The NUTS Pallas race, growing in size every year, showed runners how fast the weather in the Finnish fells can really change. On Friday runners got to enjoy a glorious summer day and the spectacular midnight sun, but by Saturday morning the weather had taken a turn for the worst and punished everyone on the trails with blistering windstorms and biting rain. While on Friday the beauiful scenery of the route was painted gold with the sun, on Saturday it was near impossible to see a few feet in front from the fog. Those running the 134 km ultra got to experience both extremes, and in part that’s the salt of ultra racing!
This year the NUTS Pallas race saw over 700 participants take to the trails of the Ylläs-Pallastuntur national park – almost double the amount from last year. The event is gaining popularity because of its spectacularly beautiful route, excellent organization, wonderful atmosphere and the overall experience of the race, something you can’t find on the trails next to home. The race is also starting to attract international attention, which bodes well for its growth in the years to come!
The event offered three distances the runners could choose from. On Friday evening the 26 km race was run on Ylläs and the 134 km ultra race took off as well. The biggest number of runners had signed up for the 55 km ultra race, which followed a popular trekking route through the Pallas and Ounas fells.
Nokelainen and Leivo finish first in the 55 km
The 55 km ultra race, a part of the BUFF Trail Tour Finland, was run in pouring rain and extreme winds. On the bright side, for once there were no mosquitoes tormenting the runners! The rain made the route muddy and slippery, but at the finish line runners were all smiles. Finishing the race in such conditions, overcoming obstacles that nature threw in the way, was a real reward in itself. Check Instagram for people’s experiences, the hashtag #NUTSPallas was in heavy use during the weekend, and the official NUTS Facebook page tells the story well!
Jussi Nokelainen was the first in the men’s race to cross the finish line, clocking in at 4:54:54. He started out strong and kept a clear lead almost all the way through the race. Things got interesting, however, during the last 10 km of the race when Janne Hietala, the first runner up, started to close in. Nokelanen was able to keep his lead, and in the end Hieatala finished a minute and a half behind him. The battle for the bronze medal was won only on the home stretch, when Henrik Väisänen’s final spurt left Jussi Kumpula six second behind.
The women’s 55 km race was dominated by Jaana Leivo from start to finish. She finished the race with a new course record of 5:18:37, three minutes under the record set by Maija Oravamäki in 2014. Riikka Tulppo came in second at 5:53:19 and Pirjo Saukko third at 6:06:44. Third place in this race also brought Saukko to the lead group of the Trail Tour.
NUTS Pallas was the fourth event int the BUFF Trail Tour. Jaana Leivo leads the women’s cup while Mark Lee keeps his lead in the men’s series. You can see the total scores here.
Ultra racing under the midnight sun
The 134 km race was run with familiar names in the lead. Mikael Heerman, who finished third last year, came out on top. He took the lead at 50 km and kept it until the finish line. The winner, clocking in at 18:30:37, had a strong race, though problems with fueling and the cold and windy weather presented some challenges. Marko Mattila finished second in 19:17:29 and ja Ville Maksimainen third in 19:32:03. Winning also the second event in the series Heerman keeps his place in the lead of the men’s Ultra Trail Tour Finland.
The women’s 134 km race was a thriller all the way to Ounastunturi. The first half of the race saw Patrycja Bereznowska from Poland in the lead, followed by Lisa Mehl fron Germany and Finland’s own Piia Nieminen. Half way through the race Saara Päätalo, who had followed the lead three closely, swithced gears and started to gain on Mehl, who by then was in the lead. Päätalo and Mehl took off and ran together to Ounastunturi, but coming down the fell Päätalo couldn’t keep up and Mehl got away. She won the race in 20:05:06.
NUTS Pallas marked the end of Mehl’s two week tour of Finland, who praised the scenery lit by the midnight sun. The weather made the race challenging, but also rewarding. We look forward to reading the report Mehl and her teammates are writing for the trampelpfadlauf.de site!
Saara Päätalo finished second in 20:50:40 and is in the lead of the women’s Ultra Trail Tour. Third to cross the finish line was a tired Piia Nieminen, who battled through her fatique and finished in 22:46:31.
Friday’s evening event grew in popularity
This year the 26 km race through beautiful Ylläs scenery quadrupled its number of participants. Joonas Kortelainen finished first in 2:23:12 with Matti Kivelä (2:26:36) right behind him. Ueli Thomann from Switzerland finished third in 3:05:39 . The route climbing Yllästunturi and Kesänki is quite demanding, as the ascent is almost 1100 meters and at points the path literally disappears into rocks and scree.
Anni Heikkonen had an light feet in the women’s race and passed Russia’s Elena Skrebneva in the lead towards the end of the race. Running downhill Heikkonen was able to leave Skrebneva a full five minutes behind and crossed the finish line at 3:14:18. Elena Skrebneva clocked in at 3:19:34 and Laura Patrikainen finished third in 3:28:17.
The final race in the Ultra Trail Tour Finland will be run at Koli 30.9.-1.10.. The BUFF Trail Tour continues at Pyhä 13.8.