Last updated: 30-Nov-16
By Ian Corless
I had to take a look. Where is Menorca? Of course I knew it was in Spain. East of mainland Spain and north east of Mallorca, this tiny little island sits in the Balearic Sea and is surrounded by lush, inviting waters of turquoise. So inviting are the seas that mid-race I was tempted to submerge myself and let the mix of green and blue flow over me and refresh me.
To the south Algiers, to the east Sardinia and Corsica this little jewel of the Balearics is in good company. I love Spain but I like Spain typical, quiet, remote and traditional. You can keep the noise, trash and colour of Lloret, Benidorm or Magaluf. I want tapas, a siesta, a life at the pace of a snail and I like to eat and drink into the night with chatter of friends. Menorca did not disappoint.
Life is slow on this island. Take a walk through the cobbled streets of Ciutadella, watch the boats at Fornells or go for a glass of Gin at Mahon, a local speciality. Start lunch at 2pm and finish at 5pm. Menorca has got it right. Tourism flourishes at a Spanish pace and with a restraint that I not only love but also embrace.
I want to be submerged in local culture and here my wishes are fulfilled. In harmony with nature, I was able to loose myself along the coastline, within forests, on beaches and within the streets of small villages. Menorca is a secret, a jewel hidden away in a box of sea. The lid occasionally opens to allow people in and allow people out but the lid is firmly closed to tradition and thank goodness it is.
I was in Menorca for the 4th edition of the Compressport Trail Menorca Camí de Cavalls; a group of races that show the islands beauty to its full potential with five races that encompass the whole of the island by following the way-marked ‘Camí de Cavalls’ route.
I have often looked upon running as a journey, a way to explore, to see a new place and an opportunity to combine passion with a holiday. Menorca and the Camí de Cavalls work in harmony, I can think of no better way to embrace the beauty of this island. Walking or running, 32km’s or 185km’s, Trail Menorca is something to be embraced.
In 2015, 5 races were available:
Trail Menorca Camí de Cavalls (TMCdC) 185km 2863m+
Trail Menorca Costa Nord (TMCN) 100km 1796m+
Trail Menorca Costa Sud (TMCS) 85km 1124m+
Trekking Costa Sud (TCS) 55km 529m+
Trekking Costa Nord (TCN) 32km 415m+
Imagine it, 5 races that manage to introduce the whole island to 900+ runners from all over the world over 3 days of running. What could be better? For the brave, hardy and the endurant: the TMCdC. At 185km in length, it is not a race for the faint hearted or the weak. Starting in Ciutadella, runners traverse the islands perimeter in a clockwise direction with the sole objective of arriving back at the town within 46 hours.
The TMCN starts at the same time as the TMCdC but finishes at the opposite end of the island after weaving in, out and up and down the jagged north coast.
In Addaia, eight and a half hours after the 185km and 100km starts, the 32km TCN starts.
Running into the night darkness changes this quiet island into a playground of trails, coves, woods, forests and beaches. Illuminated by a head torch, it’s possible to experience the island in a unique way so seldom seen by others. But the striking of the 0800 bell releases the 85km TMCS runners from Es Castell in the east.
It’s a tough call, do they have the better course to run in the south or do the TMCN runners see the best of the island? They are so different. The north is more aggressive, jagged and relentless interspersed with golden sand. The south is lush, green and the coves… oh my word the coves of rock, beaches and turquoise sea make this Menorcan island a treasure. And finally, at 1100 on day 2, the TCS 55km runners start their journey back to Ciutadella from Cala’n Porter.
Simple in concept, the Trail Menorca team have logistically provided themselves with a task that would give any race director (and team) a serious headache or drinking problem. Maybe it is Menorca and the casual relaxed way of life that allows this dedicated team of individuals to combine to make a cohesive whole that allows this event to function.
Racing throughout the weekend was aggressive, fast and impressive but just like the ethos of the Menorcan people; the racing almost seems unimportant within the context of what this island offers. Records did fall though with Javier Castillo in the 185km finishing in the impressive time of 20:43:41, Casey Morgan from Scotland won the 100km in 8:57:18 and Marathon des Sables 2015 ladies champion, Elisabet Barnes paved a new record in the 85km event in 9:02:30 and placed 7th overall.
“I was amazed by the beauty, the varying terrain and the scenery. The final 20km of the 85km event although flat were brutal. I had just not anticipated that the terrain would be so technical,” said Elisabet post race. Two bloody knees confirmed her effort and commitment.
“I have to agree, this island was a surprise. I run in Mallorca a great deal,” said Casey Morgan. “I had not anticipated that the island would be as flat as it is but in sections the trail is extremely technical. The contrast from north to south is also quite amazing. It’s a beautiful island.”
You may well have gathered; I loved this island. I am used to mountains, high terrain and altitude. Initially I was surprised at how flat Menorca is especially with its proximity to Mallorca. Apparently the highest point in the island is only around 360m but what this chunk of rock in the Balearic Sea lacks in altitude gain and loss it makes up for in diversity, beauty and at times technicality. I am always connected, plugged in and wired to 16-hour days. Menorca made me want to kick back, relax and embrace a slower way of life.
If you are looking for an exciting race that allows you to combine a holiday with running, you will not go far wrong in choosing Menorca and one of the races offered by Trail Menorca. Just think, with 5 distance available, a short flight from anywhere in Europe and some seriously beautiful views and trails what more could you want!
Javier Castillo (M) 20:43:41
Aydee Rayda Soto (F) 28:12:19
Casey Morgan (M) 8:57:18
Sasha Roig (F) 12:43:18
Pau Garriga (M) 8:04:53
Elisabet Barnes (F) 9:02:30
Miguel Pons (M) 4:54:21
Montserrat Penarroya (F) 6:26:12
Biel Martinez (M) 2:29:19
Emma Roca (F) 2:45:45
Results are available here.