Russian High Altitude Running at the Elbrus Ultra Trail

26 Mar 2013 09:08
Jean-Loup Fenaux
Focus on a race Mountain

Hello, on August 1st 2013, you’ll be organizing the Elbrus Ultra Trail. Can you tell us where it is located?

The race starts in a Azau, a Caucasian village in South Russia, located at the feet of Mont Elbrus, the highest mountain in geographical Europe (5 642 meters above the sea level).

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

The race was in my mind since I was climbing Mt. Elbrus in August 2008. Having experience as elite athlete racing in orienteering and ski-orienteering, adventure racing, running, MTB, XC Skiing and having spent my childhood in the Elbrus area with my family (because my father was mountaineer), when I was standing on the top with a fantastic 360 degrees view and I thought that it was a great venue for endurance events – Running, Adventure Racing, MTB, Ski-tour!

In 2010 I met another guy obsessed by the same idea – Sergey Zon-Zam and we decided to develop the race together and in 2012 the Elbrus World Race was born.

Mt. Elbrus
Credit : Elbrus World Race

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

It is high! With starting point at approximately 2,200 m above sea level and the highest point of the course on the Elbrus Mountain Race is at 3,700 m. This makes the race special in terms of acclimatization for participants and it demands that we put on obligatory clothing and mountain safety along the course.

How many runners do you expect on the starting line? What type of runners do you plan to attract?

The first year we invested resources into promotion of the race and expected at least 100 participants. We got 7 participants. Now we changed our strategy and now we rely on natural growth because we realized that racing in Russia, especially in Caucasus area perceived by non Russian athletes as sort of “exotic”, expensive, efforts-to-arrange-Russian-visa demanding. On a local market we do not have so many potential participants – I estimate that mass sport in Russia is 10-20 times smaller than in Europe.

Syltran lake on Trail course
Credit : Elbrus World Race

Do you organize other races during the Weekend? If so, on what distances?

Actually we have arranged three races.

The Elbrus Mountain Race is 105 km long with a 4,900 meters elevation gain .The course is not marked on the terrain. We provide runners with a map and a downloadable GPS file. Teams of 2-4 persons can participate. The time limit is 72 hours. It starts from Azau on Thursday at 8.00.

The Elbrus Mountain Marathon is 42 km long with a 3,450 meters elevation gain. This time, the course will be marked. Individuals and teams can participate. The time limit is 24 hours. The race starts from Verkhnii Baksan on Saturda at 8.00.

The Elbrus Trail is a 30 km race with a 1,900 elevation gain and is run on a marked course. Again, Individual and teams can participate and the time limit is 24 hours. The race starts at the same time as the Marathon.

In addition to the running races, we will make a test uphill race on mountain bikes. If we get positive experience with mountain bike race – it will be in official program for 2014.

Credit : Elbrus World Race

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

At the end of July or begining of August as in many other mountain regions in the northern hemisphere, the weather should remaine stable, sunny and warm.

Have you planned festivities around the marathon?

Sure, pasta party before and the banquet after.

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

Try climbing Mt. Elbrus before the race, it will be a great way to be ready for the race! And don’t forget to taste the delicious Caucasian cuisine!

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

You are very welcome to the Elbrus World Race, we will make you discover new experiences and build beautiful memories!

Interview with Ivan Kuzmin, Race Director. Ivan is a 50 Swedish/Russian (he has both citizenship) with 3 children, making a living selling snow groomers in Scandinavia. He has an impressive hit list: Ski Orienteering World Champion in 1994, 5000 meters track personal best of 15.10 in 1985, Marathon best 2:52 in 1998, ranked #1 in Adventure Racing in Russia in 2007. He also has an experience organizing international events in orienteering, XC skiing and Adventure Racing.