Turkey’s first Sky Trail took place in Niğde Aladağlar Milli Parkı on Saturday 15 August. The race started in Demirkazik Village at an altitude of 1610 metres. Runners headed for the Emler Summit at 3723 metres and Cagalinbasi Pass at 3510 metres. It was a 3000m-climb race. Running was made difficult as the hills were steep. As the hills were bare from trees and full of rocks, runners might have thought that they were running in the Moon or the Mars.
What is Skyrunning?
Skyrunning is a sport that demands high altitute endurance. You are required to run above a height of 2000 metres and at a rate of more than 30%. First races were organised around the beginning of the Nineties by the Italian mountaineer Marino Giacometti and his friends, which took place in Mont Blanc and Monte Rosa Alps. Sports clothing manufacturers started sponsoring these races after a short while and “Sky Race” was happening all over the World. Today, there are more than 30 thousand contestants in 200 hundred races in 54 different countires. The most famous of “Sky races” are: Dolomites SkyRace in Italy, Matterhorn Ultraks 46K in Switzerland, Transvulcania Ultramarathon in Spain and Tromsø SkyRace in Norway.
Turkey’s first Sky Trail race in Aladaglar
150 places at the Raidlight Aladağlar Sky Trail race were filled in 8 hours when the registration was opened in December. It was the first time I have seen such enthusiasm, despite running for many years. I missed out and Aladaglar Sky Trail caught my attention when I updated the running calendar on my blog. Argeus, who were organising the race did not want to accept more than 150 runners at the first race as running near the 4000m high altitude demands a big organisation in terms of health and safety. On the organisation side, there were more than a hundred volunteers. ORDOS was in charge of mountaineering and safety aspects.
To run towards the sky requires preparation
The race started at 6:00 am on Saturday. Runners equipment was controlled by the organisers before the start. Running in mountains demands special equipment. Among the equipment are; emergency blanket, waterproof upper clothing and waterproof leggings that cover all of the legs, gloves, hats, a whistle etc. Anyone without even one of this equiment is disqulified.
Yes, this race is an extraordinary race. After setting off from Demirkazik Village, the runners reach the highest peaks of Aladaglar. The race, 45 km long with a climb of 3000 metres, is won by the Iranian runner Davood Shirkhani who run for 6h27m. The runners are required to complete the race in 12 hours. 112 runners started the race but only 90 runners completed the race under 12 hours.
The World of running is very small
As I mentioned before, I didn’t run this time. I was an official during the race, I shot some videos, did small interviews with the runners and edited the videos. Sometimes it is good not to run. To see the excitement of other runners, to support them, motivate them and follow the race from the race centre with radios is a very nice experience. This experience also gave me a motivation for the next race. “Yes, I want to race the next time”, I said to myself. When you don’t run, you have time with the organisers and have time to speak with the runners.
As you know, I went to Iran in May and run in high altitute in Tochal Mountains for 4 days. The running World is small. Davood and his friends came running with me while in Iran and were my guide while going around Iran. This time it was my turn for the hospitality. I helped Davood and the second Iranian runner Ashkan Almasi with their trip to Turkey and the accommodation. Trail runner World is an endless World.
I experienced the feelings of Start and Finish
I started shooting a video early Saturday morning just as the runners were doing their last minute preparations.
It was enjoyable to catch fine details and the excitement of the Start. You can watch the video I prepared on this link:
It was emotional to see the runners getting started and running towards the summit. When will they be back? Who’s going to have to retire? What will they feel at that altitute? All these questions were going through my mind. I personally know most of the runners and for me they are more than just runners. They are my running mates, friends, buddies. I sincerely believed that none of them would suffer from Acute mountain sickness, and finish the race without any injuries and in good time. Three, two, one and they were under way.
First runners coming back had appeared after 6 – 7 hours. I grabbed my small handy cam and got to the finish line. To see the runners again made me emotional. It was hot during midday and shadows were scarce at the finishing line. They appeared like modern heroes with their small rucksacks, sometimes well worn trainers and with sweat. It was almost as if they were returning from a battle, but it was a great battle. Each runner has to search fort hat secret energy to cross the finishing line.
To complete this race is really an astonishing feat! I filmed the runners arriving at the finish line for hours and to hear their first words were a moment to treasure forever. My old journalistic spirit had come alive again. You can watch what I have been through at the finish line on this video:
Dear readers, running is not only running. To participate in a race is not only winning. I saw one more time that in the mountains and in the nature we are all same. The Raidlight Aladaglar Sky Trail will again take place next year and after this good first experience more runners will have the chance to participate in it. As I told it previously, this race is a difficult race. Start from now on to train outside of the city, don’t miss the registrations and come running next year to Aladaglar mountains!