Running the Qhapac Nan - Page 3
Running the Incan Highways Today
By the mid-16th century, the Incan communication system had completely fallen apart after the Spanish conquistadors toppled the Incan regime and repeated rebellions and uprisings sent shock waves throughout the former empire. Many of the roads in remote areas quickly sank into disuse and ruin. Thankfully, major highway sections are well preserved today and are now collectively referred to as the “Inca Trail.”
The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, the most famous Incan ruin site, has become an enormously popular hiking destination. In recent years, several expedition companies have begun marketing the Inca Trail as a destination for trail runners.
This year, for the first time ever, you can run in an official Inca Trail Marathon, which finishes in Machu Picchu. Says race director Erik Rasmussen, “The trail is difficult due to the elevation. It ranges from 8,300 to 13,800 feet at the high point called Dead Woman’s Pass. It is mostly paved ancient Inca pathway—flat stones or brick with steep steps. It passes through geographical zones such as Andean grassland and cloud forest.”
Alternatively, you can take part in a 10-day running expedition along the Inca Trail from Choquequirao, another Incan ruin site, to Machu Picchu, hosted by Inca Runners. This expedition, called the Chaski Adventure, takes place several times throughout the year. The deep mountain setting and historic singletrack trail lends itself perfectly to the sport, with its undulating hills and rotating views of evocative ruins and mountain landscapes.
“The mountains are young and seem to shoot straight toward the heavens, constructing impossibly steep walls and breathtaking vistas,” says Walter Rhein, author of Beyond Birkie Fever, who has run on the Inca Trail. “The air is fresh and pure, and the difficulty of the trail and the altitude make running the trail the type of physical challenge that brings you face to face with what you’re truly made of.”
This article originally appeared in our June 2012 issue.