By Ian Corless
Now in its 12th year, the race is well and truly established and arguably Central America's most important race. The Coastal Challenge is a logical step up for runners who have done a race like Marathon des Sables, or ultra running enthusiasts who are seeking the adventure of a lifetime. “TCC” as it is known is unlike the MDS as it is not self-sufficient, but don't be fooled, MDS veterans confirm the race is considerably harder and more challenging than the Saharan adventure.
Intense heat, high humidity, ever-changing terrain, stunning views, Costa Rican charm and exceptional organisation; the race encompasses Pura Vida – Pure Life!
Hugging the coastline, the race travels in and out of the stunning Talamanca mountain range via dense forest trails, river crossings, waterfalls, long stretches of golden beaches backed by palm trees, dusty access roads, high ridges and open plains. At times technical, the combination of so many challenging elements is only intensified by the heat and high humidity that slowly but surely reduces even the strongest competitors to exhausted shells.
Following a superbly marked course, participants are only required to carry water and snacks to sustain them throughout each stage. Regular feed stations are provided for water and food: fresh pineapple, water melon and simple sugary snacks such as biscuits or trail mix. The daily bivouac is always in a stunning location; maybe within a river bed, backing onto a beach or situated close to the river Sierpe. Baggage is moved daily by the TCC staff and runners provide their own tents. They are able to access personal items to ensure regular changes of clothes, shoes and other items that will make the journey more pleasurable. Showers are available and there are three meals a day provided by the stunning catering team who work 20-22 hours to ensure the runners are fuelled for such an intense journey.
Two races, 'Expedition' and 'Adventure' provide a choice of distances and should Expedition competitors find the full distance too challenging they are allowed to drop down to the shorter distance, however, no medal will be awarded at the end. The challenge that the TCC provides should not be underestimated. Although accessible for all, the finish line in Drake Bay is not easily gained. It requires guts, tenacity, determination, and maybe the odd tear but ultimately the rewards are there to be grasped and race director Rodrigo Carazo and his team want the journey to be a successful one for all.
Over the years, the race has seen many top quality runners participate, Scott Jurek, Karl Meltzer, Joe Grant, Anna Frost, Julia Boettger, Philipp Reiter, Nick Clarke, Jo Meek, Michael Wardian and current 2015 champion and course record holder, Iain Don-Wauchope.
Continue to Part Two.