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Running competition in Greece

Subjective guide

MARCH 21, 2022 | LITOCHORO | 10 MIN

After two years of living in Greece (and many visits in the previous years), I realized that I had competed in a mountain running competition in Greece over 30 times. So it's time for a little guide. Below I present an overview of the most important Greek mountain runs, but only those in which I participated, or at least I know the route, because I ran it outside the competition (two such cases). The overview includes basic information and a short description, and in some cases there is also a link to an extensive report that can be found on the website.

Olympus Mythical Trail

Distance: 102 km.
Elevation gain: +6520/-6520 m.
Date: 2.07.2022.
Additional distances: none.
Start/finish: Litochoro.

The race is considered the most difficult competition in Greece. The route runs through the entire Olympus massif, reaching the second highest peak – Skolio (2912). The path is mostly technically difficult and rocky single tracks, but there are also soft paths among forests. The views of the Muses Plateau are absolutely amazing, and the mighty 1,600-meter descent (that’s the height difference) to the village of Karya is terrifying. A competition in which I have competed five times!

Zagori TeRA

Distance: 80 km.
Elevation gain: +5100/-5100 m.
Date: 22-24.07.2022.
Additional distances: 44 km, +2600m; 21 km, +1170 m; 10 km, +430 m.
Start/finish: Tzepelovo.

A competition held in Western Greece, among the beautiful landscapes of the Pindos Mountains. Zagori is a word of Slavic origin and means the land “behind the mountains”. The route leads, among others the bottom of one of the deepest gorges in Europe – Vicos, with white walls up to 1300 m high. The villages passed along the way are also unusual, with perfectly preserved traditional architecture and stone roads: Papingo, Monodendri or Kapesovo.

URSA Trail

Distance: 40 km.
Elevation gain: +2700/-2700 m.
Date: 27-29.05.2022.
Additional distances: 21 km, +1150 m; 11km, +664 m; Vertical 4,7 km, + 860 m.
Start/finish: Metsovo.

Ursa Trail is also a competition held in the Pindos Mountains, in central Greece. The area is wilder than on the Zagori routes, and there are fewer villages along the way. The routes are also a bit easier technically, with a predominance of forest trails. Until last year, the 100 km distance was also held at the end of August. Apparently it will not be organized anymore, but I believe that the organizer will change his mind. It was a beautiful tour! 

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Lost Trail

Distance: 57 km.
Elevation gain: +4200/-4200 m.
Date: 18.09.2022.
Additional distances: none.
Start/finish: Litochoro.

The competition is held in autumn on the eastern slopes of Mount Olympus, with the start and finish in Litochoro. The route is full of beautiful forest single tracks, it rises to a maximum height of 2,100 m (i.e. low for Olympus), so it is relatively technically easy and mostly runnable. There is also no danger of heat in September and the weather is usually very favorable. 

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Sfakia Sky Marathon

Distance: 43 km.
Elevation gain: +3000/-2400 m.
Date: październik 2022.
Additional distances: Vertical 4,5 km, +690m.
Start: Loutro, finish: Anopoli.

A completely unique competition in Crete. The competitors start from sea level (directly from the ferry) and run to the highest peak of the White Mountains – Pachnes (2454). The landscape in the area of the highest peaks (there are many of them) is completely lunar – the only such place on a European scale. There are also amazing views of the Libyan Sea with countless bays (like there is no fog, of course).

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ROUT Classic 100 miles

Distance: 176 km.
Elevation gain: +9000/-9000 m.
Date: 14-16.10.2022.
Additional distances: none.
Start/finish: Haidou, Rodopy.

Rodopi Ultra Trail is the first 100-mile competition in Greece (but not the only one at the moment). Played as the name suggests in the Rhodope Mountains, northern Greece, close to the border with Bulgaria. In a way, the region resembles the Polish Bieszczady – it is also a historical area of ethnic cleansing (only on a larger scale than in Poland), so, similarly to the Bieszczady Mountains, it is completely empty. There is only one village on the entire route. Relatively young oak forests and soft paths predominate (a rarity in Greece), and due to the autumn season the slogan of the competition is “Hello Darkness …”

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Taygetos Challenge

Distance: 37 km.
Elevation gain: +2154/-2154 m.
Date: 27.03.2022.
Additional distances: 20 km, +1089 m; 10 km, +460; Vertical 0,650 km +150 m.
Start/finish: Kardamili

The competition takes place in the western part of the Peloponnese, in the heart of the historic Mani land – famous for its gray stone architecture and the so-called residential towers. The starting point – the village of Kardamili is beautifully situated in a coastal valley surrounded by the Tajget Mountains. The route runs initially through olive groves, then through mixed forests. There are also some old villages along the way. A dozen or so kilometers before the finish line is a continuous downhill, with the Mediterranean Sea on the horizon.

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Rogkas

Distance: 26 km.
Elevation gain: +1880/-1880 m.
Date: 29.01.2023.
Additional distances: none.
Start/finish: Litochoro.

Winter competition on Olympus. Winter in the case of Greece means that the chances of snow are small (although this year 1/4 of the route was covered with snow), and the temperature may be 10-15 degrees C. The route is perfectly configured, full of interesting ascents and long and very fast downhills. Forest paths, mostly soft, with few rocks (except the last descent which is super rocky!).

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Corfu Mountain Trail

Distance: 112 km.
Elevation gain: +5000/-5000 m.
Date: 7-8.05.2022.
Additional distances: 40 km, +2200m; 20 km, +1200 m; 10km, +300 m.
Start: Ipsos Port, finish: Messonghi Beach Hotel

Corfu is the northernmost Greek island in the Ionian Sea. Western winds bring heavy rainfall there (much more than in Poland), therefore the island is very green; it also has a large number of olive groves, and olive trees there are exceptionally high (even 20 m). This race takes place in such conditions. Initially, the route runs through the highest mountains on the island and has beautiful narrow paths, while olive groves predominate in the second part of the route. It’s just that the roads among the olive groves are covered with asphalt or concrete. It is an ultra mountain run with the highest percentage of asphalt I have had the pleasure to participate in (something like the Polish Lemkowyna).

