When race director, Manu Pastor, created the Way of Legends race he wanted to produce something special. He didn’t do that; he created something very special, something exceptional. It is a trail race through the stunning and varied scenery of a region of Northern Spain near Burgos. But it is not the running that makes the race so special, although that alone is worth the trip, it is the friendliness and warmth of the people involved, the wonderful food (this is a fully catered event) and lots of small details that only someone who loves the area where he lives and loves running would think to provide.
The race, which has a total distance of 254km, consist of 6 stages – 5 are a little longer than a standard marathon and the final stage is a 13km celebratory run along the “Camino de Santiago” to the finish line at the World Heritage Site of Burgos Cathedral. Competitors are collected from the city of Burgos and driven to the remote village of Trashaedo del Tozo where the race HQ is based. It is here that they realise the event is something very special. They are greeted by the effervescent Maria Gonzalez, for whom nothing is too much trouble, and shown to their comfortable rooms. Later competitors enjoy a freshly cooked meal made from local ingredients. Head chef Nuria Alonso has many years’ experience working in an organic restaurant.
The runners have two days to relax and recover from their journeys, during which time their kit and medical history is checked, and they have time to get to know each other and the crew before the 15- minute bus trip to the start of the race.
The race starts at the historical site of “Castro Ulna”, the largest Celtic hill fort city in Spain, to the eerie sounds of Druid drumming and horns.
Legend has it that when the Romans attacked the fort the warriors of the Turmogi Clan fled down a hidden path to the valley below. Fearing that they would be captured, the warriors carried poisonous yew sprigs to eat; they would rather die than be taken by the Romans. The runners are presented with yew sprigs before being set off to head towards the village of Sedano.
With checkpoints every 8-16km and accommodation, a late lunch, dinner and breakfast at the end of every stage competitors just need to concentrate on the running. The racers race, while in the middle of the field competitors enjoy a social run. In 2017 Lucja Leonard met up with Stan Lee, who has run with her husband on numerous occasions, and they spent the whole race chatting, even finding time to stop off in a bar to have a coffee and dry out. And at the back for some it is a struggle and they learn a lot about themselves; others enjoy the varied countryside. In last place in 2017 was Cynthia Fish, an unfortunate name for a vegan. She has completed a multi-day event on all seven continents, so had nothing to prove.
The accommodation at the end of the fifth stage is extra special, it is in the Monastery of San Pedro Cardeña. The race cooks have the night off and some local caterers come and prepare a typical paella. The racing is done, with only 13km to go there is little chance of positions changing, and if there were runners agree not to competed and run in groups, so there is a party atmosphere, made even more special by being allowed to sit in on the monks’ final service of the day and hear Gregorian chanting.
The final stage of the Way of Legends is quite remarkable, as despite finishing in the centre, it is all on trails, except for the last few hundred metres to Burgos Cathedral. Finishers enjoy a coffee in the square before heading to a nearby hotel to shower and relax ahead of the evenings’ award dinner, where the winners receive their trophy shields and all finishers are presented with a medal designed and made by a local artist.
Lucja (2017) said this in her blog.
“We were all touched spiritually during this race in our own ways, and this became apparent at the awards ceremony on our final night together where most of the runners felt the desire to share with the group how much they were feeling, not just how they were feeling but how much. Something had opened up in all of us and the outpouring of emotions from everyone was something I had not experienced before, we all had to dig deep during the week and we had all been there for each other. I will always treasure the memories and the unique finishers medal; a bespoke design by Oscar the Shaman which represents a helmet and therefore a legend, but when turned upside down represents the phoenix and rebirth ‘a rising from the ashes’. The race is limited to 36 competitors so will always retain this magical feel”
The final word should go to Richard Lendon (2017), a very experienced and successful ultra runner from the UK. He wrote an extensive blog post about the event; however, the two sentences below say it all.
“I had a simply wonderful week. I rediscovered my love of ultra-running, but more than anything I rediscovered the lost art of having fun.”
Photos by Javier Álvarez Cobb
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