Imagine a 5 kilometre race that is uphill all the way and incorporates 1 kilometre of vertical ascent over unforgiving, rocky terrain. Well… that was the challenge Jacek Cieluszecki faced when he headed up to the Scottish Highlands for the Salomon Mamores VK.
The distance may have been the same as a parkrun, but it was an altogether different proposition. It required extraordinary leg strength and power and incredible lung capacity.
To keep going throughout the entire 5k and continue to work your way to the top of the mountain was a difficult and daunting task. Of course, as he always does though, JC was relishing the chance to test himself on something so tough and couldn’t wait to meet the challenge head on.
The start was staggered in order to keep the track from getting too busy so it was almost like a time trial format with the aim of just getting to the top in as quicker time as possible.
The first couple of kilometres seemed runnable to Jacek, considering it was a VK race. In fact, he managed to get through the first mile in 10 minutes 43 seconds which was a great effort with that sort of elevation.
At around the 1.7km point it started to get really tough. From then on there was a lot of scrambling and power walking involved. The ground was grassy and wet in places as well as being rocky and technical at times.
Some sections were seriously steep but JC managed to power through it well. The second mile included over 1,000ft of elevation and took him 16 minutes 38 seconds.
The third mile was pretty much all on a steep gradient, incorporating 1,675ft of ascent. That just left the final 0.1 mile of climbing to reach the flag at the top of the mountain.
Recording a time of 53:28, it was now a waiting game for JC to see if anyone could or had bettered it. It turned out only one man was able to complete the course quicker and that was Alastair Thomas.
He managed to clock a magnificent time of 51:05 to register a winning margin of over two minutes. Tom Smith took 3rd place in a time of 53:52, with Richard Smith finishing 4th in 55:25.
Rachel Smith rounded off a great day for the Smiths to finish as 1st female and 6th overall with her time of 57:38. Once everyone had taken their turn it was confirmed that 88 of the 90 runners that started successfully completed the race.
The fact he finished 2nd on his very first go at the Mamores VK was a remarkable achievement for JC considering he was probably up against a lot of runners who had tackled that climb before and knew more about the intricacies.
Having experienced it before would make a massive difference as you would then have a better idea of how to approach the more rocky or scrambling sections rather than having to make decisions on the fly.
JC reckons he could potentially shave a good 5 minutes off his time if he did it again or ran it on a more regular basis, although he has no immediate plans to tackle it again.
The course record for the Mamores VK is an incredible 39:16 and that was done by Remi Bonnet, one of the top climbers in Europe. He’s the only guy to have done it in under 40 minutes.
There is also a VK race in Switzerland which is even shorter than 5k and that one is even steeper than the Mamores. Who knows? JC might find himself giving that one a go at some point.
After his VK race Jacek decided to unwind with a 15 mile run from Kinlochleven to Fort William with his wife Ela. That included a further 3,000ft of elevation. Well… it was nice weather so they couldn’t waste it.
Then the following day both Jacek and Ela were taking on the Three Mealls Trail Race. This one was over an 18km distance and was of course, extremely hilly.