The Ehunmilak: A Cultural Crushing - Page 3
In 2010, first-place finisher Imanol Aleson of Azkoitia in the Basque Country, recalls persevering through the whiteout with another runner. “We were incapable of saying a word because of the cold … We were frozen.” Last year, the race began in clear, hot conditions and ended in rain.
Expect varied terrain: mud, forest singletrack, native grass, slippery bedrock, gravel road, pavement through neighborhoods, cobbled streets, ancient quarried steps, trails of riverbed rocks, thistle patches, cowpies and sharp six-inch vertical limestone fins. The footing takes a toll.
I quit at mile 70, after tweaking an ankle when my foot got lodged between two limestone fins. American Ricky Denesik, a veteran ultra trail runner who also attempted the Ehunmilak, says, “The footing was the hardest thing.”
Even with my DNF, I have fond memories of the experience: the pre-race pasta dinner in a 15th-century mill with wine on tap; a silent spectator holding the reins of a thick-necked white Andalusian horse; the full moon from up high, lighting the surrounding peaks like volcanic islands in an ocean of white mist that veiled the valleys below.
It is a first-class event manned by 1500 volunteers with a deep appreciation for the mental and physical rigor it takes to go the distance. If you finish, someone will fire a popgun over your head and shower you with confetti.
:: Trailhead ::
Important Race Details. To qualify for the Ehunmilak, you simply have to be over 18. Pacers and crews are not allowed and runners can access only two drop bags during the race. Coinciding with the Ehunmilak is the 50-mile Goierriko 2 Haundiak (G2h), which is equally as difficult, just shorter. Both races are qualifiers for UTMB and attract some of Europe’s top runners.
Nearly every competitor uses trekking poles, and the race requires that runners carry a backpack full of safety equipment: cell phone, extra batteries, whistle, emergency blanket, etc. Officials randomly search your mochilla at aid stations to ensure you are carrying these items, and may request a drug test after the race. The Ehunmilak is a professional, televised event supported by major sponsors and offers 1000 euros each to the first-place male and female (www.ehunmilak.com).