Ecuador - Land of Volcanoes

Racing The Planet Ecuador 2015 - A 250km 7 day foot race from the slopes of Cotopaxi to the jungle


All content copyright © Ashley Burke 2017. Not to be copied, duplicated or used for any purpose without permission.


Map of the approximate course and approximate location of camps

After my Seven Summits of Ecuador mountain climbing adventure I was now fit, very altitude acclimatized and ready for my main reason for being here in Ecuador, to attend the Racing The Planet Ecuador 2015 foot race, a self supported 7 day race starting on the slopes of the Cotopaxi volcano, that I had climbed less than 2 weeks earlier.

The race was a very gruelling and challenging endurance event with many highlights. Among the many highlights were running along the slopes of Cotopaxi in beautiful weather, following ancient Inca paths, racing on high alpine grasslands above 3000m in altitude, the stunning Quilotoa Crater, and the breathtaking endless descent through layer after layer of cloud and cloud forest into the steamy jungle far below.

Below is a brief summary of the 7 days of the race with my own race times and position recorded.

Date Stage Distance My Time (h:mm:ss) Starting Altitude Ending Altitude My Position Comments
25 Jul 2015             Today was the race check-in, mandatory gear check and race briefing at the event hotel in Quito. After a banquet style lunch with white tablecloths in a function room in the hotel we boarded buses for the drive to Camp 1 where the race would start from. After travelling down the Panamerica Highway we took minor village roads up to a remote campsite on the slopes of Cotopaxi at an altitude of 3400m.
26 Jul 2015 1 48.0km 06:55:00 3400m 2900m 27th Beautiful morning running in crisp cool air and clear skies as we traversed across the slopes of Cotopaxi before turning west and heading downhill and away from the mountain. We then passed through some Quechua villages with kids cheering and dogs snarling and chasing. We followed a railway line and then ran westwards on flat ground across a broad populated valley before finally reaching camp in the grounds of a monastery.
27 Jul 2015 2 42.7km 06:44:28 2900m 3400m 17th The first 12km of today was on flat gravel road but then came the climbing and I put my back into it, using my acclimatisation to powerwalk up a switchback dirt road. After more than 10km of continuous uphill we reached a windswept alpine grassland, a free, wide and open landscape that was superb for running. There then came a rough bush track and some descending, before another uphill climb to our camp, high up on a windswept alpine moor.
28 Jul 2015 3 41.7km 06:00:40 3400m 2600m 13th Today was scenically and in terms of terrain ran, the most varied and spectacular of the race so far. We struck out across the alpine area and climbed over a range and then turned off on the Camino del Inca, Ecuador’s Inca trail. We sidled on the side of a steep valley, a river could be heard far below but not seen. A very steep descent into a ravine and then a climb out of it again. After exiting the ravine it was a further 7km slog into camp which was a grassy meadow on the valley floor, a very pleasant place.
29 Jul 2015 4 40.1km 06:51:32 2600m 3350m 13th Today was a brutal war of attrition, fought to hang onto my 13th place achieved on the previous stage. The stage started by heading up river, crossing stony river beds and log bridges, some with ropes rigged on the bridges for safety. Then a massive steep climb straight out of the valley to reach a dirt road which then wound its way steadily upward. In this way we finally reached a track leading to the rim of the Quilotoa Crater at just under 4000m. This was a stunning place, a huge crater with a shimmering green-blue lake at the bottom. This was the highest point of the race and we ran around the rim of the crater, following a path that wound its way up and down over many small peaks that formed the crater rim. Then it was a dusty horrid descent off the crater rim and at long last I dragged myself into camp which was actually a school and all the competitors slept on the open floor of the school classroom that night.
30 Jul 2015 5 62.1km 07:29:36 3350m 870m 13th It was a late 10am start for today's long stage. There was a descent, a rise, then a huge descent into a lush valley, then a rise again up to 3500m. There was wind and cloud, we passed through open alpine grassland like on previous days and then through dense pine forest. Then came the descent. In and out of cloud we ran to the edge of the mountains and far below lay deep green jungle and layer upon layer of cloud. It was hard to comprehend how high we were and how far down we had to run on tired knees. Down down down into this misty jungle labyrinth of clouds we ran. There were switchback forest trails and far far below a checkpoint could be seen. Then it was a further 9km of level running on a stony road in an alluvial valley to reach camp which was a school yard in a steaming tropical hamlet. Nearby was a large river where a much needed swim could be had.
31 Jul 2015             Today was a day of complete rest at the jungle camp. This was a time to try to eek out the last remaining food supply, which was next to nothing, and to nurse my battered body and prepare myself for the last push to the finish line. I dreamed about fresh food and salmon fillets, a rack of lamb and other fresh food. Today was hot and humid, the air like soup compared to what I have been used to at higher elevations.
1 Aug 2015 6 11.1km 01:10:27 870m 725m 14th Today was an 11km dash to the finish line although I didn't dash, my legs were tired and I just ran as best I could along the stony and muddy path and sugar cane paddocks. The race finished in the central square of a small steamy jungle town called Pucayacu. My overall place in the race was 14th. After enjoying locally prepared food and drink at the finish line we boarded buses for the winding road trip back to Quito. Back at the 5 star hotel in Quito a hot shower, soft bed and sumptuous feast awaited, and I partook in all of these things with alacrity.



All content copyright © Ashley Burke 2017. Not to be copied, duplicated or used for any purpose without permission.

Page created 24 Feb 2017, last updated 24 Feb 2017.