This is the ultra-trail at the end of the world

Here’s why the Ultra Fiord race across Patagonia might just be the toughest race on earth.
A runner competes in the Ultra Fiord race across the Patagonia region of Southern Chile near Punta Arenas
A runner competes in the Ultra Fiord race © Pauce
By Dominique Granger

The term ultra trail may be a slight understatement when it comes to the Ultra Fiord race. The very first edition of this brutal event took place in the wilds in Chile's Patagonia region in the middle of April. Here, at the bottom of the world, an ultra-trail becomes more of a raid than anything.

Imagine yourself expecting a long, strenuous race in a magical landscape like Patagonia. In fact, what you get once the race begins, are challenges you never thought possible.

Here's why this new event has become one of the wildest ultra-trails in the world...

More: Race 250km above a massive South American desert

Why Ultra Fiord?

The race could hardly have a better name. Taking place in mythical Patagonia, the course brings runners to discover the land of fjords, long, narrow inlets created by the erosion of glaciers that have shaped a stunning landscape that leads you into thinking that you might bump into a Hobbit at the next turn.

Stjepan Pavicic, the race director, had two goals in mind when he started organising the race: first, to hold the first 100-mile race in Chile, and secondly to create a race that had Patagonia's signature stamped through it.

More raid than ultra...

Ultra Fiord is a real adventure. Competitors tackle a river crossing at the Ultra Fiord trail-running race in the Patagonia region of Southern Chile
Ultra Fiord is more like a raid than a trail © @Pauce

"We were going for a trail run, and we quickly realised that it was much more than a trail: it was an expedition, with very technical passes, in a very hostile environment. The rain, ice, mud and snow slowed all of us down," says Sylvainne Cussot, second placed finisher in the 70km race. Last time she did a 70k, it took her 6h50m – Ultra Fiord took nearly double the time.

"My only goal was to make it in one piece," she added. "Many people underestimated the race. It's tough when you don't know the area, because there is so much more than just the incline: the weather is just as tricky as the terrain."

This POV footage shows just how wild Ultra Fiord can be

© @Pauce

Matthew Maynard shared the above video of footage of his race. As you can see it really is wild.

Quick-changing weather


A runner's mud-soaked shoes at the Ultra Fiord ultra-trail race in the Patagonia region of Southern Chile, near Punta Arenas
Getting dirty © @Pauce

With the quick-changing Patagonian weather, the runners had to bring special gear which isn't mandatory in any other ultra-trail races around the world. They had no choice, especially when spending hours running completely alone in an area where bailing out and calling it quites is not an option.

Yes, Ultra Fiord is painful

A runner takes a much-need break at the Ultra Fiord ultra-trail race in the Patagonia region of Southern Chile, near Punta Arenas
A well-deserved break © @Pauce

... very painful!

An injured runner gets help at the Ultra Fiord trail race in the Patagonia region of Southern Chile, near Punta Arenas
Pushing it through © @Pauce

More difficult than any other Ultra-Trail?

Only 11 out of 33 entrants finished the 100-mile race, with also boasted an elevation gain of 6700m. Winner Browning wrote on his blog after the race: "The terrain I'd been moving through was more wild than anything I'd come across in the last 15 years of running ultramarathons. This was my twenty first 100-miler and this course was throwing it at me. Patagonia offers breathtaking and incredible landscapes, but at a price: you have to give a lot and your body pays a high price. If it were easy, it wouldn't stick in people's mind."

 This is the medal you get for finishing Ultra Fiord

What’s the next step for Ultra Fiord ?

Will the organisers move towards a more popular or more extreme course for the second edition? "We want to make it more popular for people who love the extreme", says Stjepan Pavicic, the Race Director. Next time, we'll make sure everyone knows what to expect: the weather, the course, the terrain. But in such a race, you can't be a loser – either you win, or you learn.

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