What a race and what a route the organizers have come up with in this years Marathon of Dangers in Koli. During the last ten years that the race has been organized most complains has been targeted towards the longish gravel road close to the finish line. This year the 7 km of gravel was substituted to a very technical small path with a few hundred additional ascend meters. In addition, the new 65 km loop was achieved by adding some 20 km to the original 43 km loop in the Southern part of the Herajärvi trail. The new part is very small and narrow requiring extreme attention while running. The 130 km race consists of a 65 km loop that is done twice. The elevation gain was around +5000m.
The race started on Friday night 10pm. The weather was not too cold so I decided to run with short running shorts and wearing only a quite light Merino woolen shirt. In the backpack I had reserved the jacket that was mandatory and gloves. There was a need for head torch right from the beginning. Running during night when you are able to see only a small part of your surrounding lid by your head torch is personally my favorite part. Somehow you feel like you would be running faster than you probably do.
The whole pack started really slow which is not typical at least compared to the two previous UTTF races this year. That suited my plan well as I wanted to get my body and especially my stomach a slow start. After running less than an hour I decided to speed up a little and check what the reaction in the pack would be. Surprisingly only Juuso Simpanen was able to follow me. In that pace and in the dark it was a little hard to follow all the route signs and a couple of times we missed the right turn. Fortunately no one from pack behind us was able to catch up with us.
At 17 km the trail crosses a small river. The rived is maybe 10 meters vide and has water less than half a meter. Crossing the river was nice and unique. After some 30 km Juuso started to have problems so I ended up running alone to Kiviniemi (38 km). After Kiviniemi aid station the next big thing is the Ryläys which is one of the tough parts of the whole trail. Already from the beginning my legs didn’t feel very strong. Or at least like on a normal day. However this had not affected my pace much. Ryläys went nice and without problems. I was informed that the second group was about 20 to 30 minutes behind.
The last 12 km of the loop is new like mentioned in the beginning. Making the ascend to Mäkrä and Ukko-Koli twice with a nice descend in between really takes the toll on the runners. Finally after a little over 9 hours I had finished the first 65 km loop. I was about one hour behind schedule. It took me eight minutes to quickly eat a bowl of hot soup, recharge my backpack with energy and water. I didn’t change any clothes nor running shoes.
The second loop started nice when a big group of runners attending the 43 km race had just started. When passing these runners I received tremendous applauds from everyone. It really gave a nice boast for the spirit. Unfortunately that all ended when I departed from others and continued alone the Southern part of the route. The river crossing was nice again. This time I took advantage of the cold water and tried cooling down my legs by staying in the water on my knees. This helped a little and the next few kilometers were easier.
The Southern part was tough even if it was day light. My legs started to feel quite heavy already. Finally I was able to get to Kiviniemi at which point I had covered 104 km. There was only less than 30 km to go.
Going second time up and over the Ryläys was extremely slow. Due to the technical trail and tired legs I was forced to walk most of the uphill. But during the downhill sections my legs still felt strong. After the last aid station at Peiponpelto I heard the gap between me and the following runners was already about one hour. Even if I felt quite safe with this lead I still wanted to push as fast as I could during those section where it was possible. The last uphills over Mäkrä and Ukko-Koli were slow again but even with that pace I knew the others would not catch up with me.
The very last uphill from the harbor up to Ukko-Koli and to the finish line is a pretty wide path. With my legs however it was too steep to run. After 19 hours and 14 minutes I reached the finish line. It was a surprise that the second loop took only one hour longer than the first.
The new route is really much harder than I anticipated. Only 20 men and one woman out of 45 resp. 5 was able finish the race within the given time limit of 26 hours. But still now two weeks after the race I think the new route is much better than the old. The tough and technical trails are rewarding at the end.
Regarding the race gear I think everything worked quite nice. The Hoka Speed Instinct running shoe I had chosen was not the best for these wet and muddy conditions. However that was my mistake. The Merino woolen shirt was excellent in this temperature. I had no problems with my stomach but the lack of strength in my legs was a little disappointing.
Winning all three UTTF races in Finland this year has been really unbelievable. They are all very different with spectacular routes and views. I can recommend any of those three races to anyone wanting to experience the Finnish nature in different seasons.