Britton & Meek talk Iznik Ultra

iznik LogoIznik, formerly known as Nicea is situated on a beautiful lake in the province of Bursa some 2.5 hours from Istanbul. An important center for Roman and Byzantine times, Iznik has a rich history.

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The city was once surrounded by a stone wall some 14,520ft in circumference. Although this wall remains it has been punctured to allow road access.

From a tourist perspective Iznik has much to offer; peace, tranquility, an insight into local culture and of course some significant monuments such as the Yenise Gate, St Sophia Cathedral (Orhan Ghazi Mosque) and the Green Mosque (Yesil Camil) named after it’s wonderful green tiles.

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Iznik also has an archaeological museum that contains mostly glass and Roman objects. In addition to this history, Iznik is also famous for tile manufacturer and Olives. Tiles from Iznik have been used to decorate many a mosque, particularly in Istanbul.

Iznik Lake provides a backdrop to the Iznik Ultra series of races. It is appropriate that each race should include such a historically important natural feature. Great courses, demanding terrain, small un-spoilt villages and plenty of climbing (at least in the early stages) makes Iznik a great location for racing and leisure.

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In just two weeks time, runners will travel from around the world and congregate on the shores of the lake for a weekend of competitive racing. I caught up with Robbie Britton (inov-8) and Jo Meek (Scott Running) and asked them a few questions about this journey into the unknown..

Jo Meek, The Coastal Challenge, Costa Rica ©iancorless.com

Jo Meek, The Coastal Challenge, Costa Rica ©iancorless.com

1. What is the attraction to travelling to Turkey?

RB: Turkey is one of the countries in Europe that has been on my list to visit for a number of years now and running a race is by far the best way to see as much as possible! Turkey’s culture and history, alongside the rugged, mountainous landscape for the Iznik ultra is really attractive to me.

JM: It’s a place that I haven’t been to before so that is really appealing. I feel very fortunate that a passion such as running is providing me with this great opportunity.

2. Are you aware on an ultra scene in Turkey… what do you think the competition will be like?

RB: I’ve met a couple of Turkish ultra runners in the UK but I didn’t know much about the ultra running scene in Turkey. I like competition so I am really looking forward to the opportunity to race on new terrain against new competition.

JM: No, I wasn’t specifically aware of any races held in Turkey but I did not imagine for a moment that it would not have a running scene. I regard to competition, I never underestimate anyone when I race, especially when local runners know the tracks and trails first hand.

Robbie Britton, The English Lakes. ©iancorless.com

Robbie Britton, The English Lakes. ©iancorless.com

3. How is your training, have you been doing anything specific?

RB: Looking at the race profile for the Iznik race has made me add a few extra hills to my training, I have been really working on going up and down! I’m currently training in La Palma so hopefully the hills and the sun here will get me ready!

JM: Since returning from the Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica (which Jo won) I have taken a few weeks off to recover, move house and start a new job. I have been learning new run routes; which always makes for runs longer than planned! I have been very specific lately working on my strength for the hills and speed for the flat.

4. Why race distance did you choose this distance?

RB: I’m racing the marathon distance, a little shorter than usual for me but it looks like a tough event! The ups and downs look very similar to the profile at Transvulcania La Palma so I see it as a good chance to race some tough ascents and fly down some steep downhill! 

JM: I have chosen the 80km route because my main goal will be Comrades Ultra (South Africa) in June. The Iznik race provides me with great distance to race over without encroaching too much into the training that proceeds it with fatigue and depletion. 

Robbie Britton. The English Lakes. ©iancorless.com

Robbie Britton. The English Lakes. ©iancorless.com

5. Do you plan to do a little sight seeing, what interests you?

RB: As someone who studied Archaeology at university, I hope to be able to see some of the fantastic sites that Turkey has to offer. I just hope there isn’t anything on the race route that causes me to stop and forget about the race! I’m also looking forward to travelling through Istanbul as it strikes me as a city with a lot of life and excitement!

JM: I would love to see more of the country whilst given this opportunity to visit but unfortunately my annual leave entitlement is exhausted. I remember being dragged around Ephesus as a small child and secretly being totally impressed by such a place so I know Turkey has a lot to offer but I’m sure I’ll return. 

Jo Meek, The Coastal Challenge, Costa Rica. ©iancorless.com

Jo Meek, The Coastal Challenge, Costa Rica. ©iancorless.com

6. What’s next on the calendar after Iznik?

RB: A few weeks after Iznik I will be back in the hills for the Transvulcania La Palma 80k Skyrunning race in the island of La Palma. 2014 is the year of the mountains for me!

JM: After Iznik I will continue to train hard and devote myself to Comrades for me and then the Lakeland 50. Two totally different races so a lot of training and adaptation required!

