Race Director Interview: Andorra Ultra Trail Vallnord

Andorra Ultra Trail Vallnord

After one of the best winters in the last ten years, the Andorran Pyrenees are getting ready to give a warm welcome to 3,200 runners from all over the world, arriving to attempt the famous Andorra Ultra Trail Vallnord.  We interviewed the directors from AUTV, who today will oversee their final event, after all these years, Gérard Martínez and Valérie Lafleur have decided to leave the direction of AUTV to their daughters.

We wanted to know how they felt about this 10th edition and also do a quick review over what AUTV has been for them, for Andorra and for the Ultra running community.

The 10th edition of the Andorra Ultra Trail Vallnord will bring 3,200 runners from all over the world to experience Andorra’s unique mountains. Despite starting with over 600 runners when the first edition took place in 2009, did you ever think that you could attract suck a keen bunch of runners to this race?

No way! We didn’t even think that we would have over 600 runners for that first race! Nobody knew us, and we didn’t know a lot of people from the trail running community ten years ago. It was such a success that we had to close the subscriptions earlier than expected. So, we couldn’t have imagined about having over 3,000 runners ready to run one of the races that start in Ordino.

Cims Màgics is an association that was created with the main goal of sharing the beauty of the Andorran Mountains with other trail runners. Do you think that you achieved this goal?

We love to think that many runners have discovered and enjoyed the mountains in Andorra thanks to the Andorra Ultra Trail Vall Nord. Each year we do a satisfaction survey and the results have been awesome. We love to read all the beautiful comments from the runners. We also take very seriously the recommendations they sent us. Our goal is to improve AUTV, and the opinions of the runners are considered by us to be a really valuable.

Aside from the survey, you can also see on Social Media how happy this race makes people.

Ordino is without any doubt, one of the cosiest towns in the Principality of Andorra and it is where everything starts and ends. Why did you choose this location for the start of the race? 

Ordino is well preserved and excellently represents the beauty of our country. We also love the fact that Vallnord Ski Area is our main sponsor. So, it is the perfect place to start.

Kilian Jornet was the first winner from Andorra Ultra Trail Vall Nord. In 2009, you had to stop the race for a while due to a thunderstorm. How did you “survive” the first edition, dealing with a dangerous meteorological factor during the night?

The first edition was undoubtedly stressful. We are so lucky that we didn’t have thunderstorm on the following years. Crossed fingers for this year’s race!

We had to react really quickly, and we had to stop the race several times because it was too dangerous for the runners to be out there at high altitude. We also had to change the route and mark out a new one during the night. And you know what? We had to do it really fast because we had Kilian Jornet chasing us!

Ultra Mític is famous because of its levels of beauty and difficulty. Running this race, entrants have the chance to visit some of the most stunning places in Andorra. How did you create such a thought and unbelievable route?

Ultra Mític was the first route we thought when we started the Andorra Ultra Trail. Our goal was to create a beautiful track that gave an opportunity to discover some of the most memorable places in Andorra while summiting some of our highest peaks, such us Comapedrosa. We also wanted to do it in a reasonable distance. 100K is a reasonable distance, isn’t it?

We can proudly say that we accomplished our goal. Everybody who has run the Ultra Mític could give you his or her own opinion.

Every runner who has summited the highest peak in Andorra (Comapedrosa) during AUTV knows the famous Andorra gaiter.  During one of the hardest climbs of the whole race, while you’re struggling to get to the summit, (Eufòria, Ronda and Mític) you can hear music coming from a man playing the gaita (a bagpipe-style instrument found in the northern Spain and Portugal). Who is the gaiter and how did the start performing at this race? 

He is a good friend of ours who has a deep passion for mountains and music.  He told us that he would be able to cheer the runners up with his gaita. What a great idea we thought! What might surprise you is that he also has to train for the event! The weeks before the race he started to play its gaita on a higher altitude till he was able to do it at 3000m.

We can assure you that every year the runners are happy to see him at the very top of Comapedrosa. It doesn’t matter if it’s at 1pm or 3am. He is always there to cheer up the runners!

Mític is one of the hardest races. After it, you created Ronda dels Cims. This race has become one of the most famous 100-milers in  the world! It’s known to be really tough. Year after year, runners from all over the world visit this tiny country to try to finish this huge race. Why did you created it?

We created Ronda dels Cims because we thought that would be great to have a 100-mile race in Andorra! This race goes one step further than Ultra Mític. It covers 100 miles with 13,500m of elevation gain. Besides the numbers, the trails are pretty technical. Throughout the route, the runners have to deal with steep uphills and long and rocky downhills.

If you want to become a finisher, you have to train your legs pretty well!

 Let’s talk about Eufòria. 233km with 20.000 D+ with just four aid stations. No marks, just a GPS and a map. Tougher and longer. Why?

190 runners with 40 different nationalities signed up for Euphoria’s first edition. This is our hardest race without doubt. The whole loop will show off our main ridges and summits five peaks over 2,900m. It’s a race created by and for mountaineers. It’s not about being fast, but about how far you can go because you won’t have time to rest. Sleep deprivation is something that everybody who wants to finish Eufòria will have to fight.

Runners need not only lot of experience in ultra running, but also in mountaineering. I would highly recommend entrants to know how to behave on the mountains during the day, but also at the night. Runners are going to be there alone. You have to know how to orient yourself and how to react to adversity.

The teams will live through experiences and emotions that they won’t quickly forget. This is what we are looking for. We want runners to have an emotional journey through our mountains.

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I'm a mediocre runner who can bat above his average when I train hard. A man of extremes, I do enjoy everything life offers and consider it an absolute pleasure just to be able to put one foot in front of the other and let my mind wander somewhere different.

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