Marathon des Sables 2016 #MDS2016 Race Preview


MDS, Marathon des Sables, The Toughest Race in the World… whatever you want to call it, the 31st edition is just around the corner. Think about it, 30-years. It’s quite incredible how this race has grown and has become ‘the’ multi-day race to do irrespective of experience. It was the first and is still the best race offering an ultimate adventure for novice and experienced runner.


It’s more than a race. It’s an experience, it’s escape and it’s a challenge. The combination of self-sufficiency, life in bivouac and running 250-km’s through the heat of the Sahara is something that those that have experienced it will never forget. It is the story of life, a story of men and women who have come to the heart of the desert to rid themselves of the superficial to keep only the essentials and get in touch with their true selves.


“What concerns me the most is the runners’ safety, and our capacity to ensure rapid medical intervention and emergency health evacuation. The weather is another worry, but unfortunately totally out of our hands.” – Patrick Bauer

For the past three decades, some 19,000 runners have signed up for this experience, so, with the imminent running of the 2016 edition, it’s fair to say that race will see a great number of participants returning.

To summarise the impact on participants over 30 years:

(statistics provided by MDS media team/ official press documentation)
  • 30-40% are returning,
  • 70% are international,
  • 30% are French,
  • 17% are women
  • and 45% are veterans thus confirming that you are never too old to take part!

2016 will see 1200 runners participate, a huge increase from 1986 when only 23 runners took part.


“The desert strips you bare, all the more so on a race like this. Values like sharing, solidarity, and respect for differences and cultures are omnipresent. So of course, friendships develop between the brothers and sisters of the desert who have no more barriers or boundaries and are all united to achieve the same goal.” – Patrick Bauer


Lasting six days’ participants must be self-sufficient carrying everything they need in a pack. Water is provided but rationed and a tent (bivouac) is provided each evening that must be shared with seven other participants.

The 2016 edition of the race will be 257-km’s offering a series of challenges that will test the mind and body in equal measure.


“We try to convey happiness, enthusiasm and positive thinking through what we do and the sense of belonging is particularly intense for the runners, almost tribal, after ten days of sharing the adventure and fulfilling the same dream. Another thing I’d say was very important and a big part of the marathon’s success is the security and care that we bring the runners. The average age of participants is about forty, and most of them have children and have opted for a mishap-free adventure. In any case, when your family is far away, you count on quality organization.” – Patrick Bauer


The Route

On a course punctuated by difficulties, competitors will get to see all of the Sahara’s different facets. Runners will have to cross ergs (dune fields), djebels (mountains), stony plateaus, dried-up lakes and oueds in which only sand flows, as well as oases, nomad camps, and traditional, rammed-earth villages. The desert has its secret gardens and those taking part in MARATHON DES SABLES will be lucky enough to contemplate them as a recompense for their efforts.

Stage 1 – 10th April

12km of majestic dunes kick off the race anddunes conclude the stage for the last 3km before competitors reach the bivouac. In-between, runners will have the time to appreciate the difficulty of making their way down a sandy oued and crossing a ghost village. Although not confirmed, I would anticipate that the Erg Chebbi Dunes may start the 2016 race. These dunes finished the 2015 edition on the charity stage. This will most definitely mean a longer transfer from the airport to the start of the race and these dunes are tough! “The dunes of Erg Chebbi reach a height of up to 150 meters in places and altogether spans an area of 50 kilometers from north to south and up to 5–10 kilometers from east to west lining the Algerian border.”

Stage 2 – 11th April

A long stage, with a wide variety of terrains. The standard dunes will be accompanied by stony plateaus where time stands still, rammed-earth villages inhabited by courageous souls farming arid land, and some steep djebels. As beautiful as it is difficult.

Stage 3 – 12th April

MARATHON DES SABLES will merit its name on this stage. The first part will go fast but, before the 1st check point the dunes will emerge… and then carry on, with more before and after the 2nd check point and a few more before the bivouac. The desert will go up and down with a slight climb before some slopes of over 20% that will put it all into perspective.

Stage 4 – 13/14th April

Known as “the long one” by old hands, this is the most testing part of the race, where you really need to manage your energy. The list of remarkable sites along this stage is particularly long. It’s the kind of stage that made MDS’s reputation. In less than 35 hours, runners’ minds and bodies will have had their fill. Running through the sand at night under the stars teaches all of them about humility. No one emerges from this long pilgrimage unchanged.

Stage 5 – 15th April

The Marathon stage. For those who thought they’d seen it all, get ready for a revelation. This entirely new route will take you through some splendid sites and end in a battle for the leading places. The less hurried will take their time to admire the landscapes. A lot more dunes and hills for 42.2km.

Stage 6 – 16th April – SOLIDARITY UNICEF legs

This obligatory stage is timed but does not count in the MDS ranking. You have to cross the finish line to feature in the ranking of the 31st MDS and receive a finisher’s medal. When they reach the small village in which the final finish line is located, competitors, sponsors and families signed up on this stage will make up the caravan and be able to appreciate the beauty of the landscape, all wearing the colours of UNICEF, which supports projects for impoverished children. This stage is mostly a chance to reflect on the experience of this amazing human adventure, and raise awareness of solidarity before returning to civilization.



The LADIES ©iancorless.com_MDS2015Day3-2734

Elisabet Barnes is the defending champion and has become a dominant force in the world of multi-day running. She followed MDS victory in 2015 with victory in Oman and placed 2nd lady at the recent The Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica. Recent life changes have impacted on Elisabet’s preparation for the 2016 edition of the race but she knows the desert, she knows the sand and she knows how to race over multiple days.


“I have a lot more experience than I had in 2012. I do train a little more, but it’s really that I understand more about pushing myself further and how to manage my food and water. My bag was also a lot lighter than in 2012, my 2015 bag only weighed 7 kilos compared to 11 kilos in 2012.”


Fernanda Maciel is a newbie to the Sahara and multiple day racing despite victory at the 2013 Everest Trail Race. One thing is for sure, the heat should not be a problem for the Brazilian ultra runner. An experienced competitor, Fernanda recently spent a long period of time at altitude in an effort to set a ‘FKT’ (fastest known time) on Aconcagua. Something she achieved! Her success at races such as UTMB, Transgrancanaria and Ultra-Trail Mt Fuji will almost certainly mean that she will be a force to be reckoned with.


Nathalie Maculair will without doubt shake things up at the 2016 edition. Her results speak for themselves and her ability to run fast, climb, handle technical trail will (and quite rightly so) intimidate her competition. Nathalie has raced well at Transvulcania, become a world trail champion and also won the ridiculously tough, Grand Raid de la Reunion (Diagonale des Fous). This will be Nathalie’s first multi-day race but she has raced in ‘Raids’ before. Her small size will without doubt be a huge disadvantage in the early stages.  A wife and mother, this may well be the ultimate escape for her.

“Given my small size, transporting 6-7 kg will be quite a challenge. But I’ve already run with a large bag on multisport raids. I enjoy the period when you prepare the bag and start picturing yourself on the race and thinking about what you’ll need. Once I’m in that phase, part of me is already there.”


Laurence Klein has won the race multiple times (2007, 2011 and 2012), and knows the sand and the race better than anyone else. You van never rule her out! In recent years’ things have not gone to plan in the big sand pit, but Laurence is back once again, that can only mean one thing; she believes she can win!


Liza Howard ran MDS last year and placed 16th which does not reflect her ability. She has real experience of ultra running as she proved with victory at Leadville 100 in late 2015 (she also won Leadville in 2010) and I am sure that she learnt valuable lessons in the 2015 edition of MDS that will only make her stronger and more resilient in 2016.

Aziz Raji a name I initially missed but a hot contender for the podium after great runs at Trans Atlas Marathon and in Oman.

