Last updated: 07-Mar-16
By Ian Corless
Transvulcania Ultramarathon has become one of those races that ‘must’ be done! Its rise has been meteoric. It’s difficult to believe that back in 2012 it was just a small race on the Spanish calendar.
Now with the help of the ISF (International Skyrunning Federation) the race has become a Skyrunner® World Series event. That has brought with it prestige, and, arguably, it now boasts one of the greatest men’s and ladies’ fields that you will witness in any race.
An island in the Canaries, La Palma is often overlooked with preference given to Tenerife, Gran Canaria or Lanzarote. Believe me, this is a good thing! La Palma is a pearl of an island where tourism has had little impact. Local, traditional and beautiful it really is the perfect place.
I like many others, I was not aware of this gem until my first visit in 2012. Once seen, it’s not easy forgotten. I was so impressed with the island in 2012, that I returned in December of that year to spend 2 weeks exploring the trails and mountains. This year I am going back for a month. It’s not only beautiful but the climate is perfect, especially during the winter months of December, January and February.
Transvulcania Ultramarathon is beautiful in its simplicity and logic. Starting in the south on the coast (Fuencaliente Lighthouse), runners run and climb for the best part of 50km to the ‘Caldera’ of Roques de los Muchachos. Running around this stunning ridgeline, they then drop 18km (2400m) in one push to return to the sea and the pastel coloured resort of Tazacorte. A final push (uphill) to the town of Los Llanos concludes the race amid a mass of colour, noise and thousands of people. It’s an incredible arrival for the ‘Skyrunners’ and applause, accolades, cheers and chants of a job well done await.
The terrain and climate for the event is varied and this is one of the main attributes of the race; heat, humidity, rain, cloud and glorious sunshine. You can literally have all of these things in one event. The terrain is challenging; black sand that moves underneath your feet with every foot strike, pine forests of lush green, a valley of volcanoes and then in and around the Caldera, where torturous rough volcanic rocks break through the ground like jagged razor blades.
Over the years we have seen some epic battles. In 2012, the crowning of Dakota Jones and Anna Frost as champions in front of a world audience. In 2013, Kilian Jornet and Emelie Forsberg took top honours and in 2014 Luis Alberto Hernando finally pipped his nemesis, Kilian Jornet, to the line and it was a return to form for New Zealand hot shot, Anna Frost.
At 6am on May 9th, 1300+ runners set off on the trails of La Palma. Following the GR131 markers, a battle royal unfolded. Unfortunately, ladies pre-race favourite Anna Frost was forced to withdraw with a recurring injury. This left the door open for 2013 champion and last minute entrant, Emelie Forsberg to pave the way! Fresh off skis, the ever-smiling Emelie led the race from the front and never looked back. It was a dominanting victory and one that pleased the La Palma faithful. ETR winner, Anna Comet Pascua paced 2nd ahead of a very surprised Myriam Marie Guillot Boisset.
The men’s race was wide open. We use the term ‘stacked field’ often when discussing a plethora of good contenders. Well, the 2015 edition of Transvulcania was stacked as high as the Empire State building and to be honest any one of 20 runners had the potential to win the race. Zach Miller from the USA started as he predicted, from the front. He set a relentless pace but was followed and tracked by 2012 champion, Dakota Jones and 2014 champion, Luis Alberto Hernando. After El Pilar and rising out of the pine forests, the heat of the day started to make an impact and it’s here that Luis Alberto used his skill and experience. He turned on the burners and started to punish the remainder of the field. Pulling away slowly at first, the elastic started to stretch. But it was on the long descent to Tazacorte he did the damage. By the time the finish came, he had opened a 30-minute lead and set a new course record. It was a stunning run. Relative unknown, Danni Garcia came from behind and placed 2nd and Blake Hose from Australia confirmed that he is ‘one-to-watch’ with a stunning 3rd place ahead of 2012 champion, Dakota Jones who had to break into a sprint in the final 20 meters from a fast-finishing Zach Miller.
Explosions of ticker tape, champagne, tears of pain and laughter continued long into the night. As in any race, the front of the race is followed by a series of inspirational stories of glory and valour. Each runner has a story tell, a story of survival, a story of passion, a story of overcoming the odds. Beating the course and the weather on ‘this’ day and achieving the red carpet. The crowds waited and welcomed them home like long lost sons and daughters.
Transvulcania Ultramarathon is a special race. It’s a unique race on a unique island. However, no matter how impressive the trails are, no matter how incredible the views, it’s the people and the support that give this race that extra oomph. I anticipate that I’ll keep coming back, year-on-year just like to get my fix. A fix of La Palma, a fix of this incredible course and of course an opportunity to share my emotions.
Emelie Forsberg 8:32:59
Anna Comet Pascua 9:02:57
Myriam Marie Guillot Boisset 9:15:06
Alicia Shay 9:17:49
Magdalena Laczak 9:23:45
Luis Alberto Hernando Alzaga 6:52:39 – NEW CR
Dani Garcia Gomez 7:21:28
Blake Hose 7:25:23
Dakota Jones 7:28:59
Zach Miller 7:29:00