Here is a short report from this years ‘world run memorial race’ wich is held each year in Siberia, Russia.The organisors are runners who took part in one or more stages when the world run (www1.worldrun.org) passed through Russia from the West to the East inthe winter, spring, summer and autumn of 2004.
The main organisor, Alexander Rachenko, had this year invited me to take part in the race during October. An invitation that I could not resist to accept asit offered the possibility to once again see and experiense Siberia – a part of the world that is stunning both with its extremely beautifull, vast and clean nature; and stunning by its equally different lifestyle of seemingly endless russian bureaucracy where the concept of “time” and “waiting” is indeed different, but also where friendship and help is allways offered to a stranger in allmost incredible amounts. At least that was my experiense during the 10 500km of running through Russia in 2004 where I certainly would not have been able to run eighter half or whole way through Siberia without the help that I recieved on a daily basis.This time the purpose of the visit was different though: to take part in the 50km ‘world run memmorial run’ in the Ural Mountains as well as to do a few lectures w. pictures, slides and videoclips from the other continents in world run (2004-2005).
Though, before you can embark on a visit like this, you need a visa covering your stay. Even this detail is a bit of an ‘ultra‘ event. This time it took only one month to obtain the visa from the Russian Consulate after a few days of waiting at their office building. In 2003, prior to the world run start in London 1/1 2004, it took roughly a year before the proper visa was granted. Perhaps you could say that it’s an alternative way of checking that your stubbonness as an ultrarunner is up to shape ! 😉
Once back in Russia, though, things went much better than expected. At the lectures there were most of the time russian-english interpreters present and also all the latest equiptment in pc-presentation, projectors etc. The venues offered a chance to explain about and open the view of ultrarunning to a large audience often mostly elite sportsmen and women from the big russian ”Universities of Physical Education” (elite sports centers w. combined training and academical education). – Often the questions would be far more detailed and technical ..Which in its own way rewarded me with a challenge during the danish-english-russian translation procedures…All went fine while at the same beginning to acclimatezise to the first days of the russian winter. And with good reason: after 4 busy days it was time to head up in the Ural Mountains from my base in the modern Siberian city of Chelyabinsk w. its 1.2 million people in tallconcrete houses.The contrast from the strongly polluted modern-city streets to the brigh sky and long views of the Ural mountains was striking and certainly a wellcome change in training grounds for the daily runs !
Together with about half of the participants in the run I was accomodated in a mountain lodge of a few big holiday buildings overviewing a clear lake sorrounded by the first gentle mountain ranges. Apparently parts of the lodge was up to 100 y.o. and had served as a ‘party holiday centre’ back in the USSR days. Now, however, it served as our finishing point in the upcoming race as well as overnighting place before the early morning transport up to the start-place further 50km into the mountains – on the European side of the ranges.
In the early hours next day were assembled a small determined group of about 40 runners and helpers which had travelled from various parts of Russia to take part in this re-union run.During the parts of the run that passed through cities we were accompagnied by schoolchildren who did a 5km fun-run as their part of the challenge. Very nice and reminded of the many days of similar compagny during world run where even a few km’s company would ease up the daily 50km stages whichat times was difficult as the km’s began to add up towards the 26 000 mark. In this case the goal was ‘only 50′ so it was a chance to fully enjoy and appreciate the beauty of the mountains – something I had often been to tired to do 3 years ago when I together w. the strong runner Alexander Korotkov of Russia ran over the snowy and frosty mountain passes during April to May.Now it was allmost warm in the valleys w. up to +5c and just a few degrees below 0c in the mountains. Allmost perfect weather for running in these areas 🙂
The run itself was done in a very friendly spirit and thus we found it difficult to really compte ‘flat out’ with eachother. After about 20km and after the first longer, 5km, uphill section a small lead group formed with 4 runners. Probably it would have been only 3 runners but the other were too politeto set a high pace I think Eventually the mountains got steeper and a times we caught sight of the next few groups below on the mountain roads. ‘world run style’ we had a car drive up ahead with food and water, stopping every 7km’s, and ‘world run style’ we couldnt be sure wether it would be there at the next stop so we all made sure to carry a sufficient supply of water and food with us. This time, though, it was a strikingly precise and well organized service, unlike during world run where the support car sometimes would wait 5km ahead, sometimes 20km ahead and sometimes just drive directly to the finish w. all water supplies 😉
But who can blame a support-driver to get a little impatient during more than a half year of daily work !!Well fed and also full of nature impressions the first two runners arrived at the finish area after 4:09 hours of running. It was the strong ultrarunner Eric Khasanow and myself, who had been hanging on to Eric’s surging speed up the mountains, trying to catch up lost terrain on the steep downhills.During the next hours followed the rest of the runners, all finishing well in spirit and shape. Exept one – Alexei Alexeiowich – who did finish well in spirit and shape indeed. But not that day: 28hours after the start he arrived at the finish point ! We has expected that he had returned home after having difficultiesallready at 5km’s where he had dropped out of sight of the back markers. Instead he had insisted in completing the run and arrived in the late morning sun the next day, after having spent the night in the forrests sleeping in his running clothes on top of his rucksack.Indeed the best effort of the race !!! And as he broadly smiling arrived at the lodge with his racenumber still on he obviously recieved a special prize.I can think of no better way to picture my own way of running. I am certainly not the fastest or the stronges. But in some cases stubbon enough to continue when all reasonable thourght suggests to stop and call it a day (or year).
Hopefully this ability will continue into the world run 2 from 2008 to 2010 – But one can never know with 40 000km waiting. Hopefully the good spirit of Alexei Alexeiwich will prevail !- So, even though Russia and especially Siberia does require a considerable amount of preparation, a lot of burecracy procedures and not least huge amounts of patience, then its certain a visit worth. As an ultrarunner you probably wont find a larger ‘playground’ w. allmost literally “endless roads” where few have travelled – let alone run – before, yet the friendship and helpfullness of local people throughout Siberia is also ‘ultra’. Well worth a running visit by any runner !With best wishes of enjoyable training !jesperwww.worldrun.org