Meghan Arbogast is another USA based runner that has all the credentials and history to make a real impact in the dunes and the hard packed sand of the Sahara. A fast runner, particularly over 100km, Meghan’s race history dates back to 1996 and is compulsive reading.


Natalia Sedykh placed 3rd last year and like Elisabet Barnes was an unknown entity. She had a steely grit and determination and I can’t help but think that 1-year on, she will come to the race meticulously prepared with just one objective; overall victory!

Ladies to watch:

Frederica Boifava, Annick Ballot, Gweanelle Coupon, Elise Delannoy, Sophie Laversanne, Claire Price, Holly Zimmermann, Maree Jesson and more.



Rachid El Morabity has won the race three times, is defending champion, has local knowledge and is the man to beat, need I say more?


Franco Colle is a surprise entry as he loves the mountains. He had an incredible 2015 racing on the Skyrunner World Series and by contrast he has won the epic and demanding, Tor des Geants. He has strength, technical ability and is used to carrying a pack in the mountains, this is his first MDS but don’t rule him out!


Sondre Amdahl has been a revelation in recent years with a sting of world -class performances at UTMB, Western States, Transgrancanaria, UTMF and so on. He recently pulled out of the 2016 edition of Transgrancanaria and has then devoted himself to preparing for the Sahara. A fierce competitor, he will try his hardest day-after-day.


“I’m not afraid of it, but I do have a great deal of respect for the race. I’m trying to prepare myself as best as I can, especially for the heat, sand and lack of food. I live in Norway, and it’s cold there right now, so I’ll spend some time in Spain and Morocco before the race.”


Erik Clavery is the great French hope. He has said numerous times that MDS is a dream race and he has set his sights high.

“This weekend I set off to the dunes in western France once again with my 6.5 kg bag on my back. The hardest part will no doubt be getting used to the heat. It’s not easy to reproduce those conditions over here in the winter. So I work on my home trainer wearing a thermal jacket!”


Carlos Sa has come close but never quite managed to smoke the MDS cigar. He placed 4th in 2012 and 7th in 2013. This year, Carlos has really set his sights on MDS and his recent run in Costa Rica at The Coastal Challenge was great training. We all know he can run in the heat as his 2013 victory at Badwater 135 confirms. I hope he makes the podium!


Chema Martinez is a 2:08 marathon runner, he placed 6th at MDS last year and recently had a great run in Costa Rica at The Coastal Challenge. He’s a fun loving guy who loves to race and race fast. He made mistakes in 2015 and will look to put them right in 2016 – watch this space!


Jason Schlarb is one of the USA’s top runners who has excelled at races such as UTMB. Just recently he skied (with 3 others) the Hardrock 100 course over 4-days. A world first and a huge achievement. Without doubt, MDS will be a huge learning curve for Jason but it’s a challenge he is embracing. He sees the race as one big adventure!


The Moroccans

  • Aziz El Akad has been in the top 5 six times, so a repeat performance is highly likely.
  • Abdelkader El Mouaziz was 2nd last year and a super fast runner. He will be looking to oust Rachid for the top slot and he has the race to do it!
  • Samir Akhdar has never won MDS but has placed in the top 8 seven times.

Men to watch:

Jean-Sebastien Braun, Marco Olmo, Greg Dunning, Glenn McDougall, Alejandro Lopez Reyes, Ahmed Tahiri, Mohamed Faraj, Marco Pajusco, Juan Manuel Cortes and more.


Crazy Statistics of the MDS

“The logistics are a big headache and we organize every last detail in advance! We’re a village of 2,000 people that has to be set up and dismantled every days and needs to be self-sufficient in energy, food, water and fuel. As one of my friends says, ‘Let’s expect the worst because the best will never surprise us!’ We also benefit from the infallible support of the Royal Moroccan Army, which makes available about 25 6WD military trucks to transport all of our equipment.” – Patrick Bauer


▪    150 volunteers to supervise the race,

▪    450 general support staff,

▪    120,000 liters of bottled mineral water,

▪    300 Berber and Saharan tents,

▪    120 all-terrain vehicles and trucks,

▪    2 Squirrel helicopters and 1 Cessna plane,

▪    8 Transavia ‘MDS special’ commercial planes,

▪    30 buses,

▪    4 dromedaries,

▪    1 incinerator lorry for burning waste,

▪    5 quad bikes to monitor race environment and safety,

▪    72 medical staff,

▪    2.3kms of Elastoplast,

▪    12,200 compresses,

▪    6,000 painkillers,

▪    150 liters of disinfectant,

▪    1 editing bus,

▪    5 cameras,

▪    1 satellite image station,

▪    10 satellite telephones,

▪    30 computers, fax and internet,

▪    18,000 competitors since 1986

▪    30% returning competitors, 70% international, 30% French,
17% women, 45% veterans,
30% in teams,
10% walkers,
90% alternate walking and running,

▪    14 km/hr.: average maximum speed, 3 km/hr.: average minimum speed,

▪    15 years of age for the youngest competitor and the oldest, 83!


30 Years of the MDS

1986 – Michel GALLIEZ (FRANCE) – Christiane PLUMERE (FRANCE)

1987 – Bernard GAUDIN (FRANCE) – Marie-Ange MALCUIT (FRANCE)

1988 – Bernard GAUDIN (FRANCE) – Marie-Ange MALCUIT (FRANCE)






1994 – André DERKSEN (RUSSIA) – Valentina LIAKHOVA (RUSSIA)

1995 – André DERKSEN (RUSSIA) – Béatrice REYMANN (FRANCE)




1999 – Lahcen AHANSAL (MOROCCO) – Lisa SMITH (USA)

2000 – Lahcen AHANSAL (MOROCCO) – Pascale MARTIN (FRANCE)





2005 – Lahcen AHANSAL (MOROCCO) – Simone KAYSER (LUX)

2006 – Lahcen AHANSAL (MOROCCO) – Géraldine COURDESSE (FRANCE)

2007 – Lahcen AHANSAL (MOROCCO) – Laurence KLEIN (FRANCE)

2008 – Mohamad AHANSAL (MOROCCO) – Touda DIDI (MOROCCO)

2009 – Mohamad AHANSAL (MOROCCO) – Touda DIDI (MOROCCO)

2010 – Mohamad AHANSAL (MOROCCO) – Monica AGUILERA (SPAIN)

2011 – Rachid EL MORABITY (MOROCCO) – Laurence KLEIN (FRANCE)

2012 – Salameh AL AQRA (JORDAN) – Laurence KLEIN (FRANCE)

2013 – Mohamad AHANSAL (MOROCCO) – Meghan HICKS (USA)


2015 – Rachid ELMORABITY (MOROCCO) – Elisabet Barnes (SWE)


A brief history of the MDS

1984: At 28 years of age, Patrick Bauer decided to make for the Sahara to try to traverse a 350km expanse of uninhabited desert, on foot, alone, where he wouldn’t come into contact with a single village, oasis or watering place. Totally self-sufficient, with a rucksack weighing 35kg and containing water and food, he set off on a journey that was to last 12 days. It was the starting point of what was to become the MARATHON DES SABLES.

1986: The creation of the first MDS in the Moroccan Sahara. The 23 pioneers who took the start never imagined that their footprints would mark the start of a legendary event, which has today become a must among the major adventure sport meets. The creation of a non-mechanical competition in the Moroccan sands offers adventure runners a wealth of new prospects.

1987: Creation of the MDS logo: the face of a runner covered by a keffiyeh, the eyes protected by a pair of sunglasses and the pipette from the runner’s water container clenched between the teeth.

1989: 170 competitors take the start of the race.