Runners will travel to Turkey on Thursday April 17th and racing starts at midnight Friday 18th for the 131km race. The 80km and classic marathon distance races will commence on Saturday April 19th.

Iznik Profile

Follow the action from the Iznik series of races via:

  • iancorless.com
  • facebook.com/talkultra
  • @talkultra on twitter

If you would like to race this year, it’s not too late… go to www.iznikultra.com and sign up! You wont regret it!

Local knowledge:

Bursa (Turkish pronunciation: [ˈbuɾsa]) is a city in Turkey, located in northwestern Anatolia, within the Marmara Region. It is the fourth most populous city in Turkey and one of the most industrialized metropolitan centers in the country. The city is also the administrative center of Bursa Province.

Bursa was the first capital of the Ottoman State between 1335 and 1413. The city was referred to as Hüdavendigar (meaning “God’s gift”) during the Ottoman period, while a more recent nickname is Yeşil Bursa (meaning “Green Bursa”) in reference to the parks and gardens located across its urban fabric, as well as to the vast and richly varied forests of the surrounding region. The ski resort of Mount Uludağ towers over it. The mountain was called the Mysian Olympus by the Romans who lived there before. Bursa has rather orderly urban growth and borders a fertile plain. The mausoleums of the early Ottoman sultans are located in Bursa and the city’s main landmarks include numerous edifices built throughout the Ottoman period. Bursa also has thermal baths and several museums, including a museum of archaeology.

The shadow play characters Karagöz and Hacivat are based on historic personalities who lived and died in Bursa. Bursa is also home to some of the most famous Turkish dishes such as İskender kebap, specially candied marron glacés, peaches and Turkish Delight. Bursa houses the Uludağ University, and its population can claim one of the highest overall levels of education in Turkey. The historic towns of İznik (Nicaea), Mudanya and Zeytinbağı are all situated in Bursa Province.

Reference ©wikipedia

Top Brits head to Turkey for the Iznik Ultra race series, April 2014

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Now in its third year, the Iznik series of races in Turkey are assembling a strong UK contingent of runners to race over the marathon, 80km or 130km distances, featuring Jo MeekRobbie BrittonTracy DeanStu Air and Marcus Scotney. With several races on offer, Robbie Britton and Stu Air will race the marathon distance, Tracy Dean and Jo Meek the 80km and Marcus Scotney the 130km.

Map

Surrounded by eight countries, Turkey has significant geographical importance as it is at a crossroads with Europe and Asia. The noise and colour from an over populated Istanbul are completely contradicted by the sublime tranquility of Iznik, situated on a beautiful lake. Don’t get me wrong! Istanbul is remarkable; it’s an exciting place and certainly, any journey to this region should at least include one-day sight seeing around the old town. The Fire Tower, the Blue MosqueHippodromeGrand Bazaar and Sultanhamet Square; believe me, there is no shortage of things to do.

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Located in Bursa, on the banks of Lake Iznik, Caner Odabasoglu and his team have worked tirelessly to make the Iznik Races not only the premier event in Turkey but also with the 130km race, they also have the longest single stage race in the whole of the country.

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Running and particularly, Ultra running is not a big sport in this region, to that end, Caner with the help of the Iznik community have continually worked hard to put the races and the local community on the running map.

Profile

Using the Iznik Lake as a backdrop, all the races utilize the local terrain to not only provide a beautiful course but also a challenging course. All the elevation comes in the first 80 km’s, so, the marathon and the shorter ultra are very much about going up and down on trails that vary from single-track to wide rutted farm roads. From the town of Soloz (appx 67km) the course flattens and follows the Iznik Lake in a circular route tracing the perimeter to arrive back at the start some 130 km’s later.

Jo Meek ©iancorless.com

Jo Meek ©iancorless.com

Jo Meek (Scott Running) fresh from a victory at The Coastal Challenge multi-day race in Costa Rica has been eagerly awaiting this trip, I have been to Turkey before but only the touristic bits so travelling to Turkey this time to run through the areas I wouldn’t otherwise see holds a lot of appeal. See the culture as I experience the highs and lows of the countryside is a privilege anywhere but especially as a guest in a foreign country.”

Tracy Dean - inov-8

Tracy Dean – inov-8

Jo is right, racing in Turkey is a great opportunity to combine so many different elements, of course the opportunity to test oneself against new competition but also to see a new place and explore a new culture, Iznik has a wonderful history. The Aphasia Mosque amongst others for example intrigues me and it will be amazing to see the architecture of the Hoffman period. I am interested in seeing the tiles that Iznik has a reputation for producing. The main attraction though… food, ha ha to have Turkish delight and fish kebab will be a real treat, just not both on the same dish.” Explained Tracy Dean (inov-8).

