The trail structures the paths between Granada and Sierra Nevada | Sports

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Like phrases that last, the routes must be simple. Connecting Granada with Sierra Nevada in a race of almost one hundred kilometers makes sense: it is not the 171 of the Mont Blanc Ultra Trail, the reference that José Manuel Toledo had when he organized the race, but the detours only add noise to the message. When the first 300 brave men left the city in 2014 without knowing if they would be lost in the night, they did not attract attention. Ten years later, Ultra Sierra Nevada is an event with 1,541 participants of 35 nationalities. Neither the start nor the finish line needs more tourism, but the trail has structured the path: towns like Pinos Genil, Cenes de la Vega, Beas de Granada or Quéntar have found sustenance throughout the year thanks to runners and cycling. he gave them the ski.

Granada has altitude sections for almost any sport: the weather decides. Ultra Sierra Nevada has been held on torrid summer days and on others with 30 centimeters of snow. Compared to other ultras with a circular route, this one has more climbs than descents (5,400 meters of positive slope for about 4,000 negative) and replaces the usual calm descent to the finish line with almost a vertical kilometer, from the station to Veleta, above the 3,000 meters. Those last eight kilometers were so horrible – the winner of the last two editions, Piedad Quesada, defines them as “God level” – that there was a medal for whoever reached Pradollano and rejected a dessert that the wind, with gusts of up to 100 kilometers per time, removed from the menu this year. The goal arch could not even be set up.

So 88 kilometers had to be worth what Miguel Heras understands as “a different way to spend the night.” Almost 400 runners left the Granada Hall promenade at 10:00 p.m. on Friday – around thirty completed the route in relays – in the queen category of an event with three more events. The distance makes the epic, the emotion of the companion who sees a subject with a backpack, bib and headlight leave towards the unknown. “May we all end up happy and go home happy,” Heras asked, a wish that eluded him, since his foreseeable victory – he has three – was thwarted by a sprained ankle. When Agustín Luján overtook him, the man from Bejar told him to continue, that if he recovered he would catch up with him. But he quit. And the man from La Mancha flew to victory (10h11m30s). Like Quesada, he took the lead at kilometer 20 and became a prophet again in his land (14h21m47s).

The mother who gives hugs

Before looking at the snow of the station – and its thickness of two and a half meters – without tasting it, the runners parade through the arms of Silvia Álvarez. Because this career is not understood without the connection with someone who never did it. Her son David Kala was an ultra runner whose eyes lit up with a test in his homeland that crowned his beloved Veleta. He was enrolled in 2014, but died weeks earlier from a climbing accident at age 20. The organization retired number 101: her friends completed that route in relays and gave the last baton to her parents.

Silvia Álvarez hugs a runner. Vicky Barbadillo.

“The race gave me a reason to keep going. “I changed the pills for sneakers and the tears for hugs,” Álvarez summarizes. Her husband – then a smoker, like her – weighed 120 kilos, but he put on her son’s shoes – the advantages of sharing a number – and completed the route with that number retired in a square in Pradollano full of tears. Previously, his wife became famous for a hug she gave to Valentí San Juan, the athlete whom David Kala admired. He kept his promise to do the race and merged with her shortly after losing her mother. It happened at a refreshment station that she managed, another invitation to move forward that this woman accepted without thinking.

The story became a documentary and she greets each runner who passes through Pinos Genil like this. “The mother who restores your spirit and gives you warmth. “They are the hugs that I couldn’t give my son.” She waits under an arch with the name of the club they created, Soy Montaña, because of the texts that her son left written. Her ashes rest in the Veleta and her father complains that his wife comes home with the smell of hundreds of sweaty men who arrive from various places upon learning the story. A real consolation at kilometer 65, with the body at its limit. “For many people, the goal is me.”

Tradition says that the hard part begins there, since the last 23 kilometers contain almost 2,000 meters of positive slope: all uphill. The worst are the zetas that lead to Dornajo – 1.9 kilometers at 17.8% – that a runner tells to distract the agony: “There are nine left.” There are stretches of road, with drivers’ whistles of encouragement, that were shortened after the agreement with the Sierra Nevada National Park, which allows passage through the Botanical Garden and reduces what were eight kilometers of asphalt. It is enough that a cyclist passes by and shows the pig trot after hours of strides. Different rhythms for the same purpose: paving the way between the city and the mountains.

Ultra trail of Sierra Nevada.
Ultra trail of Sierra Nevada.JOAQUIN FERRERA (TerraIncógnita)

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