Here it is: the race of the year! Athletes from 32 different countries converged on Faial Island in the Portuguese Azores, in the middle of the Atlantic, to participate in this hair-raising, adrenalin-fuelled, excruciating race week of blood, sweat, and tears that was the 2020 Golden Trail Championship!
All around the world this year, race after trail race got cancelled due to the COVID pandemic. This event was conjured up out of this catastrophic year to reunite the world’s best trail runners and terminate this 2020 season in a positive way.
Experience the trail-running event of the year and take a look behind the scenes with four of the world’s best athletes, Jim Walmsley (Team Hoka One One), a long distance specialist, Stian Angermund (Team Salomon), a short distance and vertical race expert, Maude Mathys (Team Salomon), a fast and runnable race specialist, and Tove Alexandersson (Team Icebug), a world orienteering champion, giving an inside feel of this unique stage race, and showing the evolution of their strategies and the mental and physical obstacles they had to overcome.
These runners are not used to accumulating such extreme races over 5 consecutive days, usually they only run one tough race per month. The Golden Trail Championship is challenging; it is 5 intense days with 113km accumulated distance and 6,050m of vertical elevation, split into 1 prologue (to define day 1’s start-line grid), followed by 4 consecutive race stages (between 22-32km distance each day), where the Championship winners are those with the least accumulated times at the end of the week’s racing.
As well as simply vying for the Overall position (represented by the yellow bib), each day, these gruelling course routes also include 3 inter-race timed sections: a Climb, a Downhill, and a Sprint (red, blue and green bibs respectively) that are timed from one point to another along the course route.
Each day, these times provide the respective bib leaders for the following day and at the end of the week, the winners of each specialised section are those with the lowest accumulated time.
Over the course of 4 consecutive days, the elite athletes were battered by Mother nature’s elements; winds, torrential rain, and fog that caressed the island smothering the runners in 100% humidity and eliminating the views. But that’s not all they had to contend with, these volcanic islands contain some of nature’s wildest terrain from abrasive black lava rock, to humid thick tropical forest, high exposed volcano peaks and steep switchback singles, and an endless supply of glorious thick mud.