1991: The gulf drama puts the MDS at a disadvantage and the financial partners withdraw. Fortunately, some runners answer the call. For these competitors, the true victory lies in meeting athletes from different backgrounds and their communion in the desert around the same goal. Sport proves once again that it can bring people together and create bonds.

1992: One and the same regulation for everyone. This year sees the establishing of unexpected draconian tests, to ensure that each participant properly transports all his or her gear from one end of the course to the other. A 30-point charter is drawn up.

First participation by the Moroccan Lahcen Ahansal

1994: Arrival of the Doc Trotters at the event.

1995: 10th anniversary. Since the start, over 1,500 men and women have left their footprint and their passion in the desert. Installation of water-pump for the inhabitants of the village of Ighef n’rifi (South of Er-Rachidia) – an idea by competitor Gilles Flamant and backed by Rolland Barthes and Patrick Bauer. Its success is to be repeated again and again

1996: First participation by Mohamed, a younger sibling of Ahansal. The two Moroccan brothers set off together and rank 4th and 5th respectively.

1997: This year heralds the start of the Ahansal saga. Morocco is honored with Lahcen’s first victory. He beats his two pursuers by nearly 30 minutes, despite them being international long-distance running champions.

1999: A mobile hospital on the MDS comes into being. There are around thirty practitioners on the ground, with doctors and nurses joining the caravan. A dedicated helicopter and ten all-terrain vehicles track the competitors each day. On- board these vehicles there are doctors of course, as well as high-tech equipment. The village boasts a genuine field hospital.

2000: Internet puts in an appearance in the large MDS village. The organization decides to broadcast the texts and photos of the race live, day after day. The competitors can communicate with their nearest and dearest and receive messages of encouragement.

2001: For the first time the long leg, traditionally called “The 70”, exceeds the 80km barrier to reach 82km. The threshold of 240km is also surpassed since the 16th MARATHON DES SABLES spans 243km. Another first relates to the fact that there are no Moroccans on the podium this year.

2002: This edition is punctuated by a sandstorm, involving headwinds, which lasts the entire week. The doctors invent a machine for ‘low pressure cleansing’ to rinse out the runners’ eyes. Despite the difficult conditions, there are few retirements to report as the wind considerably reduces the temperature.

2005: The Luxembourg runner Simone Kayser is the first woman to win 3 MARATHON DES SABLES. For this 20th edition, the total number of runners exceeds 700 for the first time, with no fewer than 777 runners taking the start.

2006: A drying wind and very high humidity levels cause damage to the runners’ bodies. Despite additional allocations of water, a whole series of retirements ensues. There are a total of 146 retirements ultimately, which equates to double that of the previous record… Race management decides to shorten the long leg by over 10km given how tired the runners seem.

2008: The Solidarité MDS association is created. The aim: to develop projects to assist children and disadvantaged populations in the domains of health, education and sustainable development in Morocco. 

2009: MDS is disrupted by flooding and the 1st and 6th stages are not able to take place. To avoid the flood zones, the organization is obliged to improvise new legs on a day-to-day basis. In this way, the edition goes down in legend for its 3rd leg, which is the longest ever contested: 92km of sand, loose stones and rocks… The leg even sees the retirement of Lahcen Ahansal… At the prize giving the 2 winners admit to having competed in their hardest MDS. However, it was also the shortest: 202km.

2010: For its 25th edition, the number of participations reaches a record high of 1,013 participants. It is to be the longest MARATHON DES SABLES. It spans 250 kilometers with a course considered by former entrants to be the most difficult ever organized.

2012: A dramatic turn of events on the longest leg as the then leader in the overall standing, Rachid El Morabity (MAR) injures himself one kilometer from the finish. Medical examinations reveal a serious muscular lesion in the quadriceps. After over five years on the 2nd or 3rd step of the podium, Jordanian Salameh Al Aqra secures the title.

2013: 1,027 competitors on the start line make this a new participation record. New feature: a final “Charity” stage sponsored by UNICEF and traversing the Merzouga dunes round off the race. Sports wise, Mohamad Ahansal and Megan Hicks are the champions of the 231.5km event. On a human level, all of the finishers pull off their crazy bet.

2014: 2011 winner, Moroccan Rachid El Morabity (MAR) wins the overall ranking and takes Mohamad Ahansal’s crown. In the women’s category, another American stamps her mark, Nikki Kimball. The French revelation is one Michaël Gras, 22 years of age, 8th overall and top Frenchman. A major athletics star, Moroccan Hicham El Guerrouj lines up to take the start of Saturday’s Unicef Charity leg.


Follow the 2016 Marathon des Sables in images and words on



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“The simple act of running, placing one foot in-front of the other as a method of transport takes us back to our roots, our basic instincts. In search of a place to sleep, to hunt for food; it is about being in the wild, surviving and fulfilling a primal need.”

Richtersveld Wildrun | Avaunt Magazine-1


Join 2015 Marathon des Sables champion, Elisabet Barnes, South Africa’s unstoppable Linda Doke and the UK’s Tobias Mews in the 2016 Richtersveld Transfrontier Wildrun.

Linda Doke, Zinal, Switzerland - image ©

Linda Doke, Zinal, Switzerland – image ©

The 2015 edition of the race was an incredible, mind-blowing journey but in 2016, the race goes one step further and becomes ‘Transfrontier.’ The race will now pass over the Orange River and in to Namibia.

Elisabet Barnes 2016 The Coastal Challenge, Costa Rica (2nd place lady).

Elisabet Barnes 2016 The Coastal Challenge, Costa Rica (2nd place lady).

Known as one of the most scenic and unique trail running stage race events on the South African trail running calendar the Richtersveld Wildrun™ takes a new direction and in doing so become a cross-border trail running event; a worlds first! Extending to a linear 200km race, the five day crossing from South Africa to Namibia goes through the heart of the stunning /Ai/Ais-Richtersveld Transfrontier Park.

“We are absolutely thrilled to have unlocked a truly unique opportunity to experience both sides of such a unique and powerful place  – and to finish a long day at a natural hot springs in the middle of the wilderness is unbelievable!”said Owen Middleton,” MD of Wildrunner, the events company behind the Wildrun™ events.

Tobias Mews, The Dragon's Back Race 2015.

Tobias Mews, The Dragon’s Back Race 2015.

Including the Vyf Susters, Hellskloof Pass, Armmanshoek, the Tswayisberge, Springbokvlakte and the iconic Tatasberg boulders, the new route will maintain the best of the first three days of the original edition but on day 4, the route will veer of its original course and cross the Orange River at De Hoop into Namibia. Yes, the race will go into the untouched southern section of the Fish River Canyon made famous by Ryan Sandes.


It’s no easy addition to the race, runners will need to cover 50km into a wilderness that is completely inaccessible by vehicle. Rich in wildlife, runners will have a once in a lifetime experience with a possibility of seeing Hartmann’s mountain zebra, kudu, gemsbok, springbok, Namibian wild horses and giraffe. It’s the race of a lifetime!

Tobia Mews is no stranger to incredible races, his recent book release called ’50 Race To Run Before You Die’ looks like it will need a new chapter, 51 Races…

“I am so looking forward to this race. For me it’s the epitome of adventure running wrapped up in one of the most stunning places on earth. And it’s partly Ian Corless‘s fault for producing such amazing photos from last year.” – Tobias Mews


After a long, tough day in Namibia, runners will spend the evening in a canyon at a natural hot spring, before taking on the final day of roughly 25km to finish at the /Ai-/Ais Hot Springs Resort and wrap up a powerful and truly unique experience.

Race dates are 13-17 June 2016


International entries HERE

European entries HERE

The overall race distance for 2016 will be 200km and the daily distances will be – 36.3km + 32.1km + 34km + 48.3km + 21.3km.


