in those conditions and living out of a backpack for a week. The multi-stage format appeals to me because of the additional logistics and planning needed to be self-sufficient so I was excited to take on another multi-stage race as my first goal for this year. However, I wanted to do something a little different to the desert and the race that caught my eye was the Jungle Ultra in Peru. The race is organised by Beyond the Ultimate and takes place in the Amazon Jungle. It promises that racers will be challenged to conditions that they have never experienced before (like 70 river crossings), which is exactly what I was looking for.
The race was spectacular! I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it and all my expectations of a jungle adventure were met. Beyond the Ultimate put on a fantastic event which included a diverse range of stages to give us a full experience of Parque Nacional Manu. The first stage and a half were descending from the Cloud Forest into the Amazon Jungle. The terrain changes from a mountain forest in the higher altitudes of the Andes to a rainforest once inside the Amazon Basin. In terms of running this meant enjoying a cool, wet forest with winding trails and roads and then pushing through hot, humid and muddy jungle stages.
The stages within the jungle were surreal. We crossed rivers about 70 times during the race so we were wet almost the entire week. Some of the crossings were on foot, but we also took zip lines, pulled ourselves across rivers on inflated inner tubes, and took rubber boats and traditional Amazonian river barges. The jungle was also as wild and difficult as I imagined. I was constantly slipping and sliding and trudging through thick mud. A few times I sank deeper than my waist in unseen trenches of mud and many times I was sliding and falling down muddy descents where my shoes lost traction. I saw things that I had seen on TV: leaf-cutter ants wandering in a long line, butterflies the size of birds, thick undergrowth and trees reaching up higher than anything I’ve seen before, and rivers winding and cutting paths through dense jungle. The experience was fantastic and one I will remember for a long time.
My race went well even though I changed my race plan after about 200m on the first stage. I had planned to start off conservatively and get a feel for the altitude, the jungle and the competitors. However, on the first stage I was feeling good and could see my competitors struggling with the altitude so I pushed ahead. During the first two stages I moved into a strong overall lead and could manage my effort for the rest of the race. I ran the last three stages with a Spanish competitor, enjoying the company while sticking to my race plan of trying to win the race overall. Some stages were very tough, like stage 4, which took us six hours to run 36km, and the final stage, which was adjusted to 78km after flooding in some of the river passages we were supposed to run. I was very happy with my result and the way the week had gone. Stage races are unpredictable and hard to run well even with good preparation so I couldn’t have been happier when I arrived at the finish.
If you’re thinking about running a stage race I highly recommend taking on the challenge! It’s a journey that starts with preparation and hard work, includes the fun of planning and testing gear along the way, and ends with a rewarding experience during the race. Next week I’ll post some details and information about my preparation process so you have some ideas about how to train for your own multi-stage race.
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Picture credit: Beyond the Ultimate – Martin Paldan
Daniel’s iRunFar race report
Coach Ian Waddell
The Jungle Ultra - What an experience! @dwrowland @32gi @Injinji
The Jungle Ultra - What an experience! I saw things that I had seen on TV: leaf-cutter ants wandering in a long line, butterflies the size of birds, thick undergrowth and trees reaching up higher than anything I’ve seen before, and rivers winding and cutting paths through dense jungle.