On the weekend I took part in Skyrunning Costa Rica half marathon on the Irazu Volcano just north of San Jose, Costa Rica. The best way I can describe it is a brutal run with fantastic views.
When I registered I purchased the “International Racers” package and it was well worth it. Registration for the race was $50US, the International package was $185US and included registration, transportation to the hotel as well as to and from the race. Accommodation at Apartamentos Tairona in San Pedro, San Jose, which I would highly recommend. They even fed us lunch and breakfast at the hotel. Occasionally communications were a bit delayed, but the organizers came through with everything they promised.
They had all the resources for a safe and enjoyable race.
The race itself, WOW! What a beautiful venue for such an event. Make no mistake, this is a tough run. But that in itself makes it exceptional. The views from the side of the volcano are wonderful. The race winds up and down the volcano through farm land and pastures. As I came around the first corner of the race I saw the preview of what to expect, with a goat by the side of the road. We ran past cows grazing in pastures and horses wandering along the roadway grazing. When running on the trails we encountered a very fine dirt, almost like flour. For a good portion of the run we were surrounded by this fine dust. Not a problem, until later. I will come to that.
Starting the race at 5:00pm provides an excellent opportunity to see the valley both in the daylight and after dark. The views with the clouds below you are wonderful. And the sunset provided a welcome distraction from the pain of the hills you encounter on the course. As you near the end of the course the view of the stars at that elevation are spectacular. Truly a non stop vista of changing views. You are also reminded that you are in a functioning farming community as you make your way along the course. From the aromas provided by livestock to being overtaken in the dark by a local riding his horse up the road with you.
For me the most challenging portion of the course, other than the soul destroying inclines, was the 4km downhill stretch in the final third of the race. The course became quite congested with runners coming together from the different distances and together we kicked up a lot of dust. The light from our headlamps would reflect off the dust in the air meaning for most of the descent you could not see the ground right in front of you. It reminded me of driving through a snow storm with your high beams on your car, totally blinding. What made this so challenging was I was never sure where the ground was as I was running downhill. Try it sometime, it is a wonderful experience for your knees and body as a whole.
In the end I placed 43rd out of 112 men in the half marathon with a time of 2:39:42. For this old boy, I am very pleased. I would highly recommend this race to anyone looking for a unique challenge to include in their travels.