Written By DAVE SCULTHORPE
David had previously taken on single-stage ultras, but after being inspired by the stories of the Tarahumara, he made a last-minute call to sign up for Ultra X Mexico and the rest is history!
Which Ultra X race are you writing about?
Ultra X Mexico 2019
Which year did you do this race?
What was your ultrarunning experience before this race?
This was my first multi stage race. I signed up quite late with about 6 weeks to go before the start line. Before that the longest race I had completed was 72km in Oman, called the Wadi Bih. I had also done a handful of other 50km races in the UK. Generally, I very much classed myself in the novice/amateur category compared with other runners. Despite this, Ultra X races always feel accessible even if it is your first crack at the distance.
What were your expectations of the race?
I had read Born to Run before the race, which gave me a bit of an insight into the Tarahumara and the Copper Canyons. However, nothing can really prepare you for when you are standing at the top of the canyon looking down on some of the best scenery I have ever experienced.
I was also under no illusions that this would be the hardest thing I’d ever attempted….and it certainly didn’t disappoint. I registered for the race because I wanted something to challenge me to my limits, and to offer a real sense of adventure.
When the pandemic hit in 2020 I was so glad that I had grabbed the opportunity to go when I could.
What was the course like?
The course is phenomenal, from day 1 to the finish line it never lets up. It is so varied in terms of trails, terrain, climate and altitude. The variety in scenery is incredible, one minute you feel totally isolated and remote and then the next you’re running through a little village getting cheered on by the local schoolkids.
The elevation on the course is brutal, with more climbing and descending than Everest I would recommend some serious hill training and strength and conditioning. Finally, the running is mostly over rocky terrain, so I would recommend a lot of cushioning in your shoes.
Tell us about camp life
Camp life is great, it strips everything back to the basic essentials. You very quickly settle into your recovery routine of eating, hydrating, visiting the osteos/medics, eating again and then getting as much sleep as you can before the next stage.
The camps on route are in some stunning locations that you would never ever see if you visited Mexico as a tourist. The night in Urique is a highlight, the chance to cool down and wash in the river is so welcome after 3 days hard running. A local woman also gave me and another runner some freshly cooked tamales which tasted amazing after days of freeze-dried meals.
What were your fellow competitors like?
They were great, I still keep in touch with a lot of them now. The best thing about these events are the people that you meet. Everybody there is so supportive of each other no matter how much experience you have. Everyone just wants everyone else to get across the line.
This solidarity was shown on the first night in the tent. A fellow runner had chosen to save space and weight and leave his sleeping bag behind so he could cram in extra food and gear. The first camp is over 2000m in altitude and gets pretty cold during the night, we all ended up donating what spare clothes, blankets and liners we had so that he could keep warm and get some sleep. It would have been a very tough first day for him if everyone hadn’t rallied around!
What were the crew like?
The crew are amazing, they are up incredibly early each morning and never stop working! They are tireless and dedicated to the runners, again all they want is to see as many people cross the line as possible.
There is no way I would have got as far as I did without the medics and osteopaths at the checkpoints and in camp. Somehow even after days of running you manage to wake up feeling semi fresh the next day.
You get to know them really well and it’s a great end to the week to have a beer with them in Batopilas and when you head back to Chihuahua.
What would you say to someone considering doing this race in the future?
Just go for it and figure out the details later! I DNF’d this race on day 4 after I fell behind the cut offs, but still hold it as one of my proudest achievements, I just need to go back and get that medal sometime. Don’t be scared to get involved and give it a try, the Ultra X community is incredibly humble and welcoming so you will not feel out of place. The main thing is to get yourself to the start line and see what your body can do!
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