Fancy running through wild, unspoiled terrain close to one of the world’s most spectacular national parks?
You’re not alone: on September 6th, the 6th annual Patagonian International Marathon saw fearless runners attempting the most ancient of running distances – but in a completely unique location.
Confronting some of Patagonia’s most beautiful landscapes
10 km, 21 km (half marathon), 42 km (marathon) and 60 km (ultramarathon) routes, attracted elite and non-professional runners from over 28 countries to the outskirts of Torres del Paine National Park.
This year’s routes passed along the road that borders Lago Toro and finished in Hotel Rio Serrano at the southernmost entry point of the park. Throughout, runners were urged on by the backdrop of the lofty Torres del Paine landscape, including the iconic Paine Massif that dominates the entire area.
Those who embarked upon what must rank as Patagonia’s most extreme marathon agreed on one thing: its location at the doorstep of Torres del Paine National Park grants it the status of being one of the most beautiful in South America – if not the entire planet.
Although famed for its unpredictable climes, Torres del Paine National Park is seen by the organizers of the race as the ideal home for the marathon. For them, it is the act of “confronting a restless, and sometimes even hostile, climate [that] continues being the essence of the event” and which is ultimately responsible for inspiring thousands to accept the challenge.
A gruelling trail run also winds through the area
September 25th also saw the third annual Ultra Trail Torres del Paine, which brought a smaller group of runners to traverse trails through rugged Patagonian pampas for distances of 50 km, 34 km and 15 km.
Runners from across the globe completed the race, with the largest proportion of entrants in both races heralding from Chile, Brazil, Argentina and the United States.
Increasing environmental awareness
Ultra Trail and the Patagonian International Marathon were established as a way of developing much-needed environmental awareness in the area, where an increase in visitors to the park has resulted in extensive damage to its fragile environment.
In 2012, fires ravaged almost a fourth of the park’s native forest and the founder of both races, the Nomadas International Group, S.A, is aiding the “Corre y Reforesta” initiative for reforesting the area by donating a part of each entry to their campaign.
Trail running in the most extreme Patagonian environment
While these two annual races provide a unique perspective upon the unspoiled landscapes of the Torres del Paine region, the events’ organizers are also behind Ultra Fiord: an extreme trail run that skirts the breathtaking scenery of the Chilean fjords.
Unlike the other events, Ultra Fiord takes place every April and registration is still open on their website.
Distances for Ultra Fiord range from 100 miles, to 100 km, 70 km and 50 km duo (for a pair of runners). Quotas determine how many runners are accepted for each distance and the organizers stress the importance of prior experience of trail running in extreme climatic conditions for those hoping to participate in the race.