The Coastal Challenge is multi-day race over 6-days starting in the southern coastal town of Quepos, Costa Rica and finishing at the stunning Drake Bay on the Osa Peninsula. Considered by many an ultimate multi-day running experience, it challenges even the most experienced runner.
‘TCC’ is not a self-sufficient race, but don’t be fooled, MDS and other multi-day veterans confirm the race is considerably harder and more challenging than many other adventures they have participated in. It’s a race that can provide a steep learning curve; intense heat, high humidity, ever-changing terrain and the need to adapt!
Hugging the Talamaca coastline, The Coastal Challenge travels in and out of the stunning mountain range that runs parallel to the sea. Dense forest trails, waterfalls, river crossings, long stretches of golden beaches, an abundance of palm trees and many winding and interconnecting dusty access roads provide a unique challenge.
“A backdrop of some of the most breathtaking rainforest and coast on the planet, The Coastal Challenge has joined the exclusive club of iconic multi-day ultras.” – Steve Diederich, UK agent for TCC
Reigning ladies’ Champion, Ester Alves will return after incredible memories of the 2016 event, “Everything is special, the heat, the forest, the solitude of the race, the hot pacific sea, the intimacy between organization, camping, athletes, workers and locals from the little villages. The closeness between my new ‘coastal family’ was enormous and in a week of racing and relaxing, I created bonds for life… it’s what makes the race so special.”
At times, technical, the combination of so many challenging elements are only intensified by heat and high humidity that slowly but surely reduces even the strongest competitors. In 2017, Ester will have a tough race with competition coming from Anna Comet, two times winner of The Everest Trail Race and 2015 Marathon des Sables champion, Elisabet Barnes.
Elisabet raced the ‘The Coastal Challenge’ in 2016, “It was great to race against Ester in 2016. She is a lovely girl and a genuinely nice person. I am very happy for her that she won the race. I now know more about her strengths relative mine and how I can improve to reduce the gaps that led her to victory.”
Anna Comet will no doubt push Elisabet and Ester every step of the way on the 2017 journey and of course, at this stage, other female elite racers may decide to enter the race. The TCC has a long history of the top female competition – Anna Frost, Jo Meek, Julia Boettger, and Nikki Kimball to name just a few. “I’ve been twice to Nepal and won, now I really want to go to Costa Rica,” said Anna. “I like to compete against strong competition. I think it’s a chance to grow as an athlete and to become better. And of course, I will be happy to meet Ester and Elisabet in competition and then relax later in the camp chatting.”
Finally, Chile’s Veronica Bravo is returning to the race she loves. She has run the race many times and notably, in 2015, won the race ahead of Nikki Kimball and Maria Rivera. ‘Vero’ knows the terrain, can handle the heat and after missing the 2016 edition, she will be looking for another victory.
The ladies race will, without doubt, be special, however, the men’s line-up is beyond impressive with UK based mountain/ sky runner Tom Owens traveling from the cold, snow and ice of the UK to the heat and humidity of Costa Rica, “The heat and humidity will be massively challenging. I’ve not worked out how to run well in these conditions. It will be my first big block of running in 2017 and so interesting to see how the body holds up. I also find running in the sand really tough…”
We all know Tom can handle the rough and technical stuff – the river and bouldering sections will be terrain that he loves. But Costa Rica will have sand too, albeit not soft sand. It may well be a whole new learning curve. Costa Rica may well prove to be much more of a test with Sondre Amdahl participating alongside Hardrock 100 winner, Jason Schlarb. This duo are good friends and raced each other at the 2016 Marathon des Sables.
“One of the aspects of stage racing I appreciate the most, is being able to spend quality time with other athletes over multiple days,” said Jason. “There are great opportunities to make lifelong friends at stage races. I look forward to reuniting with my Norwegian Altra teammate Sondre Amdahl at TCC. Sondre placed 8th and I was 12th at MDS. I wouldn’t mind setting things right and beating Sondre at the Costal Challenge in February :)”
I caught up with Sondre from his home in Norway,” The tropical climate is a real attraction and it will be a great escape from the cold winter in here. I can’t wait to run on the beach and explore the rainforest”
Renowned for specific training, Sondre often immerses himself in preparation for a key race. As he has said, Norway is not going to be the ideal training ground for a high humidity race with hot temperature. It begs the question; how will he train for this challenge?
“TCC will be my main target for the winter/spring of 2017. I have had a couple of easy months after a DNS at the Tor des Géants (due to injury). I have had a good block of training in November, December, I raced at Ultra-Trail Tai Mo Shan in Hong Kong (115km) on New Year’s Eve which I won and then in January I will go to Gran Canaria to prepare for TCC.”
Jose Manuel ‘Chema’ Martinez placed 4th in the 2016 edition of TCC, he also placed 5th at the 2016 Marathon des Sables. Chema is a 2:08 marathon runner and has an impressive history as a 5000 (13:11:13) and 10.000m (28:09) runner. He represented Spain at the Olympics on two occasions. Chema is coming back to Costa Rica for victory… watch out!
And finally, a last-minute entry by Vicente Juan Garcia Beneito will, without doubt, make all the other runners turn their heads and wonder what this Spaniard will bring to the race? Vicente placed 2nd in the 10th edition of TCC behind Michael Wardian, who at the time set a course record. Vicente is a multi-day specialist and has gone on to win Grand to Grand in the USA, Everest Trail Race in Nepal amongst many other top results. He is the only runner, in history, to have won all of the 4Deserts (Atacama, Sahara, Gobi, and Antarctica) in one year.
“Reaching the 13th edition is humbling and gratifying. It is a privilege and not to one to be taken lightly. We are happy and grateful to have made it this far.” – Rodrigo Carazo, race director, and co-founder.
One thing is for sure, The Coastal Challenge has experienced some epic battles over the past years, now in its 13th edition, with this line-up, 2017 is once again going to be another epic year! It’s important to note that a wealth of talent will join the race from Costa Rica, with Erick Aguero and Ashur Yousseffi who will run his 3rd TCC. In addition, runners will travel from all over the world to take part in what will be a classic edition of The Coastal Challenge, Costa Rica.
“This is no easy course. It’s a really tough event. I have loved every moment in Costa Rica. It’s a stunning race and the last day around Drake Bay is just so special.” – Iain Don Wauchope, 2x winner, and course record holder.
Catch up on the best “Hints ’n’ Tips” for The Coastal Challenge HERE