I’m really trying to focus on the trail, but I can’t help but think of Lord of the Rings. We run in a small group one after the other over rocks, between closely standing trees, over stone ridges formed by glaciers – and I’m just waiting for Nazgûl from above. But since the Ringwraiths are still not there after an hour, the focus is back on the path. And rightly so, if I do not want to be one of those with bloody knees, hands, and sometimes even faces at the finish line.
Before starting, I thought that the Nuuksio70 Trail Ultra in the Nuuksio National Park, located about 40 kilometers west of Helsinki, could be run through more or less easily. Something like a Finnish version of the German Rennsteiglauf with kind of narrower trails. The numbers at least are comparable: 72 kilometers with about 1,600 meters of altitude. The course however… We start in the morning at 6:00 at 2 degrees Celsius and after 10 minutes, on the first rock plateau, my mental Lord of the Rings movie starts. Everything is fine. We will run 14 kilometers of the self-supported race on the same route as the marathon some hours later. It is fantastically beautiful, quite varied and a mixture of singletrails, forest paths, wide rocks, many small rocks and countless roots.
This changes after kilometer 14.
The ultra route features 2 additional loops and they are rough stuff. Immediately after splitting, the path is but a mere hint, overgrown from both sides and showcasing what is really meant in Finland when speaking of roots and stones. Barely runable but wonderful, still. The real downer is that I can enjoy the incredibly beautiful landscape only peripherally: light fog rising from lakes, lovely green groves between the rough rocks, and sometimes even something like a view, if again one of the hilarious amount of hills has been conquered.
Still, the 2nd loop pushes the envelope even more. It is the slowest part of the demanding race. We scramble around a lake – what else – accompanied to the right by an almost vertical rock wall, below us a 10cm wide path, next to which the lake is waiting on the left. Sometimes we climb up the rock wall, sometimes trees and brushwood block the way. How the hell could they actually mark here? And the waymarking is outstanding.
But the incredible waymarking is not the only question unanswered: Why are all the upcoming drink stations always 3-4 kilometers away? Why are these 3-4 kilometers always so long? How did the half-rotten bus get onto the singletrail in the middle of nowhere? Why are we suddenly surrounded by a pack of Haskys, who are leashed to tourists they pull along the forest path? Why is everyone so insanely nice here? And can we be sure the Nazgûl won’t come after all?
After 64 kilometers we share the route with the marathon runners again. While I was worried that my pretty wrecked stamina would be mentally shattered as well when all the fast guys and girls pass us, quite the opposite happens. It’s cash-in time. Every few minutes, one or more runners are overtaken. This spends some energy that can be burned on the remaining trail, which is now runnable again.
After the finish line, we’re all wrecked, worn, torn, and smiling. The Nuuksio70 Trail Ultra can hardly be compared to our central European competitions. There are no technical downhills and yet the course is highly challenging. The focus is completely on the race, not on goody bags, certificates or medals. Apart from a few gravel roads, there is no trace of villages, catered huts or other urban infrastructure.
What comes as a slight surprise however is how much blood I see. Already on the route there were runners with abrasions – fortunately nothing too bad – but at the finish it accumulates. But then again, it’s a great icebreaker. We fools all like to talk about our trail wounds, don’t we? Even the otherwise so taciturn Finns.
Impressions from the Nuuksio70 Trail Ultra 2022: