The 2017 edition of the Iznik Ultra in Turkey took place just this last weekend. It was an unusually cold year with a constant chill in the air, especially for those runners starting at midnight undertaking the tough and challenging 140km distance. With five events on offer – 140km, 90km, 50km, 15km and a 5km run designed to engage the local community – Iznik Ultra weekend is very much a family experience.
Surrounded by eight countries, the Republic of Turkey is ideally located at the crossroads of Europe and Asia and this therefore makes it a country of significant geographical importance. On arrival in Istanbul one is immediately aware of the countries Muslim population, literally a mosque is every two to three hundred meters apart. But despite recent news warning of danger on visiting Turkey – I see nothing of the threat. Relaxing in Istanbul, talking with the locals – everything to me appears normal and this is my fifth visit to this beautiful place.
It is what I love about the Iznik race, the ability to stopover in Istanbul and explore. The blue Mosque named because of its blue Ottoman tile interior dates back to 1609, the Fire Tower stands 85m tall on the skyline near the Grand Bazaar and was built in 1828 by Mahmud 11, the Hippodrome known better as Sultanahmet Square was built by the Roman Emperor Septimus Severus in 203AD and served as a meeting place for politicians, for chariot races, wrestling, boxing and other athletic activities and this arena could hold some 100,000 spectators. It’s possible to have a history lesson on foot.
Iznik situated on the Lake Iznik in the province of Bursa is a short ferry boat and 1-hour drive from the bustling noise and colour of Istanbul.
Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman influence has left several monuments for the tourist. The City Walls at 14,520 ft in circumference are used in the 2017 edition as a key feature of the 140km race. Coming after just 700m, under the illumination of artificial light, it provides an impressive spectacle.
An ancient theater, the Yenisehir Gate, St Sophia Cathedral (Orhan Ghazi Mosque) and the Green Mosque (Yesil Camil) named after the green tiles that adorn it.
Using the Lake as a backdrop, the 140km, 90km and 50km Iznik Ultra races basically cover part or the whole of the Lake as the race route weaving in and out of the mountains that surround the lake travelling in an anti-clockwise direction. It is in the last 60km’s of the 140km and 90km races and all of the 50km that includes tough climbs and quad breaking descents.
Turkey is not known for ultra running. Despite it’s geographical location, it’s history and the multi-cultural influences placed upon it, ultra is a sport for the few. But over the years the Iznik races have grown and that is reflected in the number of races on offer and the increased participation. This is all down to race director Caner Odabasoglu and his MCR Racesetter team.
Accommodating, friendly and warm, the Turkish people embrace a sport that they know little about and welcome the runners with open arms. The locals, who’s priority is working the land, finding food to put on the table in many ways look on, not quite understanding why people would run, for fun!
Predominately trail, less than 20% of the course is road and these sections are purely used as a transition from one section of trail to the next. A course with demanding terrain, stunning views and quiet, small and un-spoilt villages. Terrain underfoot at times is rocky, rutted, muddy and often slippery. The climbs are tough and demand pacing, particularly if running the longer event is a real skill. Especially with some new sections added in 2016 that predicated a lengthy 10km road section.
In the 140km event, Elenena Polyakova, an ever-present in Iznik and racing in Turkey won the ladies race with a strong performance in what turned out to be very tough conditions after 17 hours – her time 20:22. Kemal Kukul dominated the men’s race with a course record 16:08. Full 140km results here.
Hasan Ozturk had a convincing 20+ minute lead in the 90km to take victory in 9:06. Aysen Sola won the ladies race in 10:22 and placed 5th overall. Full 90km results here.
In the 50km, Mehmet Aydingor took top honours in 4:57 with Asli Stercelik winning the ladies race in 6:20. Full 50km results here.
Race Website HERE
Turkey enlightens a natural curiosity in any adventurer with the wonderful Istanbul and Iznik by contrast, relaxes the mind and body with a kicked back and simplistic view on modern day life.
For this looking to combine the two, Turkey and the Iznik Ultra provide a great opportunity.
RESULTS for the 2017 edition of races available HERE