Terrain is very mixed, varied and stunning and requires adaptation to sandy terrain, heat, climbing, remoteness and an ability to run with a GPS.

Need help with multi-day training? join our 2017 multi-day training camp in Lanzarote.

Details are HERE

Multi-Day Camp Image

Roland Vorwerk, marketing manager of Boundless Southern Africa, one of the driving forces behind the success of the event, said they are very happy to support this new cross-border trail running event.

“This new route contains even more highlights than the original Richtersveld Wildrun™, and promises to give participants a challenging but spectacular trail running experience.”



If you need inspiration, check out the film from 2015 below.

You can also view photo galleries HERE

WIN! a signed copy of TRAIL BLAZER by Ryan Sandes

RyanSandes book

I caught up with Ryan Sandes for the latest episode of TALK ULTRA podcast (you can listen HERE) episode 107.

We discussed at length Ryan’s career, his difficult 2015 season and of course his book, TRAIL BLAZER (available on Amazon here).

In the interview, Ryan asked a question, ‘what was the second desert race I won?’

To be in with a chance of winning a signed copy of the book, please comment below with an answer. All correct answers will be added to a hat and a winner drawn in April.

Good luck!



You may have noticed but sport in general is going through a tough time. Athletics is in a mess, the Russians are out, questions over Salazar, Seb Coe backtracking and in and amongst all this a series of positive tests in Basketball, Tennis, Football and so on…

Trail running has to all intents and purposes been isolated, in a bubble you may say. That bubble was burst though late in 2015 when Italian runner, Elisa Desco turned up in the USA to run in San Francisco. iRunFar commented in a pre-race article that Desco had previously tested positive for EPO and had served a 2-year ban.


The internet exploded, Facebook and Twitter ignited into a series of debates and posts that said, ‘convicted’ dopers were not welcome in the sport of trail, mountain and ultra running. Notice I did not add Skyrunning here! The reason being that Desco had raced repeatedly in the Skyrunner World Series in 2015 and previous years post her ban. She had gained success with many wins and on occasion these victories (not always) had been confirmed clear with post race drug testing.

Now of course I could dwell on the rights and wrongs of the reaction in the USA to Desco’s participation but I won’t. I commented at the time on my thoughts and if you so desire, you can read them HERE.

A flurry of responses in the USA saw many runners become vocal about #cleansport and let’s be clear here, I am 100% for clean sport. Ian Sharman was very proactive and a website was created where athletes could sign up and declare that they would run clean. It was a start and I am sure the momentum will fuel onward debate and proactive actions that ensure a ‘clean’ sport for all those who participate in trail, mountain, ultra and Skyrunning races.

Cut to March 2016 and Maria Sharapova stands at a press conference and declares to the world that she has tested positive for a drug called Meldonium.

Shock, horror; what a bombshell! one of THE most successful sports stars in the world is found guilty of doping!




THE CHAMPION RETURNS – ESTER ALVES and The Coastal Challenge #TCC2017


Ester Alves a former road cyclist from Portugal, who represented her nation at the 2009 UCI Road World Championships and ladies winner of the 2016 The Coastal Challenge has confirmed that she will return to Costa Rica in 2017 to defend her crown.

It was a tremendous experience. Every day is like your last day, and after the end of each stage, you have only few hours to reborn, to recover. It’s an amazing transcendent experience. Similar to a cycling stage race…. You always give your best for each stage and then you just hope your body will recover as soon as possible.


The Coastal Challenge is multi-day race over 6-days starting in the southern coastal town of Quepos, Costa Rica and finishing at the stunning Drake Bay on the Osa Peninsula. Considered by many an ultimate multi-day running experience, it challenges even the most experienced runner.

Everything is special, the heat, the forest, the solitude of the race, the hot pacific sea, the intimacy between organisation, camping, athletes, workers and locals from the little villages. The closeness between my new ‘coastal family’ was enormous and in a week of racing and relaxing you create bounds for life… it’s what makes the race so special.


‘TCC’ is not a self-sufficient race, but don’t be fooled, MDS and other multi-day veterans confirm the race is considerably harder and more challenging than many other adventures they have participated in. It’s a race that can provide a steep learning curve. Intense heat, high humidity, ever-changing terrain and the need to adapt, Ester says in 2017 she will be better prepared.

I will try to go to Costa Rica or I will do some specific training using heat sessions at home. Maybe a sauna will be a good idea as it is winter in Portugal in the key training phase. In 2016 I went from 8 º C To 34 ºC, the first day was tough! Each day I adapted to heat and the my body recovered better, to make this adaptation in advance would be very beneficial.


Hugging the Talamaca coastline, the TCC travels in and out of the stunning mountain range that runs parallel to the sea. Dense forest trails, waterfalls, river crossings, long stretches of golden beaches, an abundance of palm trees and many winding and interconnecting dusty access roads provide a unique challenge.

Every day I ended  a stage with the feeling of lungs burned and legs tired, and in the next day I was running again with a reinforced motivation. I can’t wait to return.


At times technical, the combination of so many challenging elements are only intensified by heat and high humidity that slowly but surely reduces even the strongest competitors.  In 2017, Anna Comet, 2x winner of Everest Trail Race and someone you have raced against in Skyrunning along with Elisabet Barnes will be present. When Ester was asked  about the challenge, she replied:

I will run with all my soul and strengths as always, but next year with more knowledge I can hopefully enjoy the forest and the trails even more, TCC is just a wonderful experience.



With victory in 2016 secured, Ester has a busy year ahead racing in the Skyrunner World Series, something she has embraced, particularly in 2015 where she had great success at races such as Transvulcania. Many runners however will sign up for the 2017 TCC with little or no experience of Costa Rica, the heat, the humidity and the terrain; what advice would Ester give them?

Train hard and consolidate the marathon distance before the race and prepare the body for the heat and dehydration. Also teach your body to be more economic, it’s a long and difficult race!

A long year ahead but Ester is already looking into the distance, thinking of the heat, the humidity and the beautiful surroundings that Costa Rica provides.

The Coastal Challenge is more than a race, it’s an experience, it something to be shared. It provides closeness and an intensity of feelings that will never be forgotten… I wish to be there right now.


All images © – all rights reserved

Contact Information

Email: HERE

Website: HERE

Facebook: HERE

Twitter: @tcccostarica

Global Contacts: HERE


More information:

Read the full 2016 TCC race story HERE

View and purchase images from the 2016 TCC race HERE

You can read daily reports from the 2016 TCC edition HERE


Ultra Trail Aldeias do Xisto #UTAX 2016 – All for one, one for all!


The rain continued to fall, day 2 at UTAX was a continuation of day 1 but the sun did break through every now and again and gladly, overt the midday, a continuous sunny dry spell provided the Da Inclusivo race with a clear spell. The last finisher of the 110km had arrived early in the morning and at 0900 it was time for the Children to race. Axtrail Kids allows 6-16 year olds an opportunity to have their own moment in a full weekend of activity. It’s this all encompassing approach of the Aldeias do Xisto that makes it special.

While the kids raced in the centre of the town, the MTX 10km was also underway, an introduction to trail running that used the first 10km of the UTAX race which finishes in the Schist village of Gondramaz. It may only be 10km but it’s a challenging 10km with plenty of technicality, mud, rocks, water, water-crossings and abundant waterfalls. The finishing village of Gondramaz providing a picture postcard ending.

And mid-morning, in the town of Vila Nova, the ‘Da Inclusivo’ race was due to start. Five teams carrying five disabled people on an 8km trail journey to the race finish in the centre of Miranda do Corvo. It’s this race that personifies trail running, the people, the ethos and the sharing of our sport. It’s an inclusive sport, not exclusive. Despite the at times technical trails, the five teams worked together as one. On occasion, from the outside looking in, it almost appeared like a rescue mission but the journey was completed to a welcoming crowd.