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Olympus Marathon

Distance: 44 km.
Elevation gain: +3300/-3000 m.
Date: 24-26.06.2022.
Additional distances: Olympus Ultra 70 km; Kopsi ton Aeton 14 km; Melindra Trail 5 km; Olympus Vertical 4,25 km +1000 m
Start: Dion, finish: Litochoro.

The most prestigious and most international Greek competition. The Gkeek runners always starts there, often also very good foreign participants. The entire first half of the route (20 km) is one great ascent from sea level to the Plateau of Muses (approx. 2600 m up). Then there is a breakneck and technically hellish descent, and finally a no less difficult “flat” section (continuous descents and ascents, although relatively short). Noteworthy is also the longer distance (which is treated as less important), leading in part along much less known, but beautiful, paths.

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Faethon Sky Race

Distance: 25 km.
Elevation gain: +1800/-1800 m.
Date: 10.07.2022.
Additional distances: 14 km
Start/finish: Kokkinopilos.

The competition, which had a marathon distance until the previous year, was shortened this year to 25 km. The route follows rarely traveled “paths” in the western part of Mount Olympus. The paths are in quotation marks, because for a large part of the route there is no path, you just run on stones, although the route is well marked, with signs permanently painted on the stones. Start and finish in the traditional village of Kokkinopilos at an altitude of 1000 m.

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Ultra Trail Pelion

Distance: 80 km.
Elevation gain: +4280/-4280 m.
Date: 19-20.11.2022.
Additional distances: 23 km.
Start/finish: Portaria-Makrinitsa.

The Pelion peninsula is located in central Greece, near the city of Volos. There are huge stretches of deciduous forests and, of course, mountains (1700 m). The land is also known for many dark myths. The competition takes place at the end of November, so it can be a bit dark and sometimes even cold. The trails are mostly soft forest paths, full of leaves at this time of the year. In the vicinity of the villages there are huge amounts of oranges, apples (already slightly overripe) and olives.

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Gulag 100

Distance: 167 km.
Elevation gain: +14260/-14260 m.
Date: 15-17.04.2022.
Dodatkowe dystanse: 33 km, +2870 m.
Start/finish: Ag. Ioanis/Litochoro

Worldwide unique competitions. The numbers speak for themselves, this is not a mistake, the elevation gain is over 14,000. meters! The route consists of 5 loops of 33 km, each subsequent one covered in the opposite direction. In addition, there are two powerful and steep ascents along the way, one with a difference in level of 1000 m (over a distance of 5 km), the other 700 m. The limit of 48 hours to complete the entire route means that it is an extremely difficult competition. No wonder that during the two editions held so far, only 4 competitors (in total) reached the finish line!

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Karya Olympus Trail

Distance: 25 km.
Elevation gain: +1500/-1500 m.
Date: 22.05.2022.
Additional distances: 9 km.
Start/finish: Karya.

The competition takes place on the southern, much less forested slopes of Mount Olympus. For this reason, the route is full of beautiful views and open spaces. Interestingly, for the purposes of the competition, the local organizers built almost the entire route from scratch or brought back to life paths that had not been used for a long time. Thanks to this, the competitors have the opportunity to run on routes specially prepared for running (a huge number of bends is, for example, properly profiled). Start and finish in a small village lost among the mountains.

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Goumarostali Vetical Mile

Distance: 4,7 km.
Elevation gain: +1520m
Date: 2.10.2022
Additional distances: none.
Start: Prionia/Litochoro, finish: Muses Plateau.

The world’s only (!) One mile vertical competition. There are many vertical kilometer competitions, but ITRA only scores one vertical mile. To say the route is steep is to say nothing. At first through the forest, then all the time along a sharp ridge, with chasms on both sides. At the end there is also a part of real rock climbing (but secured with a rope).

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Hydra Trail Event

Distance: 38 km.
Elevation gain: +2000/-2000 m
Date: 9-10.04.2022
Additional distances: 18 km, +1015m; 5 km, +156 m; children run.
Start/finish: Hydra

An competition on the island with no cars. This year, for the first time, the distance of 38 km will appear, so far the longest route was 18 km. The most beautiful competition course I ‘ve ever seen!

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Amorgos Trail Challenge

Distance: 19 km.
Elevation gain: +850/-900 m.
Date: 29-30.04.2022.
Additional distances: 7,5 km, +350m; vertical; children run.
Start: Monastery of Panagia Hozoviotissa, finish: Aegiali Bay.

Amorgos is one of the islands of the Cyclades archipelago, located at its southern tip. It is famous for its beautiful colors and … the blue of the sea. Deep Blue movie was shooting there (among others). Apart from the main distance, vertical is going to be interesting, which is not exactly vertical, because you also have to run down. Only that there is no path at all, you can run upstairs and down in any way you want.

Upcoming plans:

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Tihio Race

Distance: 100 km. (stage race - 3 days)
Elevation gain: +5350/-5350 m.
Date: 13-15.05.2022.
Additional distances: 51 km, +2850 m; 30 km, +1530 m; 20 km, 900 m.
Start: Tihio Doridos, Fokida County, South Greece

Tihio Diskouri is a small village in the mountains of southern Greece, near the Gulf of Corinth. The small village organizes several different moutain running competitions throughout the year (including Greece’s longest trail running competition – 250 km in September) and even mountain bike competitions. The stage race, which I mentioned first, is a rarity.

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