Marcus Scotney - Montane

Marcus Scotney – Montane

Marcus Scotney (Montane) recently won the ‘Challenger’ race at The Spine in the UK, “I wasn’t aware of an ultra scene in Turkey, I hadn’t looked into opportunities until I heard about the Iznik ultra. I’m sure the competition will be very tough, especially from local people who will know the route and what the trails are like.”

Robbie Britton - inov-8

Robbie Britton – inov-8

Robbie Britton (inov-8) backs this up, “I’ve met a couple of Turkish ultra runners in the UK but I didn’t know much about the scene in Turkey itself. I like competition so hopefully there will be a few guys to enjoy the hills with and we can push each other along.“

Robbie has a reputation for running long and fast, he has represented GB at the 24-hour distance, however, in Iznik he will race the shorter (but hillier) marathon race, “I’m racing the marathon distance this time, a little shorter than usual but it looks like a tough event! The ups and downs look very similar to the profile at Transvulcania on the island of La Palma so I see it as a good chance to race some tough ascents and fly down some steep downhill’s!”

Stu Air - Ronda dels Cims

Stu Air – Ronda dels Cims

Stu Air (Scott Running) equally has gained a reputation for racing tough, technical and long events; in 2013 Stu had great results at Ronda dels Cims in Andorra and the tough Tor des Geants. Fresh from a top-10 placing at MSIG50 in Hong Kong, Stu too has chosen the marathon distance race, “I have chosen the Mountain Marathon 42km course, as I feel that this distance will help me focus on my weakness (speed) over some of the longer races. I have several races in 2014 which are 100-miles. Transvulcania (80km) on the island of La Palma is a few weeks after Iznik too, so I thought this race would be perfect to help me in preparation for this longer race.”

Caner and the team

Caner and the team

Caner Odabasoglu and the MCR Racesetter Team are passionate ultra runners and have devoted an incredible amount of time, energy and money in creating a stunning weekend of racing on the shores of Iznik Lake. Dedicated to the cause, the 2013 edition will be bigger, better and potentially faster across all three key race distances… watch this space, the Brits are coming!

Race website: HERE

Follow the race at: iancorless.com and on Twitter @talkultra 

Athlete race calendars 2104: 

  • Jo Meek – Iznik Ultra, Comrades (South Africa) and Lakeland 50 (UK) Trail Running Championships.
  • Tracy Dean – Iznik Ultra and Lakeland 50 (UK) Trail Running Championships.
  • Marcus Scotney – Iznik Ultra, British 100km Championships and Ultra Tour of the Peak District (UK).
  • Robbie Britton – Iznik Ultra and Skyrunning Transvulcania La Palma 80km (La Palma).
  • Stu Air – Iznik Ultra, Skyrunning Transvulcania La Palma 80km (La Palma), Hardrock 100 (USA), Skyrunning Kima Trophy 50km (Italy) and Diagonale des Fous 160km (Reunion Island).

Athlete sponsors:

  • inov-8 – HERE
  • Montane – HERE
  • Scott Running – HERE 

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Iznik Ultra 2013

 

Our 2013 Iznik Ultra race package is now available !

Now in its second year, the Iznik Ultra offers a wonderful opportunity to combine  sight seeing and racing in a new place. Turkey is an exciting place, the opportunity to explore Istanbul is something that we should all relish… after experiencing the Iznik race and Istanbul to the maximum for the first edition in 2012, I just knew that the Iznik Ultra needed a larger audience. To this end we have worked closely with the race organiser to provide a great package for 2013.

£360 per person plus flights and food

What does it include:

  • transfer from the airport to Istanbul
  • Overnight in the old town in Istanbul with a great location to see all the iconic sights
  • transfers to and from Iznik
  • 3 nights in Iznik
  • race entry in your chosen race

Want to spend longer in Istanbul? No problem, we can provide add on packages to facilitate this. Just ask.

All information is available HERE

 

Iznik Ultra – Go Trail

I was very fortunate to race the Iznik Ultra in Turkey early in 2012. Not my first time to Turkey but my first time to Istanbul and the surrounding area.

It really was a superb trip and I have to say it is one of my greatest racing memories. Made all the more special as Niandi Carmont was able to take part with me. I must take this opportunity to thank some special people who not only made the trip happen but also made the trip so special – Caner Odabasoglu (the RD and organiser), Emre Tok (a great friend in the UK), Ilgaz Kuruyazici (runs a Turkish Podcast and showed us great hospitality) and last but not least Aykult Celikbas (ultra runner and friend). I also want to give a broader thanks to all those associated with the race who it would be impossible to thank individually but please accept my thanks and also the local people of Iznik; you made it a great experience.

I wrote an article on the race and the experiences of Turkey for James Hallet at Go Trail Magaazine. Please make sure that you go to Go Trail and download a free edition of the magazine or subscribe for just $10 for one years worth of issues.