It’s this foresight and all encompassing attitude that has seen Portugal rise as a key influencer in the sport of trail and mountain running. Of course, trail running brings tourism and this is an important element in any growing race series. The natural conditions of the region, the stunning Schist villages combined with local hospitality make Aldeias do Xisto and Portugal the perfect destination for a family of trail runners; all are welcome. Mum, dad and children can race and they have a custom events geared to their abilities. Or maybe they can reach out and push a new boundary, move up say from the 22km event and run the 50km, or even take on the UTAX? This area has so much to offer, an extended stay to explore many of the 27 Schist villages makes logical sense for those travelling from overseas.

Fernando Pinto, one of the key organisers at AXtrail sums it up, “The AXtrail®series is an event for everyone, with a comprehensive character. Children, youth, adults, experienced athletes, sports teams or families; everyone is welcome and will find a place!”

Racing is more than racing, it’s a series of experiences! Participating, watching, supporting or cheering, many a runner who ran one of the events over the Aldeias do Xisto weekend gained as much satisfaction on Sunday watching children arrive with beaming smiles or watching the arrival of the five Da Inclusivo teams. AXtrail know how to put on a weekend of racing. I will be back, I am sure.

Many thanks to:
Fernando Pinto, Miguel Pessoa, João Lamas, Aldeias do Xisto, Marli Monteiro, Palacio do Lousa, AXtrail® and many thanks to Centro de Portugal Touristic Office

Ultra Trail Aldeias do Xisto #UTAX 2016 – Race Images and Summary


The Aldeias do Xisto Ultra Trail, offers a series of races that is all encompassing with six races on offer: Da Inclusivo, Kids, Mini-Trail Do Xisto, Trail Do Xisto, TSL and the main event, the UTAX (the largest event in the territories of the Shist Villages) which is 110km’s in length, has 5300m of vertical gain and a 26-hour cut-off time for the participants.

Go Outdoor are embracing the rise and demand in the sport of trail and the Astral®series reflect this!

A breakdown of the events is as follows:

▪UTAX – 110 Km

▪TSL – 50 Km

▪TX – 22 Km

▪MTX – 10 Km

▪Axtrail Kids – For kids with 6 to 16 years old

▪Axtrail Inclusion – For people with reduced mobility.

This year the UTAX race started in Miranda do Corvo, in the Plaza José Falcão, this was also the logistical centre of the race too and due to the inclement weather, it was tested to the maximum. From the ticking of the midnight bell, the rain was already falling and although the occasional dry patch provided a welcome break, it was going to be a race of rain, rain and rain.

Gondramaz, welcomed the front runners after approximately just one hour of running – the runners ‘enjoyed’ a beautiful single-track that was hard and technical; only made more challenging by the falling rain. Lousã followed and it here in that stunning Hotal Palacio da Lousã is located.

Candal is a small typical Schist Village and here the runners winded up narrow streets as the rain continued to pour. It was now 0300 for the front runners and the temperatures were dropping well below 5deg and with the slight wind and constant wt, this will have felt like zero or colder.

Cerdeira offers panoramic views of the mountains and is a place of peace and tranquility but on the night of the UTAX, no views were visible; just darkness and the glow of a head-torch. The Schist Villages are magical places and key feature of the UTAX race, it is what make this race so unique. But don’t be fooled, the villages where time passes more slowly are hidden between rock and lush vegetation, this is what must be navigated to completee the UTAX.

From Pena a climb followed to the highest point of the race, for the front runners, the early signs of dawn were making an appearance, not that anyone would know… a shroud of mist and a cold blowing wind made a deceiving blanket that would fool the runners.

Castanheira de Pera then northwest for Ameal, a fantastic single-track rises up and winds to a farm at the top of Lousã, continuing on in the direction of the House of the Forest Guard the trail then descended to the villages of Catarredor and Vaqueirinho, and follows to the Schist Villages Talasnal and Casal Novo.

Casal Novo’s trails of mud, rock, trees and slippery ground provided one of the last key challenges before the arrival back to the Square José Falcão in Miranda do Corvo for the finish.

The race was full of drama, Jêrome Rodrigues, the pre-race favourite unfortunately had to drop from the race with injury and for the ladies, Ester Alves who recently won The Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica was forced to retire with fatigue and cold after 4-5 hours. No surprise really, 40-degrees and high humidity to zero degrees and torrential rain would force the most hardy competitor to crumble.

The withdrawal of two hot favourites opened the door for Luis Duarte, a previous winner of the mens race and Sofia Lopes Roquette finished the race as she started, from the front!

Nuno Silva ran to a strong and consistent 2nd place ahead of Bruno Coelho, but it was some way off the dominating performance of Duarte. Duarte finished the race in a sprint and looked extremely fresh on the line; something that many looked  on, me included, and failed to understand. The UTAX is a seriously tough, challenging race, only made considerably harder with weather but Duarte dominated it!

Equally, Sofia Lopes Roquette used her skills, strength of mind and her ability to endure the long run and take out victory over Fernanda Verde with Raquel Campos taking the 3rd spot.

More information and interviews will follow.

  1. Luis Duarte 12:25:36
  2. Nuno Silva 12:50:24
  3. Bruno Coelho 12:57:26
  1. Sofia Roquette 16:20:40
  2. Fernanda Verde 16:57:42
  3. Raquel Campos 20:09:36

Tourism Portugal

Aldeias do Xisto Ultra Trail race coverage would not be possible without the support ofAXtrail® Go Outdoor and many thanks to Centro de Portugal Touristic Office Special thanks to to ADXTUR – Schist Villages. 



Episode 107 – Lizzy Hawker, Ryan Sandes


This is Episode 107 of Talk Ultra. This show has so much content, we speak with Lizzy Hawker about her amazing 200km Kathmandu Valley FKT, Ryan Sandes talks about his 2015 and his new book, Trail Blazer. Gavin Sandford tells us about his amazing double Marathon des Sables challenge. Niandi catches up with past participants of the Big Red Run in Australia who will return in 2016 and Speedgoat is back from the AT.

00:01:30 Show Start

00:21:26 Niandi talks injured foot and Big Red Run

00:28:02 INTERVIEW Jamie Hildage, Big Red Run

Jamie Hildage ran the Big Red Run in Australia in a past edition and will return in 2016, Niandi caught up and had a chat about the unique challenges this race brings

01:00:51 NEWS


1 – Didrik Hermansen 13:41:48

2 – Gediminas Grinius 13:45:08

3 – Pau Capell and Diego Pazos 14:11:02

1 – Caroline Chaverot 15:23:40

2 – Andrea Huser 17:21:43

2 – Uxue Fraile 17:28:05


David Roche 3:19

Jorge Maravilla 3:22

Dylan Bowman 3:23

Megan Roche 3:42

Yiou Wang 3:43

Anne Mae Flynn 3:59

UTMB line up announced for 2016 – wow! See HERE

01:26:11 INTERVIEW LIZZY HAWKER is back with an incredible 200km run around Kathmandu and 15000m of vertical gain. I caught up with Lizzy after 3-years in the run wilderness.

Lizzy’s race, Ultra Tour Monte Rosa has a few places available and you can enter HERE

02:00:19 INTERVIEW RYAN SANDES has a new book out called Trail Blazer. We caught up with Ryan, discussed his troubled 2015, what 2016 has in store and of course we found out about the book. Ryan asked a question in his interview, if you like to win a signed copy, you need to comment on these show note with the correct answer

03:11:56 INTERVIEW Gavin Sandford will attempt two Marathon des Sables in 2016 – a world first, all in the name of charity. You can donate HERE and contribute to his funding at Crowdfunder HERE. Talk Ultra have offered a place on the Lanzarote 2017 Training Camp (worth £800) to Gavin as a pledge to help him raise additional funds. This place will be available for £500 (saving the lucky person £300). It’s first come, first served!




