Ultra X Tanzania 2023: Race Director’s Preview

Race Director Carpenter

Written By Mark Topham

Mark is a Race Director at Ultra X who manages several of the Ultra X events. A former Army Officer and Management Consultant he loves running and putting on incredible experiences. Having competed at Ultra X Jordan as a competitor he understands what it is like to line up on an Ultra X start line.

6 June 2023

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Race Preview

Summer has finally arrived and with it things are heating up at Ultra X HQ. Not only has the weather in the UK drastically improved (good news for our more local events; Summer Trail Series and Ultra X Goes Loopy) but it signals the rapidly approaching start of Ultra X Tanzania 2023. 

Later this week 100 runners will be arriving at the race hotels in Moshi in the shadow of Mt. Kilimanjaro to begin the first ever Ultra X event on the African continent. It is also special in other ways, in that being 250km over 5 days it is the last of its kind, with the ‘old’ format being phased out in favour of 220km for 5 days or 110km over 2 days as the standard multi-stage distances. 

This race has been eagerly anticipated by many for quite some time, as the fastest selling race at Ultra X. It sold out rapidly, with places capped to ensure operational quality in year 1. Those lucky runners who have grabbed themselves a spot have quite something to look forward to…. 

The Course 

On Sunday 11th June runners will be transported from Moshi down to Lake Chala on the border with Kenya where the first campsite is situated. With the crater lake in an extinct volcano as a backdrop, runners will receive their welcome brief, registration and kit checks before relaxing ahead of the first stage. 

Stage 1 is the lake stage. It is a looped course starting and finishing at Lake Chala Lodge. The route climbs to the highpoint on the crater rim in time to see the sun rising over the horizon. It then heads out into the African savannah with the possibility of seeing some wildlife before looping back to the crater rim to finish. 

Stage 2 is the border trail stage. It is a point-to-point route. The course once again starts from Lake Chala Lodge heading north to the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro. It then sweeps west following the border trails of the national park, providing runners an insight to local life on one side and the national park on the other. 

Stage 3 is the mountain stage. It is a looped course starting from the campsite at Marangu. Runners will start in the dark and loop around to the Marangu gate where they will then enter Kilimanjaro National Park. A steady 10km climb then begins all the way up to the Maundi Krater at a hight of 2,772m. Participants circle the crater before heading back down past the Mandara Huts to the Marangu gate. They then sweep back down and round to the campsite to finish. 

Stage 4 is the long stage. Competitors will awake in the night to take on nutrition and prepare for the stage start before dawn. The course heads south and slightly downhill through rural farmlands and sugarcane plantations before reaching the Namalok Nature reserve. Competitors will then wind their way through the reserve past lakes with flamingos and grasslands populated with antelope, finishing at the new campsite. 

Stage 5 is the baobab stage. It is a looped course that starts at the campsite in the Namalok Nature Reserve before heading out to the Blue Mountains. The most technical section of the whole course is encountered as the competitors ascend and descend the loop in the mountains. Competitors will experience running past the ancient baobab trees whose branches resemble something closer to roots rather than those of a usual tree. The stage and race finishes back at the campsite where competitors will be welcomed by the blue arch for a final time ahead of the celebratory BBQ and some seriously well-earned drinks. 

Who to look out for?

(Rankings are sourced from the UTMB index. It is a formula developed by the UTMB World Series designed to assess the performance level of trail runners globally, based on their results from taking part in UTMB World Series events and UTMB Index races).

 

Jessica Johnson (United Kingdom)

Jessica Johnson (United Kingdom)

578

In the women’s field, Jessica lines up for her first Ultra X event as the favourite. She carries good form into the race with 2 ultramarathon wins over the past 8 months; the Endurance Life Sussex 50km and the North Chilterns 50km. How will she fair on this multiday challenge, only time will tell. 

Helen Platel (United Kingdom)

Helen Platel (United Kingdom)

564

Next up is Helen Platel, a member of the Ultra X Recce Team who is well versed in Ultra X events. Having finished second at Ultra X Sri Lanka and third at Ultra 125 Scotland in 2022 can Helen go one further and complete her tour of our podium?

Nadine Bennett (United Kingdom)

Nadine Bennett (United Kingdom)

543

Nadine is a runner with experience at 3 different Ultra X events. She completed Ultra X 125 Scotland and the Spring Trail Series 50km in 2022 before taking on UTMB’s CCC. She is yet to sample an Ultra X 5-stage event but has set herself up for success with a top 10 spot at Ultra X 110 Azores in May. 

Salameh Alaqra (Jordan)

Salameh Alaqra (Jordan)

786

An Ultra X veteran and winner of Marathon des Sables, Salameh has some serious pedigree. He is the undefeated campion of Ultra X Jordan having conquered his local race in the Wadi Rum 6 times. He has been crowned champion at Ultra X Sri Lanka and finished 4th the Ultra X World Championships in Slovenia. 

Robin Fournier (Switzerland)

Robin Fournier (Switzerland)

807

Having first sampled a multistage event at Ultra X Jordan last year, Robin produced a really impressive display on Ultra X debut to snatch 2nd place in the desert, behind front runner Salameh. Their rivalry will be renewed this this year where Robin will hope to use his strong climbing pedigree to his advantage on the slopes on Mt. Kilimanjaro. He comes into the event high on confidence having won the Utlac 250km – a single stage event with 12,380m of climbing! 

Abdelilah ELjai (Morocco)

Abdelilah ELjai (Morocco)

654

Abdelilah is yet another runner in the field who has sampled the Wadi Rum desert at Ultra X Jordan (2019 and 2021). His performance there in 2021 saw him grace third step on the podium. He once again faced off against Salameh this year in the 93km AlUla Trail Race in Saudi Arabia finishing two places behind in 4th. 

Follow the race 

For race updates follow the race at https://ultra-x.co/tanzania/ or on Instagram @ultraxco. 

For daily updates you can subscribe to the mailing list here. 

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