Guadarun “Marathon des Iles” | Guadeloupe

Guadarun “Marathon des Iles” stands out from other staged races in several ways. First, its daily distances are vthan manyfgvvvgv other multi-day races, 130 km (80 miles) over 6 days, as opposed to around 230 km (140 miles) for most other 6-day events. This makes it a great first race for runners who are looking to move into multi-day racing. But the other stunning aspect of Guadarun is that each stage takes place on a different island within the French Caribbean archipelago of Guadeloupe. And each island is astonishingly different – both in terms of its geography (and therefore running trails) as well as its culture and food.

Camping on beaches under the palms, daily boat rides to our next island, and delicious restaurant meals provided by the race organization are all part of Guadarun’s cultural experience. We started on the easternmost island of La Désirade, a narrow rocky island named by Columbus in 1493. Our 28 km/17 mile route took us along the island’s southern shore, where we spied humpback whales blowing in the turquoise sea, then up a steep road to the crest of the island and back along its rocky ridgeline.

Stage 2, on the island of Marie-Galante was shorter, at 21 km/13 miles. The coastal route included dry forest littered with boulders of spiky fossilized coral, windswept beaches, and tight against limestone cliff walls provided more than enough challenge! Stages 3 and 4 were shorter days on the two tiny twin islands of Terre de Haut and Terre-Bas. Each of these 15 km / 9 mile routes included lots of steep ascents and descents, on both pavement and technical trails, as we visited nearly every peak on these two mountainous little isles. Stage 5 was the day that most everyone both feared and looked forward to: steep muddy jungle trails, ascending to the peak of the volcanic island of Basse-Terre. Nearly all of this wet and rugged island is a national park. The indescribably tough trails made for a slow slog (my partner Dave and I covered the 22 km / 14 miles in 5:42!) and if anyone felt they were not experienced jungle travel beforehand, this day most definitely changed that! Stage 6 was no less tough, but in different ways.

On the most populated islands, Grande-Terre, it was one of our longest days, at 28 km / 17 miles. On top of that, by now our bodies were tired: our muscles exhausted after five exhilarating but tough days, and many of us scratched up from falls on limestone or coral. And this was one of our most exposed routes: soft sand beaches and limestone rock shelves at the surf line, meaning we would be exposed to the relentless Caribbean sun all day. Challenging though it was, we were all jubilant at the finish line, and ready to partake in the festivities that race organizers put on that night!

Guadarun is a well established event – next year will be its 15th running! The organizers know what they are doing. They are runners themselves, and their race routes provide what we are all looking for as trail runners: challenging and varied trails that allow you to experience the landscape in a way that no other traveller would. In addition, the cultural events (including great local cuisine) make Guadarun a very special event: in one week, racers see more of Guadeloupe than other visitors would see in a year! The 15th edition of Guadarun takes place from April 19 to 27, 2014. Guadeloupe is a French island in the southern Caribbean, and it is very safe. Most of the racers come from Europe, so the experience is cultural in every way. You can get there by direct flight from Miami or from San Juan, Puerto Rico. For more information, visit www.guadarun.com.

Report Courtesy of  Jacqueline Windh – http://www.daveandjackierun.wordpress.com/

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