For me, trail running has always been a catalyst for new experiences. Every race has its own unique set of challenges and rewards. Running a fell marathon maybe even more so, as I’ve spent most of my life running on roads.
The Pyhä Tunturimaraton is one of the most visually stunning tracks I’ve run. You don’t have to climb much to see the vast forested expanse of Lapland rolling and stretching to the horizon. As I’ve come to understand, no two trail races are alike and you have to let go of a conventional road runner’s notions of calculating time expectations. It’s not the climb, it’s the terrain that defines how fast you can go – how technical it is, if its trail, scree or a path. I’m still working on remembering that.
As a trail runner I’m still a relative novice in more technical terrain, controlling my rhythm and cadence to adapt to changes in the track. The Pyhä Tunturimaraton track is a great mix of trails, technical and path, and scree. There are spots where your focus is absolutely required or you won’t have ankles afterwards and then there are open paths to relax and settle into a comfortable pace.
The first half of the course is straightforward enough circling around the north and west side of Pyhä towards Luosto, running through fields of cloudberries amongst the damp marshes. The weather could not have been better, overcast with a nice breeze to keep the mosquitos at bay. The volunteers at the different checkpoints were fantastic and the hikers along the way all gave us runners an energetic boost as we passed by.
On the second half the terrain became more consistently technical and included the two biggest climbs of the route (both after 32km) as well as blustery traverses. This slowed (my) pace considerably as I started to fatigue. The upside was that overall I was feeling good, I got to see many furry friends (reindeer) hanging out amongst the upper sections of the route- and the views, which were gorgeous from the start, seemed to be only getting better, the closer I got to the finish.
The final 10km consists of two major climbs and descents. The first just under 200m at 32km-35km, and the second (to the top of Pyhätunturi) approx 170m at 41km-42km. The final descent to the finish (42km-43km) was quad-busting and exhilarating. Arriving back to the start/finish line, passing the bar and getting cheers from those already enjoying a beer on the sunny terrace, meant that you had arrived.
Pyhä is a homey, comfortable spot- quaint and charming, and as most southern-most race in the Trail tour in Lapland, it is accessible via car, train or flight from Rovaniemi. From every train and most flights there is a shuttle bus to Pyhä.
The service at the hotel was fantastic and the organizers were all happy and eager to help with anything.
While the race attracted some of the best trail runners in Finland (Henry Ansio winning in 3.28.52), it also felt easy-going, and runners at all experience levels and motivations thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Further results in this report.
Link to the event website.
I’ll be back for more of the same next year, you should join me!