Wildhorse Criterium 50 km | 50 kilometers | March 27, 2016 | website

Wildhorse Criterium 70 km | 70 kilometers | March 27, 2016 | website


Istratrek Trail Race | 60 kilometers | March 26, 2016 | website



Trail des Citadelles – 70 km | 73 kilometers | March 27, 2016 | website


11km | 110 kilometers | March 20, 2016 | website


Trail du Petit Ballon | 52 kilometers | March 20, 2016 | website


Trail du Kreiz Breizh Bras | 55 kilometers | March 27, 2016 | website


52 km | 52 kilometers | March 27, 2016 | website


50 km | 50 kilometers | March 19, 2016 | website

80 km | 80 kilometers | March 19, 2016 | website



Eschollbrücker Ultra-Marathon 50 km | 50 kilometers | March 20, 2016 | website

North Rhine-Westphalia

Nord Eifel Ultra | 56 kilometers | March 26, 2016 | website


100k | 100 kilometers | March 26, 2016 | website

50k | 50 kilometers | March 26, 2016 | website


GUADARUN : ultra-marathon des îles de Guadeloupe | 136 kilometers | March 26, 2016 | website


BSI Half Lake Balaton Supermarathon | 95 kilometers | March 19, 2016 | website

BSI Lake Balaton Marathon+ Balatonfüred – Siófok | 51 kilometers | March 20, 2016 | website

BSI Lake Balaton Marathon+ Fonyód – Szigliget | 52 kilometers | March 18, 2016 | website



Wicklow Way Ultra | 51 kilometers | March 26, 2016 | website



Ultratrail delle Valli Etrusche | 50 kilometers | March 20, 2016 | website


Ultrabericus | 65 kilometers | March 19, 2016 | website


TITI 100KM | 100 kilometers | March 19, 2016 | website

TITI 200KM | 200 kilometers | March 18, 2016 | website

TITI 50KM | 50 kilometers | March 20, 2016 | website


Morocco Tizi N’Trail | 120 kilometers | March 25, 2016 | website


Annapurna Mandala Trail | 250 kilometers | April 01, 2016 | website

Kathmandu West Valley Rim 50km | 50 kilometers | March 19, 2016 | website

New Zealand

50 km Mountain Run | 50 kilometers | March 19, 2016 | website

Northburn Station 100 km Mountain Run | 100 kilometers | March 19, 2016 | website

Triple Peaks Challenge | 50 kilometers | March 19, 2016 | website


ASIA Eco Trail 65K | 65 kilometers | March 19, 2016 | website


CEBU50 Trail Ultramarathon – Aspirant | 54 kilometers | March 26, 2016 | website

TRD80 Ultramarathon | 80 kilometers | March 19, 2016 | website


Caldeira Trail | 74 kilometers | March 19, 2016 | website

Semi Transrun | 75 kilometers | March 26, 2016 | website

Ultra | 140 kilometers | March 25, 2016 | website

South Africa

Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon | 56 kilometers | March 26, 2016 | website



Half | 60 kilometers | March 26, 2016 | website

Ultra | 87 kilometers | March 26, 2016 | website


Silva Ursvik Ultra – 75 km | 75 kilometers | March 20, 2016 | website

United Kingdom

Andhra Pradesh

Oldham Way Ultra | 40 miles | March 20, 2016 | website


Jurassic Coast Challenge | 78 miles | March 18, 2016 | website

East Sussex

Coastal Trail Series – Sussex – Ultra | 34 miles | March 19, 2016 | website


2XU Jogle | 860 miles | April 01, 2016 | website


The Canalathon 100 km | 100 kilometers | March 27, 2016 | website

The Canalathon 50 km | 50 kilometers | March 27, 2016 | website

The Canalathon 75 km | 75 kilometers | March 27, 2016 | website


Liverpool to Manchester Ultra | 47 miles | March 26, 2016 | website

North Yorkshire

Hardmoors 55 Ultramarathon | 55 miles | March 19, 2016 | website



Lake Martin 100 Mile Trail Race | 100 miles | March 19, 2016 | website

Lake Martin 50 Mile Trail Race | 50 miles | March 19, 2016 | website

Oak Moutain 50+ | 50 kilometers | March 19, 2016 | website


White Mountains 100 | 100 miles | March 27, 2016 | website


Old Man 52K | 52 kilometers | March 19, 2016 | website

Ultra Adventures Monument Valley 100 Mile | 100 miles | March 19, 2016 | website

Ultra Adventures Monument Valley 50K | 50 kilometers | March 19, 2016 | website

Ultra Adventures Monument Valley 50 Mile | 50 miles | March 20, 2016 | website


3 days of Syllamo | 150 kilometers | March 18, 2016 | website


Beyond Limits Ultra and BLU Relentless 100 Miler | 100 miles | March 31, 2016 | website

Beyond Limits Ultra and BLU Relentless 50K | 50 kilometers | March 31, 2016 | website

Beyond Limits Ultra and BLU Relentless 50 Miler | 50 miles | March 31, 2016 | website

Canyon Meadow 50 Km Trail Run (March) | 50 kilometers | March 20, 2016 | website

Nine Trails 35 Mile Endurance Run | 35 miles | March 26, 2016 | website

Old Goats 50K Trail Race | 50 kilometers | March 26, 2016 | website

Old Goats 50 Mile Trail Race | 50 miles | March 26, 2016 | website

Old West Trails 50K Ultra | 50 kilometers | March 19, 2016 | website

Ragnar Relay So Cal | 200 miles | April 01, 2016 | website


High Line Canal 100K | 100 kilometers | March 19, 2016 | website


Cross Florida Route 40 Romp | 116 miles | March 19, 2016 | website

Cross Florida Route 40 Romp – 2 Person Relay | 116 miles | March 19, 2016 | website

Fort Clinch 100M | 100 miles | March 19, 2016 | website

Fort Clinch 50M | 50 miles | March 19, 2016 | website


Georgia Death Race | 60 miles | March 19, 2016 | website


Pickled Feet 100 Mile Run | 100 miles | March 25, 2016 | website


50K HAT Run | 50 kilometers | March 19, 2016 | website

Hat Trail Run 50K | 50 kilometers | March 19, 2016 | website


Spring Equinox 50K | 50 kilometers | March 19, 2016 | website

Spring Equinox 50 Miler | 50 miles | March 19, 2016 | website


Vegas Moonlight Ultra 100 Mile Run | 100 miles | March 19, 2016 | website

North Carolina

Badwater Cape Fear 50 km | 50 kilometers | March 19, 2016 | website

Badwater Cape Fear 51.4 Mile | 51 miles | March 19, 2016 | website

North Dakota

Extreme North Dakota Sandhills Ultra Run Experience 100K | 100 kilometers | March 19, 2016 | website

Extreme North Dakota Sandhills Ultra Run Experience 50K | 50 kilometers | March 19, 2016 | website


Sac River Ultramarathon | 50 miles | March 23, 2016 | website


Lt. J. C. Stone 50K UltraMarathon | 50 kilometers | March 19, 2016 | website

Mt. Tammany 10 | 40 miles | March 19, 2016 | website

South Carolina

XTERRA Hickory Knob Trail 50K | 50 kilometers | March 19, 2016 | website


Music City Trail Ultra 50K | 50 kilometers | March 19, 2016 | website


Prickly Pear 50K Trail Run | 50 kilometers | March 19, 2016 | website

The Grasslands 50-Mile | 50 miles | March 19, 2016 | website


Antelope Island 100 Mile | 100 miles | March 18, 2016 | website

Antelope Island 50K | 50 kilometers | March 19, 2016 | website

Antelope Island 50 Mile | 50 miles | March 19, 2016 | website


PEAK Snowshoe 100 Mile Race | 100 miles | March 18, 2016 | website


Elizabeth’s Furnace Fat Ass 50K | 50 kilometers | March 19, 2016 | website

Terrapin Mountain 50km | 50 kilometers | March 19, 2016 | website


Badger Mountain Challenge 100 Mile Endurance Run | 100 miles | March 25, 2016 | website

