Finding The Perfect Trail: Ultra X Style

Written By Sam Heward

Sam is one of the Ultra X Co-Founders. If he's not actually out running, chances are he's busy writing about it (or plotting Ultra X strategy!)

11 December 2018

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The Ultra X team have just returned to the UK from the foothills of Kandy in southern Sri Lanka, where we spent a week recceing the race route for April 2019. The week itself was epic and we are unbelievably excited to welcome 50 lucky runners to the first ever Ultra X Sri Lanka.

We thought we would take this opportunity to give you a little information as to what goes into finding the perfect route.

1) Location

We want our competitors to be able to fly to our locations easily from around the world. Once they land it’s important that they are not faced with a 10 hour bus journey to reach the start line, so an accessible international airport within good proximity to the start line is crucial.

All Ultra X races run from Monday to Friday, with competitors flying in on the Saturday before and leaving the Sunday after, meaning they do not have to take more than five days off from work.

Sri Lanka fits the bill for this perfectly. Return flights to Colombo from the UK (our current biggest market) can be found for under £500 and once competitors arrive their hotel is a mere 20 minute drive from the airport in Negombo, where they will wake up on the beach!

Train Travelling Through Sri Lankan Jungle

2) The Route

It isn’t easy to take a strict format and replicate it somewhere else in the world. As such, making our ultramarathons work will always be a big challenge for us. We need to ensure the race is a stunning location, accessible (primarily due to our extremely stringent safety guidelines), and manageable for competitors. A trail that is too technical may take away from the experience. Equally, a course which is flat and unvaried will inevitably become boring.

Whilst there will be professionals competing in Sri Lanka, one of our primary goals at Ultra X is to get more amateurs into trail running. One of the principle joys of the sport is experiencing parts of a country that you wouldn’t be able to access unless you were on foot. For one week, you are removed from everything you know. Life is simple and all you have to think about is your pacing, your nutrition and getting through each day.

We tested what Sri Lanka had to offer on a couple of dirt bikes with our local guides. The original plan had been to finish the race in Galle. However, having spent two days looking at a route, which started on the beach near Tangalle, we decided the area was too urban and decided to head north. There we found exactly what we were after.

The final course is beautiful, tough yet manageable and, crucially for us, it offers freedom from civilisation. No two days will feel the same. It has rainforest, tea plantations, abandoned railway tracks, and some breathtaking views across the Knuckles Mountain Range.

Elephants in Sri Lankan River

3) Culture

For competitors our events are not only races, but adventures, and importantly, holidays!

Sri Lanka is a hidden gem of an island in the Indian Ocean. Located off the southern-tip of India it boasts no-less than eight UNESCO Heritage Sites, more than 1,000 kilometers of golden beaches and 2,000 year old ruins. Not to mention jungle terrain and warm tropical weather.

For the lucky few who are joining Ultra X Sri Lanka in April there will be an opportunity to experience the Sri Lankan New Year over the same week. They can expect the sounds of firecrackers, as well as the rhythm of the Rabanna. Beating drums (Hewisi) will be present to welcome runners into camp each day.

Sri Lanka is the passport stamp everyone should be after. Lonely Planet has named it the number one place to visit in 2019 in its Best In Travel awards, so this is your chance. And if you can’t join us there, we look forward to meeting you soon on another Ultra X.

Registrations are open now just follow this link.

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