This weekend, two very ambitious running events take place in the south of Crete. The first is Sfakia Sky Run 2019 , which took place today, and the second is Sfakia Vertical Run , which will take place tomorrow, Sunday, October 27. It is worth adding that the Sfakia Sky Run was organized in Crete for the first time and it is a real endurance test for runners.
The Arkalos running club under the auspices of the Sfakia commune organized the Sfakia Sky Run: Sea to Summit race for the first time. This is a special and unique sport event for Greece. As the name suggests, this race begins at sea level in Loutro and ends at Pachnes, the highest peak of the White Mountains at an altitude of 2454 meters above sea level. This race requires strength, endurance and perseverance, because you need to overcome almost 2,500 meters of distance 20.3 km Due to the specifics of the race, the safety of athletes and environmental protection, the organizers set a limit of places for a maximum of 50 participants. At the same time, this gear is like a journey from summer to winter, because the temperatures at the start are similar to summer, but at the finish (at 2454 meters) often oscillate around 5 degrees Celsius or even lower.
Although the race has already been completed, we would like to introduce you to its specifics. Participants first reached the ferry to Loutro, where the starting point was designated. The race started at 9:00. Two checkpoints and three places to regenerate have been marked out on the route. The first checkpoint was on the main square of the village of Anopoli, 4.5 km away from Loutro, where the competitors had to run in no more than 70 minutes. To people who are unfamiliar with mountain running, it may seem that the time limit was very long for this distance, but in assessing the difficulty of the route you must also take into account the high elevation (680 m) separating Loutro and the village of Anopoli.
After checking in at this checkpoint and water supply, the competitors set off on a further route to the second checkpoint, which was designated in Roussos, 17.3 km away from Loutro. Here, the elevation compared to the starting point was already 2100 m, but the difference is spread over a much longer distance, so the route was not as steep as at the first stage of the race.
After leaving Anopoli, the riders initially moved on asphalt and dirt roads, then to cover the next part of the route over 5 km along a steep and wooded path marked in the gorge called Porolangos. After the gorge, the competitors reached the next regeneration point organized at an altitude of 1608 meters. Until then, the competitors have already covered a 12 km run.
Another, over 5 km part of the route led to the last regeneration stop in Rousses, where there was also a second control point. Importantly, athletes had to check in no later than 4 hours after the start.
Before leaving for the last stage of the race, the competitors had to replenish their water supply, as it was the last stop on the route. From this point, the competitors were already running along the rocky path marked at an altitude of over 2,000 meters above sea level. For the first one and a half kilometers, it led through the mountain desert, which is a fairly unique geological phenomenon in Europe. It is a stony area of many square kilometers with rare vegetation. Here in Lefka Ori, depending on the weather and season, the wind is always very strong and frosty.
Route profile shared by one of the participants
This is the first time the competitors could see their goal. The next 2 km already formed the last "straight" before the finish line marked on Pachnes (2454 m). After reaching the top, the competitors could enjoy the southern view of the Libyan Sea and the northern panorama of the White Mountains. The weather was good and the air transparency was excellent. It is worth knowing that in this mountain range there are over 50 peaks with a height of over 2000 m and many lower. They create a really unusual landscape consisting of peaks and gorges.
The winners of this race only reached 2:51:50 to reach the top. The first woman arrived at Pachnes after 4:10:42. It is also worth adding that only 4 women participated in the race, but only 3 completed this race. Five competitors did not check in at the second checkpoint, and another five people did not reach the top despite reaching the second checkpoint. More results can be found at the following link: Sky Run 2019 - results .
After reaching the goal, the competitors equipped with thermal blankets had to turn back the same way to Rousses, where cars were waiting for them, which took them to the village of Anopoli. There, a meal of traditional Cretan dishes awaited them. The award ceremony is scheduled for 17:00. The prizes were foreseen for the first 3 men and the first 3 women and as it turned out the only ones who finished this race.
If Sky Run was too difficult a challenge for someone, he could sign up to participate and try his hand at the Sfakia Vertical Run Sunday event. This race is organized for the sixth time and basically repeats the first stage of the Sky Run route. The start of the race is marked in Loutro, and the finish in Anopoli. Tomorrow no more than 250 participants will take part in this race. Although the distance is relatively short, the 690 m elevation that you have to overcome is a good test for your own endurance and strength. It is worth noting that in previous editions of this race the best competitors ran to the finish in less than 38 minutes.
Loutro visible from the path leading to Anopoli
The race begins after the ferry, which the competitors arrive, leaves the gate. Each of them, after reaching the church of Agia Ekaterini, which is at the top of the path, should strike the bell. Only later you can beat the last part of the route, i.e. reaching Anopoli. As in the case of the Sky Run, after the race the awards and refreshments will take place on the square in Anopoli.