Ultra Trail Aldeias do Xisto #UTAX, Portugal – Race Preview


Ultra, trail, mountain and Skyrunning is booming in Portugal. In recent years the sport has grown from strength-to-strength and now a plethora of races are available. Most certainly, Carlos Sa paved the way for this new breed of runner and recently, runners like Ester Alves have kept that momentum flowing. Ester in particular has just recently won The Coastal Challenge multi-day race in Costa Rica.

Go Outdoor are embracing the rise and demand in the sport and in March 2016 (18th to 20th) they will host a series of races, the AXtrail®series.

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.

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.

It’s this foresight and ell encompassing attitude that has seen Portugal rise as 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 combined with the hospitality of the local population ensures that visitors to Portugal are extremely happy with their stay, whether participating in one of the six event, or in relation to the destination where an event takes place.

As the event race director says:

 “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!”


The UTAX is the main event of the weekend and first took place in 2013 with shortened course, Salomon Portugal athlete, Armando Teixeira won in a time of 7:44:29. The first lady was Ester Alves, her time of 10:03:48 reflecting the reduced distance. Alves won again in 2014 but this time it took 16:53:49 for victory and in the men’s race, Luis Duarte recorded a time of 13:06:46. Current course records were set in 2015 by Jérôme Rodrigues and Sofia Lopes Roquete, their respective times of 12:49:57 and 16:12:53 set the benchmark for the 2016 edition.

Alves was missing in 2015 but returns in 2016 and no doubt she will be looking not only for victory but maybe setting a new fas time for the UTAX course. Her recent growth in the sport with top results at UTMB, Transvulcania and recent victory in Costa Rica certainly bodes well. A big question mark will come in regard to Alves’s recovery, The Coastal Challenge was only four weeks ago! Sofia Lopes Roquette, 2015 champion will return to defend her crown.

In the men’s race, the battle for the front to f the race may well come down to Jêrome Rodrigues who ran 12:49 in 2015 and Luis Duarte who ran 13:06 in 2014. However, it may not be that simple? Anything can happen in 110km’s and Nuno Silva along with Ricardo Silva will look to mix things up at the front of the race.

Other names to watch and look out for are: Amândio Antunes, Rui Luz, Luis Mota (veteran), Guilherme Lourenço, Rui Seixo, Raquel Campos, André Rodrigues, Cláudio Quelhas, Juan Delgado (veteran), Nádia Pasteleiro, and Júlia Conceição. A full list of all participants in UTAX ( 230) – HERE

UTAX 110 km – 5300 D+

This year the UTAX race will start and finish in Miranda do Corvo, in the Plaza José Falcão, this will be the logistical center of the race. The first village to be visited will be Gondramaz, allowing athletes enjoy a beautiful single-track but the opening limiters are hard and technical. Lousã follows and here the most anticipated moment of the race will come as this local location is known as the “Amazon.”  After Candal runners only travel about 3 km to the village of Cerdeira which offers panoramic views of the mountains and is a place of peace and tranquility. The Schist Villages are magical places where time passes more slowly and the villages are hidden between rock and lush vegetation – Góis, Aigra Nova, Comareira and Pena. From Pena a climb starts to the highest point of the race and then down to Castanheira de Pera. Following a northwest direction for Ameal, a fantastic single-track rises up and winds to a farm at the top of Lousã, the trail continues in the direction of the House of the Forest Guard. It is then that begins the descent to the villages of Catarredor and Vaqueirinho, and follows to the Schist Villages Talasnal and Casal Novo. Following the route for the “Terreiro Halloween”, runners go up to the Vila Nova which is in the Miranda Municipality of Corvo. The end is now getting close, Fluvial Beach Louçainha (Municipality of Penela),  Vila Nova and then heading back to the Square José Falcão in Miranda do Corvo for the finish.

It is a weekend party where everyone without exception can practice and enjoy the wonderful sport to trail and mountain running.

You can follow the race in words and images on this website, iancorless.com and on my other media channels: Facebook HERE, Twitter HERE and Instagram HERE.

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The race website is available HERE

You can download a PDF race information document HERE

Tourism Portugal

Aldeias do Xisto Ultra Trail race coverage would not be possible without the support of AXtrail® Go Outdoor and many thanks to Centro de Portugal Touristic Office www.centerofportugal.com.


Ultra Skymarathon Madeira #USM2015 Pre Race


It’s the day before the 2015 Ultra Skymarathon Madeira and this morning we had a shake out on a couple of sections of the course with several of the top elite athletes including Stevie Kremer and Ricky Lightfoot.

Renowned for glorious sunshine, Madeira today showed us a very wet day. The rain poured and poured.

It seemed appropriate that the days short run concluded with a run up a riverbed that ultimately will be a very important section of the USM2015 race. Wet rocks that will require boulder hopping is never an easy prospect and this section of the course last 500m. It’s going to be tough.

To be honest, it doesn’t seem as though Madeira posses ant flat. You are either going up or down. Ricky Lightfoot, no stranger to tough and wet conditions said, ‘It’s going to be tough tomorrow. The climbs and descents we have passed over today were quite a challenge while running easy. Taking these sections while racing will be very different.’

Stevie Kremer had a typical beaming smile irrespective of the rain, ‘How did you guys run down that descent so quickly. That is one seriously tough drop!’ Looking at the boulder section, it would be fair to say that Stevie had a mixed look, ‘Oh boy, that section is going to be fun.’

Racing starts tomorrow at 0600 local time. You can read a pre race preview HERE.

Images and race updates will be posted on this website, Twitter @talkulta and on Instagram @iancorlessphotography

USM website is here