The words epic, beautiful and brutal get used a great deal in ultra-running and I get it. For many of us, any journey can entail all those things on a personal level and that is why you toe the line…
However, here in Stranda Fjord, Møre go Romsdal, Norway, one of the most truly spectacular experiences is waiting for you to toe the line.
Missing in 2020 due the Coronavirus pandemic, the Stranda Fjord Trail Race returned with three races, 25km, 48km and the new 100km distance. The latter offering a full and immersive 360 experience of what this magical area of Norway has to offer.
Let’s be honest, Norway as a location is arguably one of the most beautiful places in the world, and as a runner or outdoor enthusiast, the options and possibilities are endless, be that in the south or north.
Stranda, part of the Sunnmøre region, is a small place located on one of the west Norwegian fjords. Often accessed via ferry from Liabygda, it can also be accessed by road from Grodås. In proximity to Alesund, Åndalsnes, Loen and others, it’s a wonderful and magical area to explore.
The 25km and 48km races use much of the opening miles of the 100km route, however, after reaching the summit of Fremste Blåhornet at 1478m they return to Stranda via Heimste Blåhornet, Løfonnfjellet and Rødesthornet. The 25km then concludes in Stranda and the 48km continues for another loop summiting at Roaldshornet at 1230m and then following on to Blåfjellet and Skurdahornet before descending all the way down to the finish line. Both races are tough, challenging, and demanding and should not be underestimated. There is little easy running here, the climbing is hard, the descents can be tricky, and the terrain varies in technicality, at times harsh on the body and mind, the only easy running is in the final sections of road to the finish line. This is reflected in the winning times, Jack Kosky 6:16:21 and Sara-Rebekka Færø Linde 7:14:34 taking top honours in the 48km and Anders Haga and Anita Iversen Lilleskare winning the 25km in 2:31:01 and 3:12:17 respectively.
The main event of the weekend, the 100km race. Is for many only a dream. To say it’s tough would not do the course justice, it’s mind blowing in the challenge. Beautifully brutal as one runner said. Offering a 360 clockwise experience of this stunning area of Norway, the Stranda Fjord Trail Race 100km route is quite simply, one of the most stunning routes I have experienced.
Relentless is the only way to describe. The course does contain some areas where you can switch off and just run, but they are few and far between. The opening miles maybe offering many a false illusion of the severity to come. The hard work starts to really kick in with approximately 20km covered at Liavarden. What follows are walls of grass, rock, scree, stone slabs, technical ridges, vertical climbing and challenging descending.
Reaching the summit of Fremste Blåhornet at 1478m, 23km covered, and every runner was under no illusion of the challenge ahead. The terrain rocky, slow and hard, the panoramic views at sunrise quite simple stunning. Following on to Lissje Blåhornet and a technical ridge section offered exposure and scrambling before dropping down to the valley and easier running to the aid station on the road of Dalevegen and 28km distance.
A short section of road was followed with more climbing, an out-and-back to another peak and then the Liasætra aid station.
Valley running to Patchellhytta DNT cabin and then the relentless out-and-back climb to the iconic Slogen at 1564m. This climb being one of the highlights of the route offers a challenge, especially near the top when hands-on-knee climbing turns to scrambling and easy climbing.
The summit offering a stunning panorama but there is little time to enjoy the view. Descending via the way you came, eventually you turn left in the valley and make your way to Velleseter, Brunstadsætra, Storevatnet, and then the road section that leads to the final section of the course, 80km covered.
The climb to summit Roaldshornet at 1230m is long, the summit at 86km and it would be easy to think it’s all downhill from here. Considering what has gone before, it’s fair to say that it is. Eventually the 100km joins with the final section of the 48km track and the run in to the finish is welcome and hard earned.
Be warned, this route is tough!
Kristian Aalerud set a hard pace at the start of the race and while nobody really knew how long this 100km would take, best estimations were 17-hours for the winning time. Kristian crossed in 15:49:31. A spectacular time.
Øystein Røen for much of the day had run in 2nd place, however, Felix Weber moved ahead to take the 2nd podium spot, Øystein settling for 3rd, 17:03:12 and 17:25:38 respectively.
Ida Jahren Herud ran a smart race, easing in to the day and eventually taking over the lead to finish in 22:25:12. Linda Hovde had lead the race early on, probably starting too hard she slipped down the field and eventually finishing in 28:29:34 in 2nd place. They were the only two women to complete the course!
In total, 20 completed the distance reflecting the severity of the challenge. It’s also important to note that the start list was drastically reduced to ongoing restrictions from the Covid pandemic.
One thing is for sure, running 25km, 48km or 100km in this area of Norway is not easy, ask anyone who toed the line of the respective distances.
There is something truly magical here, I can only encourage and emphasise that you ‘need’ to add Strand Fjord Trail Race to your bucket list.
You will not be disappointed with the experience of racing here, BUT come prepared, you are going to earn that finish medal.
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