The Elbrus World Race runs from August 1-5. Here we have an inside look at the race, which consists of an Ultra Trail element, a Traverse, an Adventure Race, and a Trail.
The Elbrus World Race takes place around the Elbrus mountain, a part of the Caucasus chain in Russia. It’s not often that you see runners with two ski-like poles in their hands, but that’s the nature of a competition like the Elbrus. Being that it is very mountain-centric and diverse in terrain, climbing and elevation is a huge part. The race attracts competitors from all over the world, hence the name, “World Race.” It brings them to this beautiful mountain range, which, because of a volcanic nature, actually has a rounded appearance at the top, making it more conducive to the sport. The race is relatively elite: between the Elbrus Ultra Trail and the Elbrus Trail, there are only 500 participants, and the Traverse and Adventure Race have another 100 teams, or about 300 participants.
The Ultra Trail
Many of the videos of the race, as you can see, are in Russian, because the race takes place in Russia. The Ultra Trail is essentially an ultra-marathon transported to a mountain (like there was any need to make an ultra-marathon harder). 81 kilometers, or about 50 miles, long, participants are given an allotted time of 48 hours to finish, and over the course of the race they will ascend 6,350 meters and descend even farther than that: 7,150 meters. The whole time, they’ll be immersed in an incredibly beautiful and scenic landscape, with the mountains of the Caucasus stretching out around them and the different features of mountain terrain there to be seen. The race goes through seven mountain passes, covering much of the large mountain of Elbrus that the whole event takes place on.
The Elbrus Race has age groups ranging from 21-30 all the way up to 70 years old and over, so it attracts a diverse range of athletes capable of completing the challenges that a mountain race like this entails. The trail is shorter than the Ultra Trail, at only 28 km, “only” 17.4 miles, and participants are give 24 hours to complete the running competition. For perspective, a typical marathon is 26.2 miles. The fastest runners generally complete these in about 2 and a half hours, and even the slower ones will usually finish within five or six hours. That’s a pretty good indication of the difficulty and challenge that the Elbrus Trail involves, but the regular trail only has an elevation and descent of 1900 meters each, involving one mountain pass. It’s far more realistic for most people than the Ultra Trail.
The traverse element of the Elbrus Race is an entirely different beast. A mountaneering competition, participants have to provide proof of their capabilities before they’re even allowed to participate due to the dangers and risks involved. And unlike the Trail and Ultra Trail, the Traverse involves teams of twos and threes, since mountaneering is always safer when done in groups. At 27 km, the Traverse is about the same length as the Trail, but it covers about 50% more elevation, which gives you a sense of the terrain and movement it involves.
The Adventure Race
The Adventure Race takes place in the foothills of the Elbrus, combining running, fixed ropes, and MTB. Like the Traverse, it is done in teams, this time three per team, but unlike the Traverse, each team must have at least one female involved as well. The allotted time is 72 hours, making it the longest of the five events in terms of maximum finishing time, but the approximate winning time is 24 hours, meaning that, if you’re still on the course by the end of that allotted time, you’re probably moving very very slow. For competitors who want to get the full, most diverse experience of the Elbrus possible, the Adventure Race is probably the way to go.
Cover Photo Credit: Kuster & Wildhaber Photography / Flickr.com