Race report

Extreme trail running in the Canaries at Haria Extreme Ultra

04 Sep 2015 05:50
Jean-Loup Fenaux
Credit : Ian Corless

Niandi Carmont, relates in this article her weekend in the Canary Island to take part in Haría Extreme Lanzarote.

Lanzarote is the easternmost island in the Canary Islands. It is no bigger than 800 square km, but the landscape’s diversity won’t go unnoticed. This Spanish island is located in the Atlantic Ocean near the African shores, 1,000 km away from Spain, and 140 km from Morocco. Lanzarote measures 60 km long and 25 km wide. There are stunning cliffs, volcanic caves, lava fields, and craters that neighbor golden beaches and turquoise waters. On Lanzarote, everyone benefits – the island has not only a touristic infrastructure but also places where there are no signs of human activity and solitary islets such as La Gracioso. You can’t leave without having seen the Timanfaya National Park, where the almost lunar landscape is breathtaking.

My first visit to this island was in 2009, during a triathlon training camp and ever since I come almost every year to spend a week cross training in cycling. It was only in 2015 that I discovered the island’s attraction to trail runners after the Haria Extreme event organized by Arista Eventos. The head of this event is Fernando Gonzalez – a well-known trail runner and a passionate race director. I’ve never met such a meticulous and professional director. He places himself in the runners’ shoes. Nothing is left to chance. I was quite surprised to discover a path marked as early as Wednesday when the race was on Saturday. During breakfast, Fernando explained:

“There are 2 factors that have no room for negotiation: the route markings must be impeccable, as well as the check points which doubly serve as fueling stations. The runner’s safety is my main priority. The rest – the medal, the t-shirt, the pasta party, etc… all of that really comes second. I personally monitor the race course’s marking a few days before the race. Then, 2 days before the race, I run 40km of the course to verify that all is well – there could be some damage caused by bad weather – you never know. And on the day of the race I run 2 hours before the first runner to verify a third time.”

Credit : Ian Corless

On the logistics side, you should know that there are 4 races going on in the little town of Haria:

  • The Ultra (80km, 1300m+)
  • The Marathon (42km, 1300m+)
  • The Medium (26km, 890m+)
  • The Starter (10km, 392m+)

The whole town helps out – on the agenda, there is a pasta party, kids extreme the day before for young runners, a projection of this year’s movie “Il Corridore” with Marco Olmo who had come to participate in the marathon, tapas for all the marathon participants, and entertainment for the non-runners.

The race is surprisingly diverse. There are tracks, lava field crossings, stretches of beach, village crossings, rocky climbs, and long paths along the cliffs with sea views.

The main difficulty of the marathon and the ultra is without a doubt the Guinate climb, 32.9 km into the race. But the effort is worth it. At the top you are greeted with a breathtaking view of the Atlantic Ocean and the small La Graciosa Island. After this major difficulty the marathon runners only have to run 10 km back down to Haria. The ultra marathoners still have more than half the race to go…

Credit : Ian Corless

This year, Haria Extreme took place in mid-August, but the 2016 edition will be held on a yet to be confirmed date in November. Fernando explains. “The weather in Lanzarote remains mild and sunny all year round due to its proximity to the African coast. For participants, it changes nothing. In addition, as it is outside school holidays and outside of the peak season, more accommodation options at attractive price will be available.”

You should know that the island offers many opportunities for the runners who want to spend a few days off with or without their family. The next day, I took the boat to La Graciosa Island, which is half an hour from Lanzarote. On the agenda, tapas on board and visit to a sandy beach to do some diving and canoeing. Haria offers plenty of small restaurants where you can feast on tapas and freshly caught fish. Otherwise, we can go to Arrieta, another village and have lunch by the beach. What is certain is that the island is probably the part of the Canary Island, which is best preserved from mass tourism.

Some ideas to combine trail and tourism:

  • The Cactus garden: Built in a former quarry in the north of the island, the cactus garden is another Cesar Manrique creation. The garden, designed in the form of an amphitheater, is home to more than 10.000 cacti from around the world, as well as a multitude of nice volcanic stone sculptures. To visit in the morning to avoid tourists’ coaches.
  • Mirador del Rio: Located in the north-west extreme corner of Lanzarote, Mirador del Rio is a reception center constructed at the top of high cliffs. The deck of observation, which is 479 meters above sea level, offers an unobstructed view on the Atlantic Ocean, the neighboring Graciose Island and the ancient Salt marshes of Las Salinas del rio.
  • The wine route: Visit the surreal wine region of the Geria, at the foot of several volcanoes and learn more about unique methods used to cultivate and protect grapevines at the El Grifo wine museum. Then taste the best wines of Lanzarote, Malvasia or Moscatel in one of the nearby wineries.
  • Timanfaya: The Timanfaya National Park is one of the main attractions of the island. The National Park is composed of a series of volcanoes and lava fields.

Thank you Niandi!

Credit : Ian Corless