On Saturday October 22nd 2016, hundreds of runners will meet in Central Anatolia, Turkey to take part in the third edition of the §race_link(23207). Last year, they were 761 coming from 4 continents and 40 different countries to run one of the 3 races. I had the privilege to be one of them and experience the 60 km race.
Cappadocia is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, renowned for its natural landscapes filled with Fairy chimneys and its troglodyte cities. The races are designed to show case the best sites the region has to offer.
The whole region consists of a high plateau at 1000m above sea level with several volcanic peaks, the main one, Mount Erciyes culminating at 3916m. The event which start and finishes around the ancient city of Ürgüp isn’t located in the high mountains. The scenery reminded me a lot of the Arizona in the US, with mesas and rocks carved by rain and wind.
There are 3 different races on the agenda in order to satisfy different breeds of runners.
Both 110 and 60 km start at the 7 o’clock in the center of Ürgüp. The course starts with a 60 km loop, visiting Göreme, Uchisar and many of the most beautiful sites of Cappadocia before returning to Ürgüp. Only the 110k runners will leave the city again to complete another 50 km loop in the South of the city.
Last year, it started raining a few kilometers after the start during the first climb. Unlike many fellow runners, I did enjoy it, especially in the long downhill after km 15 that had become slippery and quite funny to run on. It remains funny if you manage to stay on your feet or don’t fall too hard.
The rain stopped shortly after, well before I reached Uchisar. Uchisar is my favorite location on the course. The top of the village used to be a Fortress, and the whole village has been carved into the hill. It was absolutely gorgeous.
The course then continues to the city of Göreme before climbing the high plateau of Akdag and following the ridge trail. It then gets back down to Ürgüp. I have to admit that I rapidly lost track of the sites visited, each one bringing to wonders to admire.
The course isn’t technical. There are a few big climbs, even a few ladders to climb, but most of the race can be run if you don’t stop regularly as I did to appreciate the scenery.
The organization of the event was flawless and displayed a level of professionalism uncommon for such a young race. I also particularly enjoyed the hospitality displayed by locals.
Taking part in the event only requires a long weekend, but I strongly encourage you to spend a few more days in or around Ürgüp and take some time to visit. One of the activities that seem to be the most memorable is a hot air balloon journey. The flight usually take place at sun rise with tens of balloons rising in the air at the same time.
You can also visit one of the underground cities if you are not claustrophobic. The city of Derinkuyu I visited with its multiple level and kilometers of galleries was really stunning. As many as 20,000 people could live in it at the same time!
And if you’ve never been to Turkey before, you should also consider a 2 or 3-day stop in Istanbul and visit the Topkapi Palace, the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia (my favorite) or the Galata Tower.
If you’re interested in the event and would like to get more information or register for one of the races, you can visit the official website.
You can also check the interview I did with Sertan and Serkan Girgin Last year.