Someone has opened the curtain of trees and allowed us
to peek into the deep of the mountains.

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RUNNING

Lost Trail. On Forgotten Paths on Olympus

SEPTEMBER 13, 2021 | LITOCHORO | 6 MIN

This competition actually started on Friday, when it rained in Litochoro. Or maybe even a few days earlier, when on some weather map I saw that typhoon Janus was approaching Greece. But a typhoon (tornado, etc.) in the Mediterranean? There is hardly any wind here. Whatever it was, heavy clouds blew over Olympus, and it was raining. It was Friday. But as late as this Friday evening, when I was picking up my starter pack, our dry Enipeas River was traditionally dry. I crossed to the other side with a dry foot.

On Saturday morning however, when I was on my way to the start line, the same river was huge, it spilled over all possible corners of its valley, roared ominously and did not even encourage anyone to approach it, let alone cross to the other side. Last time I saw a similar level of water here in November. The start of the run was suspended. The main organizer – Lazaros went to check if the only bridge that we were supposed to cross during the competition was still there.
And the start was supposed to be special again (due to pandemic restrictions). Within an hour, each runner would simply be on the starting line and start running; at any time of his choosing (between 6.00 and 7.00). The latest news said we would start at 8.00. I had an hour and a half so I went home. It turned out, however, that the big water only scared us, the bridge is not in danger, the paths still exist, we can start. I mean … those who were around took off, when I showed up at the start, almost everyone had been on the road for about 40 minutes. It set my entire run up. I had to overtake. And it is known that during the competition there is nothing more pleasant than overtaking.

photos: Go Experience

It was my first time in the Lost Trail competition. It doesn’t mean, however, that I didn’t know the route. One more advantage of running in “own” mountains. At every moment of the competition I knew exactly where I was, how many kilometers to the end of the ascent and how many kilometers to the aid station, where it is always slippery and when there would be a dangerous turn. And that was the second very positive element.

And the Lost Trail route is wonderfully structured: as if someone had chosen the most beautiful and runnable tracks on Olympus and combined them into one whole. Exclusively singletrack, largely soft ground, because we stay in the forest floor, but there are also stones to jump over and not to run out of emotions. These paths are almost only traverses, so we get an infinite number of turns as a gift – in no case there is boredom on the route. And more so because there are views! There is a forest everywhere, so there is no such open space as on the Plateau of Muses, but such an amazing and diverse forest can only be found on Olympus. And there are clearances from time to time. As if for a short while someone had opened the curtain of trees and allowed us to peek into the deep of the mountains. And these mountains are overwhelming. Tremendum and fascinosum – as Rudolf Otto used to say. You can see the menacing, vertical walls, because the whole forest is filled with rocks, and the seemingly gentle slopes are often vertically undercut, and the imagination is constantly looking for possible passages in this tangle of rocks and trees on the other side of the valley, because our route leads somewhere there and beyond we will run there for a while. And what’s even more fascinating about Lost Trail is that a large number of these amazing paths were created or brought back to life by Lazaros Rigos and his associates, and they still keep these paths live on. The name Lost Trail is therefore by no means accidental.

photos: Go Experience

So is it any wonder that I was doing great from the very beginning? 🙂 I did the first ascent 8 minutes faster than I planned, before the first big ascent I had almost 40 minutes of reserve. I was running. I was running almost all the time. I used to wonder how it is possible to run uphill? You walk uphill all the time, you run down. It turned out to be primarily the perspective of the place. As you live in the mountains all the time, the ascents become smoother. You think more about the length of the route – if it is long, it is not profitable to run the steepest sections, if it is shorter, you can try to run everything. After 4 hours 10 minutes I was on Livadaki – the highest point on the route on the 24th kilometer. On the last Olympus Mythical Trail, it took me over 5 hours to cover only the last 10 km of this 24-kilometer stretch! Here is the scale of the difference.

I was overtaking. I was overtaking all the time. At first it was very easy, because I met these slower runers, then it was harder, but I was overtaking until the very end. I was only overtaken by one competitor – Owen Davis – the later winner, but he did it at the speed of a Janus tornado – raging somewhere over the Peloponnese. He did it on the uphill, so there’s still a lot of room for improvement 🙂

I had a crisis – of course. The extremely steep Goumarostalos path at 32 km  slow down me completely. I even stopped a few times and rested for a while. I wondered what would happen next, but no anxiety. After all, anything can happen on ultra, and crises can be temporary. However, I was a little surprised that when it got a little less steep, I was able to run again. Apparently it was my day. 
I was discovering, no matter which time, the incredible pleasure of running fast. Even a well-known path, repeated many times at walking, recreational or training pace, gives a completely different impression at full speed. Is this called adrenaline, sensory stimulation, metaphysical experience? After all, I didn’t even slow down at the final, quite breakneck run to the finish line.

And some reflection at the end. The most remarkable thing is that this competition took place at all. In the era of widespread cancellation of running events in Greece and around the world (because of covid-19 pandemic), Lazaros Rigos with his whole team continues like a rock, tirelessly overcoming all difficulties, working on the development of mountain runs, organizing subsequent editions of famous events, and even adding new ones. Lazare – great admiration and gratitude.

Competition official  website: here

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