Badger Mountain Challenge 50k Ultramarathon | 50 kilometers | March 26, 2016 | website

Badger Mountain Challenge 50 Mile Ultramarathon | 50 miles | March 25, 2016 | website

Chuckanut 50 K | 50 kilometers | March 19, 2016 | website

West Virginia

Haulin’ in the Holler 50K Trail Race | 50 kilometers | March 26, 2016 | website


50k | 50 kilometers | March 19, 2016 | website

Ultra ASIA Race | 160 kilometers | March 20, 2016 | website

03:41:13 CLOSE

Ian will be at UTAX HERE



Libsyn – feed://

Website –

UTMB – Ultra Trail Mont-Blanc announce the elite field for the 2016 edition


The 2016 edition of the UTMB will take place this August, for 13-years the race has made a rendezvous in the endurance capital of the world, Chamonix!

In preparation for the 2016 edition, the organisation have just announced the elite level competitors that will compete, head-to-head, with 7500 runners over the four races – CCC, OCC, TDS and UTMB.

The main event, the UTMB, is a 170km journey that takes in 3 countries with a total elevation gain of 10,000m. A time limit of 47 hours is provided to give the 2300 runners an opportunity to complete the journey.

So who is running?

Rory Bosio TNFUTMB ©

Rory Bosio TNFUTMB ©


  • Rory Bosio
  • Stephanie Howe
  • Caroline Chaverot
  • Magdalena Boulet
  • Andrea Huser
  • Alissa St Laurent
  • Francesca Canepa
  • Uxue Fraile
  • Frederica Boifava
  • Gemma Arenas Alcazar
  • Fernanda Maciel
  • Jasmin Paris
  • Cristina Bes Jineta
  • Pui Yan Chow
  • Meghan Arbogast
  • Denise Zimmermann
  • Emelie Lecomte
  • Ildiko Wermescher
  • Amy Sproston
  • Kerrie Wlad


Now in anyones book, that is a quality ladies line-up. The most notable name missing is of course Nuria Picas. I have highlighted the hot favourites for overall victory and definite wild card of Jasmin Paris for a surprise podium place.



  • Luis Alberto Hernando
  • Tofol Castaner
  • Dylan Bowman
  • Zach Miller
  • Miguel Heras
  • David Laney
  • Stephan Hugenschmidt
  • Timothy Olson
  • Seth Swanson
  • Ryan Sandes
  • Jason Schlarb
  • Gediminas Grinius
  • Pau Bartolo
  • Jordi Bes
  • Tim Tollefson
  • Fabien Antolinus
  • Jorge Maravilla
  • Ryan Ghelfi
  • Ludovic Pommeret
  • Didrik Hermansen
  • Julien Chorier
  • Andy Symonds
  • Thomas Lorblanchet
  • Ryan Kaiser
  • Arnaud Lejeune


WOW! That may well be THE elite field assembled in any race ever… It’s a seriously exciting line-up and just look at how many bold names are in that line-up! In all honesty, the whole list could be bold as victory could come from anywhere.

So with several months to go, we have already seen Caroline Chaverot and Didrik Hermansen lay down seriously strong performances at Transgrancanaria.

Elite line-ups for TDS, CCC and OCC are as follows:

Notable names in the TDS are Ruth Croft and Lisa Borzoi for the ladies and in the men’s race, Franco Colle, Pau Capell, Travis Macy and Sondre Amdahl amongst others.


CCC ones to watch: Jo Meek, Holly Rush and Manikala Rai fo the ladies and Sage Canaday, Michel Lanne and Freddy Thevenin amongst others for the men’s race.



Who in your opinion will make top 3 in the respective male and female races at the 170km UTMB event?

Please comment below:

The North Face #TNF Ultra Endurance Shoe Review

©iancorless.com_TNFUltraEndurance-3919A couple of weeks ago I took a look at the TNF Ultra TRII, I said then that TNF are really getting their act together with run shoes. The recent products from the brand have continued to impress and the addition of the ULTRA ENDURANCE adds another quality shoe that offers runners another option to tackle the trails. The current TNF line up is as follows:

ULTRA TRII read my review HERE

ULTRA CARDIAC read my review HERE

ULTRA MT read my review HERE


In a review toward the end of 2015, when I compared many leading shoes against each other (not all shoes I must stress) the Ultra Cardiac very nearly took top honours, it was just pipped by the Scott Kinabalu Supertrac. (Read the review HERE).

If I did that review now, I strongly feel that the battle between the Scott Kinabalu Supertrac and the TNF Ultra Endurance may well be even closer but the Supertrac would still get the nod from me due to the outsole which is extreme and made from a superior wet traction rubber compound that works really well on a multitude of surfaces, overall comfort and flexibility.

To provide some clarification, we need to look at the current TNF line up and see how (in simple terms) the shoes are to be used so that you can decide which shoe is for you:

ULTRA TRII – Is a dry trail, light and fast shoe for a runner who like a more minimalist feel. Cushioning is 8mm/ 16mm and It has an 8mm drop.

ULTRA CARDIAC – Is a cushioned trail/ mountain shoe that feels plush, fits snugly and works well and on dry trail, wet rock and very moderate mud. Cushioning is 12mm/ 20mm and it has an 8mm drop.

ULTRA MT – Has an aggressive outsole and is designed for off-road use in mud, mountains and demanding terrain. Cushioning is 9mm/ 17mm and it has an 8mm drop.


Enter the ULTRA ENDURANCE – 9mm/17mm with 8mm drop.

This new shoe from the TNF brand sits somewhere between the CARDIAC and MT and as you would expect, has an 8mm drop. I like this! But then again I would… I am a real fan of 8mm drop shoes and as I have said many times before, this drop sits in the perfect middle ground that can work for most people. TNF have obviously thought about this and hence the continuity between the ‘ULTRA’ range. It’s also fair to say that as the name suggests, the ‘ULTRA’ shoes are designed for running longer and therefore 8mm will be more forgiving.


Slipping the shoe on, it does feel different to the CARDIAC but more similar to the MT. This primarily due to the gusseted tongue which is secured within the shoe – this holds the foot firmer and in addition reduces the chance of debris getting in the shoe. It’s a winning combination that I love.


The front (toe box) is wider than both the CARDIAC and MT and therefore allows the toes to splay a little more. Protection at the front is excellent with a very reinforced toe box bumper that will definitely protect against all those unplanned collisions with rocks, stones or other debris.


Heel box is plush, padded and holds the foot secure and has FlashDry technology.


Key features of many TNF shoes is ‘Snake Plate’ and the ‘Cradle,’ these two elements are present here in the Ultra Endurance and add to the overall benefits of the shoe.


Snake Plate adds protection to the forefoot of the shoe and protects against rocks/ impact and so on, TNF vary the plates from one shoe to the next depending on what they consider to be necessary. In other shoes this would be called a rock plate.


The cradle is designed to hold the rear of the foot more secure and stable.


The upper is breathable and most importantly seamless, therefore reducing the chance of rubbing, hot spots or the chance of blisters. The upper is welded TPU with suede overlays.


