The Coastal Challenge is as difficult and demanding as it is breathtakingly spectacular
Known locally as the ‘Rainforest Run,’ the TCC is a stage race, run every year along Costa Rica’s lush and tropical Pacific coastline. Weaving in and out of the Talamancas – a coastal mountain range spread across the southwest corner of the country – prepare to cover a demanding 236km over six days.
Part jungle, trail and alpine race, the TCC is an assault course of topography.
Up mountain, through rainforest, down dirt tracks and following trails over ridges, highlands and coastal ranges, the Costa Rica Coastal Challenge is bursting with terrain variety. You will run along gorgeous beaches, past reefs; wade through tantalisingly clear river estuaries and up and over barren rocky outcrops until you reach a Unesco World Heritage site, the Corcovado National Park. Here you will be rewarded with an experience of what is considered one of the world’s premier rainforests.
Take a moment to allow yourself to be transported to a place so vivid with colour – brilliant bright greens and rich browns – running past a cascading waterfall at sunrise; hopping rocks across a ravine to follow a trail through wide-open country fields down to the pristine, champagne-coloured sandy beach beyond. The rhythm of your breath may usually fill your ears, but here in Costa Rica it will be eclipsed by the chorus of thousands of creatures; insects, birds, butterflies – the vibrant buzz of life. If you think running 225km is pushing your limit, you will be surprised.
The stunning scenery will distract you.
Started in 2004 by Costa Rican adventure racer, Rodrigo Carazo, the race will be in its 11th consecutive year and continues to grow in popularity every edition. The TCC may be similar in format to the Marathon des Sables in that the race is multistage, point-to-point over six days, but unlike the MdS, the TCC is supported – you are not required to carry everything bar water that you need to survive. And this makes a massive difference, not only to your performance. Running light and fast, gear may be kept to a minimum – hand bottles or small bladder packs for hydration only. Delicious food is provided at the finish camp as well as at checkpoints or feed stations along the route. Base camp is setup by the race team, to which your luggage is transported. So you can expect your nights to pass physically spent, but pleasurably so, cradled comfortably in hammocks or tents.
If this sounds easy, think again.
It is not called the Coastal Challenge for nothing.
The Costa Rican coastline can be as hot as the Sahara and its sultry 35-degree heat comes with punishing humidity. The course boasts a total elevation gain of more than 34,000 feet – with the race finish near the border of Panama in a small and serene fishing village that until recently was only accessible by boat.
The Coastal Challenge is open to individuals and teams of individuals, amateur and professional runners, but unlike any other ultra-marathon, the TCC offers you a choice: to enter the Expedition or Adventure category. If you want to run hard and fast, the Expedition category is a true test for the more experienced runner. Or simply sign up for an adventure of a lifetime, through the diverse and challenging landscape of one of the most magical and inaccessible places in the world.
Read Ian Corless' review of the 2015 edition here.
Read Ian Corless' review of the 2016 edition here.
You can register your interest for this race here.
Listen to interviews with 2015 runners: