Interview: North Face Cappadocia Ultra Trail

21 Jul 2015 07:00
Jean-Loup Fenaux
Focus on a race Interview
Credit : North Face Cappadocia Ultra Trail

Hello, on October 24th 2015, you’ll be organizing the North Face Cappadocia Ultra Trail. Can you tell us where it is located?

As the name suggests, The North Face Cappadocia Ultra Trail takes place along the hills and valleys of the Cappadocia region in central Anatolia, Turkey. Cappadocia is a unique place where the lavas and ashes from three extinct volcanoes has been pierced by rain and wind for millions of years, creating soft layered terrain and geographical formations. With its fairy chimneys, rock churches and the patterns of the colourful frescos covering underground cities, it is a designated UNESCO world heritage site. Most of the race route is inside the Goreme National Park near the town of Urgup (also the start and finish point).

How old is the race and why was it created in the first place?

Quite young, this year we are organizing the second edition :-) Cappadocia provides excellent opportunities for trail running. When we created the race, we had two goals in mind (i) to raise awareness that Cappadocia is not only a cultural but also a sportive destination, and (ii) to introduce a world-class trail running event that can attract runners all around the world. (Ultra) trail-running is a very young sport in Turkey and we believe that this is the best way to support the growing community and increase the interest.

What kind of route have you set up for the runners? How would you describe it?

There are three races: The North Face Cappadocia Ultra Trail (110 km, 3350m+), Cappadocia Trail 60K (62km, 1850m+) and Cappadocia Trail 30K (33km, 900 m+). All races will start from the Urgup city center on October, 24th, Saturday. The North Face Cappadocia Ultra Trail (CUT) and Cappadocia Trail 60K (CT60) start exactly at dawn at 7:00 am and Cappadocia Trail 30K (CT30) will follow at 10:00 am.

The first half of CUT and CT60 share the same route passing through the Goreme National Park with its unreal scenery. After a relatively long but easy climb of about 14 km and passing through the villages of Ortahisar (a natural castle) and Ibrahimpasa (10 km), the runners enter Zemi Valley. It is one of the best preserved valleys in the region with narrow tracks. The route then turns south, following the Guvercinlik Valley (literally meaning dovecote valley, there are pigeon lofts carved into the stones) until Uchisar (another natual castle, 26 km). The trail is wider in this part of the course. The station at Uchisar is perched on a hill with vineyards on its terraces. From Uchisar, the runners descent through the Love valley running around the fairy chimneys, and reach Goreme at 35. km mark. There are two more climbing sections, on the ridge of and over Akdag – a high plateau – before Urgup. The track on the ridge of Akdag is relatively technical and leads to the town of Cavusin (43 km). In between, there are short tunnels carved into the rocks. The approach to Urgup is easy and runnable. Urgup is at 62. km from the start. 60K runners finish here. For CUT runners, it is the mid-point and the the life base. There is hot meal and a sleeping area. Runners can also take back their deposited bags here.

Credit : North Face Cappadocia Ultra Trail

The second part of CUT is what we could describe as off the beaten path. The tracks are wider when they exist (mostly dirt roads), but there are sections on loose rocks and covered by thorny bushes. Most runners will be running it at night time. The route climbs to a nameless high plateau in two stages, followed by a traverse until Checkpoint 7 (77 km) and descent to Karlik village (89 km). After the final climb back to the same plateau, the final 17 km is mostly descent passing from Mustafapasa village (101 km). The last section is partially in a riverbed.

Cappadocia Trail 30K is a shorter variant of 60K where the runners directly go to Goreme from Zemi Valley and also skip the section around and over Akdag.

How many runners do you expect on Saturday morning? What type of runners do you plan to attract?

As of today (July 8th), there are over 850 registered runners. The number of participants is restricted to 250 for The North Face Cappadocia Ultra Trail and Cappadocia Trail 60K (each), and 500 for Cappadocia Trail 30K. We are reaching the limits quite fast and expect to see around 1000 runners on Saturday morning. The profile of the participants vary depending on the course. In CUT, there are runners from 35 different countries and percentage of Turkish runners is lower (43%) compared to 60K (70%) and 30K (82%). As Cappadocia is not a mountainous region, the positive elevation change is moderate (3350 m+). Together with the distance of 110 km, this makes it an ideal race for runners who would like to gain experience in ultra-trails and test their limits before a 100 miler. For experienced runners, it’s a good opportunity to run on a unique terrain, possibly with a faster pace. 60K participants are usually runners who had done marathon distances before and want to try longer distances. About 40% of participants in 30K are women, and we are very happy to see such an interest.

Credit : North Face Cappadocia Ultra Trail

At that time of the year, what kind of weather can we expect?

Last year, it was partially cloudy with short rain showers at night. It was sunny the day before and after. We expect similar conditions this year. In late October, the average temperature is around 12°C (can be as warm as 20°C and as low as 5°C).

Have you planned festivities around the event?

Yes, there will be a “Cappadocia Kids Run” on Sunday morning. It was great to see them running in the streets of Urgup last year, with their parent supporting and cheering for them. We are also offering a complimentary day trip to re-discover Cappadocia for interested participants. The exhibition area will be open during the entire event with stands from companies that manufacture (trail)-running equipment and organizers of other trail running events in Turkey. For all participants we are also offering complimentary airport shuttle service from/to the nearest airports (Nevsehir Cappadocia and Kayseri Erkilet).

The race finished, what advice would you give a runner who has never been to Urgup before? A good restaurant, a fancy sightseeing?

Hot air balloon! Flying over Cappadocia and seeing the landscape from bird’s eye is a truly magical experience. Goreme Open Air Museum with its rock churches and underground cities from ancient times, such as Derinkuyu, are also very popular among tourists visiting the region. Needless to say, the good is great and there are many restaurants in and around Urgup with local dishes.

In a single sentence, what would you tell the readers of ahotu Marathons to make them register for the North Face Cappadocia Ultra Trail?

Be one of the runners to experience an ultra trail run along the hills and valleys of Cappadocia, a UNESCO world heritage site with exceptional natural wonders and a peerless historical heritage!

Credit : North Face Cappadocia Ultra Trail

Interview with Sertan ans Serkan Girgin. Serkan and Sertan, are twin brothers. Serkan is environmental engineer and working as a researcher in European Union Research Center in Ispra, north of Milan in Italy. Sertan is computer engineer and working at Google Paris office. Their interest in nature sports started in the university years with mountaineering and cross country skiing and gradually shifted to trail and ultra distance runs in the last seven years. They consider themselves as amateur runners who enjoy running and see it as a way to escape from the daily routine.