The outsole is Vibram Megagrip which is making an appearance on countless shoes in the trail world. I need to clarify here that Vibram don’t only make one Megagrip outsole (see here). They do many variations, so, please check! A classic example is the outsole on say the TNF ULTRA CARDIAC and TNF ULTRA ENDURANCE – they use Megagrip but they each have three different variations of the product. The Ultra Cardiac having a more subtle version, the Ultra Endurance a more aggressive outsole for mixed terrain and to draw comparisons, the Scott Kinabalu Supertrace (has a special Scott outsole) that is basically just aggressive, extreme and made from a superior wet traction rubber compound that works really well on a multitude of surfaces.

For example:

Ultra Cardiac outsole:


Ultra Endurance outsole:


Scott Kinabalu Supertrac outsole:


Cushioning in the Ultra Endurance is single-density compression folded EVA which does a great job of allowing you to feel the ground but provide enough cushioning for a long day out.



The upper is seamless and snug and the gusseted tongue is a real pleasure which holds the foot firm. The toe box feels noticeably more roomy in comparison to say the Cardiac or MT.  The shoe feels relatively light but not super light. You really feel as though you are wearing a shoe that will take a battering. This in many respects is reflected in the shoes name, Ultra Endurance.

8mm drop for me is perfect, it provides a drop that allows me to run longer and when I can’t keep my form, the extra height allows for some compensation. As I mentioned above, this is obviously something that TNF have really thought about and the whole ‘Ultra’ range of shoes has an 8mm drop. This is also great as it means I can seamlessly move from one who to the other shoe without having a shock. A clear example of this is that I have been doing road runs in the Ultra TRII and I have been out in the really muddy stuff in the MT.

The shoe works well in mud but it’s not an out-and-out shoe for muddy trails, better get the MT if that is what you need. The Ultra Endurance is a great trail/ mountain shoe that works well and transitions from a multitude of surfaces. As I mentioned above, I believe it would give the Scott Kinabalu Supertrac a run for it’s money as a potential best ‘all rounder!’

To emphasise a point, if you were looking to but just one shoe that could handle many terrains and provide you with happy and many days out on the trail, then the Ultra Endurance would be a good place to start. It’s not a great road shoe, but it will gladly provide a cushioned and responsive ride for road sections between trail. It’s not an excellent performer in very muddy conditions but it does provide some grip that will allow you to progress. Where the shoe excels is when all these elements combine, say on a long training run, long hike or a race when you may well be mixing from road to trail, to rocks, to mud, to scree and so on, here the Ultra Endurance works so well.

It’s a shoe that excels of dry trail, rocky trail (wet or dry) and some road. It has actually become a real favourite when travelling when space is limited and I need a ‘one shoe does all’ scenario. Feel for the ground is good and has improved the more I have run. The first few runs felt a little hard and flat but the shoe bedded in nicely. The Vibram® Megragrip sole is as mentioned, almost becoming a standard feature on trail shoes. the version applied to the Ultra Endurance compliments the shoe perfectly.

Grip in mud is compromised, it always is in a shoe that is designed for trail. That is not a criticism as the shoe is definitely designed to be an all rounder. If you need out-and-out grip and a shoe that will just be used for soft-ground, mud, fells or other messy terrain, you’d be better looking at the TNF Ultra MT or a fell shoe from say inov-8 – the Mudclaw 300 for example is a great off-road shoe.

The heel box holds the foot secure with no slipping. It’s snug and reassuring.

The relatively seamless upper and sewn in tongue really holds the foot secure and has given me no hot spots. It’s a real bonus and it’s great to see that TNF are incorporating this more. For anyone who has used a Salomon S-Lab shoe with ‘endofit,’ a gusseted tongue really is just so much more comfortable. Although the TNF version is different to the Salomon version, similarities can be drawn.

The shoe has a neutral fit as does all the TNF ‘Ultra’ range and so therefore you could add an insert or orthotic if required. Drop is 8mm. Sizing is true to size, I take a UK9.5 in most shoes and my Ultra Endurance is UK9.5. However, due to the wider toe box the shoe does feel different to the Cardiac or MT so you may want to just make sure by trying in-store.

This is not the lightest shoe on the market but I don’t think that is really an issue. It’s not trying to be the lightest. What it does, is offer cushioning, protection and longevity in an attractive package that will last for many days, weeks and months. The colour-way of blue and yellow also looks pretty swish.



This shoe is a great all-rounder and may well be a perfect ‘one shoe’ purchase for anyone who is looking for something that can do many things well. It excels on dry trails and loose surfaces such as scree, stones, sand etc. Grip from the Vibram sole is good on wet rocks and the shoes transition from trail to road well and the cushioning allows for plenty of happy miles.

The Ultra Endurance can handle mud as part of a mixed terrain trail run but if you wanted an out-and-out shoe for muddy trail, this is not it. It’s a really solid shoe with some serious toe protection, a plus for anyone heading out into mountainous terrain.

I have been working with and running myself in harsh, rocky, desert like terrain in Lanzarote, La Palma and so on and I think the Ultra Endurance would potentially make a great shoe for someone participating in a multi-day race like the Marathon des Sables. The combination of features sits well, the slightly wider toe box, protection, grip and cushioning all combine to make it a great shoe for such an adventure. I will feedback on this after the 2016 Marathon des Sables where I will test the shoe daily.

To draw a comparison, I think those runners who have enjoyed the inov-8 Race Ultra 290 will find the TNF Ultra Endurance very appealing. The plus side being the TNF who has more grip.

The TNF ULTRA ENDURANCE alternative colour-way


The inov-8 RACE ULTRA 290


The downsides are minimal for me. It’s a slightly heavier shoe and I have touched on the reasons why above. Longevity in TNF shoes has been an issue in the past so I will hold judgement on this and feedback. Currently after 100+ miles of mixed terrain, the shoes are holding up well with no issues.

The North Face say: With its Vibram® Megagrip outsole, Snake Plate™ forefoot protection and Ultra Protect™ CRADLE™ stability, the Ultra Endurance will keep you tearing up the trail without tearing up your feet. CRADLE™ technology provides extra heel stability on uneven terrain, a gusseted tongue keeps loose trail debris out, while the rigid-yet-flexible ESS Snake Plate™ delivers on lightweight, heavy duty forefoot protection.

▪Welded TPU and suede mid-foot support overlays

▪Molded-TPU toe cap for protection

▪Gusseted tongue for protection from trail debris

▪Ultra Protect™ CRADLE™ heel-stability technology

▪Single-density, compression-molded EVA midsole

▪Vibram® Megagrip outsole for durable sticky traction in all conditions

▪ESS Snake Plate™ forefoot protection

▪Cushioning 9mm front/ 17mm rear

▪8 mm offset

▪Weight per shoe 260g+/- for a UK8

▪Approximate Weight Pair: 510 g

TNF Technologies explained:

Snake Plate™

The patent-pending Snake Plate™ consists of a forefoot plate that winds back and forth between the medial and lateral sides of the foot. Because it is not one solid element, it is not as uncompromisingly rigid from side to side and front to back. The result is a forefoot plate that allows the foot to do what it is physiologically designed to do: flex, bend, and contort to changing terrain. At the same time, the Snake Plate™ delivers rigidity where and when it is still needed. The thickness, composition and size of the Snake Plate™ vary from style to style as appropriate. For example, a thicker, more rigid Snake Plate™ addresses the technical, ever-changing demands of a mountain run. A thinner, more flexible Snake Plate™ reconciles flexibility with a decreased demand for protection while on smoother dirt paths.

Vibram® Outsole Technologies

The North Face® collaborated with Vibram, long respected for quality and durability, to create various outsoles (Vibram® Humbolt Outsole, Vibram® Mikeno Outsole, Vibram® Walsh Outsole, and Vibram® Rubber Outsole Compound) with superior traction, stability and protection.

Ultra Protect™

A shank plate for torsional rigidity and consistent underfoot feel.