By Major Kristine Self, SO Infrastructure, CF Health Services Group –
The Way of Legends was an absolutely incredible experience. This 6-day, 263km ultra stage race was held from 20-28 September, 2019 in Burgos, Spain. The race consisted of five consecutive stages longer than the marathon distance of 42.2 km followed by a final much shorter 6th stage along the historic pilgrimage path of Saint James to the finish line at the Cathedral of Burgos, a magnificent world heritage site. But let me tell you, that last ‘short’ day was the hardest 13km of my life!
With 7,000m of climbing throughout the six days, each stage had a wide range of profiles and geographies, from a practically flat stage on a comfortable wide trail through a beautiful forest to a tough mountain trail stage with over 2,000 meters of altitude gain and passing over the highest peak of the province at 2150m above sea-level. This trail running race was a fantastic chance to participate in an extremely tough physical and mental challenge while at the same time traveling through a beautiful part of Spain, living its legendary history, tasting the amazing gastronomy and competing with (and becoming close friends with) people from all over the world.
From stage to stage the runners, organizers, doctors, volunteers and local staff all stayed at the same camps situated at the finish line of each stage and which also became the start line of the next stage. All the camps were situated in guest houses, Inns, mountain lodges or monasteries with beds and hot showers for everyone. All meals and drinks were provided throughout the duration of the event. The meals were all freshly cooked by professional chefs and included a whole range of meat, fish, egg and dairy based local specialties with side dishes to suit all tastes. The final night was spent in a fabulous four-star hotel located five minutes by walk/on foot from the spectacular finish line of the race at the Cathedral of Burgos.
Arriving at Race Headquarters on Saturday, we had a chance to meet all the other runners, complete race check-in, mandatory equipment check (rain jacket and pants, headlight, whistle, etc.), medical check, Day 1 race brief and eat a scrumptious welcome dinner.
Day 1 (52km) started bright and early with a bus transfer to the top of a mountain where we had a special blessing by a Celtic shaman to keep us safe and healthy throughout the race. A slight diversion halfway through the day due to hunters being on the trails resulted in the distance being 52km instead of 48km. On the positive side – the reason for choosing this race was because it my 50th birthday is coming up and I wanted to run 50km/day (approx.) for five days. So a positive side to the extra distance was that I got my 50km for the day!
Day 2 (50km) was another incredible day in the beautiful Spanish countryside. Today was filled with amazing cliffs, rock formations, fields of windmills, quaint villages, and stunning castles. A staggered start meant we got to see more runners through the day as the quicker ones who started 30min later overtook the slower ones. And of course it was topped it off with an incredible meal that even included some local wine. The adventure continues…
Day 3 (50km) was supposed to be 48km but with the ever intense headwind and fatigue setting in, Mike (husband and companion during the race) and my heads remained down instead of looking ahead for the obvious orange and black markers we were meant to follow missing a marker and continuing and extra kilometre until we realized we were off-track and had to backtrack to find our course markers again. Again, it got me that much closer to my goal and I still managed to take the stage for the women. Beautiful sunrise to start the day and then travelling through fields of sunflowers, landscapes of rock and thick forest. Oh so beautiful!
Day 4 (55km) was an incredibly challenging day not only because of the distance but also the 2300m of vertical gain. With my (limited) experience of these multi day ultra-marathons, I have discovered that it’s normal to have one rough day. For this race, for me, this was it. I was fatigued, upset stomach and very, very sore feet (blisters). But taking a step back and ignoring all that, I felt so fortunate to be able to be running in such a beautiful place with such amazing people. The mountains, the fields, the weather … so incredibly beautiful!! And four days of my goal of 50km/day for my 50th complete! On to tomorrow …
Day 5 (43km) was the last long day of the race….“Just a short day of “flat” easy terrain” was what the Race Director said at the morning brief….Neither short nor flat but another spectacular day!! Incredible how after having such a rough day 4, I actually felt amazing today. My legs felt like it was Day 1 again. Beautiful trails through the forest, across gorgeous bridges, through fields and ending at a beautiful monastery which was our accommodations for the night! To date – exactly 250km on the GPS – average 50k/day for five days. Goal accomplished!
Day 6 (13km) was the longest 13km of my life to finish off this 263km race at the magnificent Burgos Cathedral. An absolutely incredible finish to a fantastic event. An afternoon filled with tapas, drinks, more tapas, a small nap, wine tasting, and dinner/awards ceremony
All participants remarkably managed to finish the extremely tough event and were awarded the coveted solid silver medal “The Fenix” designed and created by Oscar Martin de Burgos. Personally, I managed to win all six stages and thus finished 1st woman, 4th overall by a very wide margin. Determination and persistence edged me along each day and led me to a very humbling victory. The results were a great surprise to me as I honestly didn’t know what to expect going in. I truly just wanted to experience Spain, make some new friends, make every cut off and finish the race. The race exceeded every expectation and then some. A truly incredible race and experience. Recovery has begun and the planning for the next adventure has started.
All Images Provided by: Major Kristine Self
This post is also available in: Français (French)