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Cappadocia: A race through a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Cappadocia lies in Central Anatolia, largely in Nevsehir Province of central Turkey. The ground consists of a high plateau over 1000 m in altitude that is pierced by volcanic peaks. Ancient volcanoes approximately 9 to 3 million years ago underlie the Cappadocia region. Eruption and erosion created the spectacular pillars and chimney-like forms.

Fire, wind and rain!

However, it was also human ingenuity that has given Cappadocia its magical aesthetic. Cappadocia was on the historic Silk Road trading route. Century after century, the area was raided and invaded by expanding European empire builders; The Hittites, the Persians, Alexander the Great, the Romans, the Byzantines, and the Ottomans.

After bringing the Persian Empire to an end, Alexander the Great tried to rule the area through one of his military commanders. Around 60 BC, Cappadocia became a Roman province. During this Roman period, persecuted Christians fled to the town of Göreme in Cappadocia.  They soon discovered the soft tuff  rock could easily be excavated and they built homes and churches and entire underground cities, with up to 10 storeys, in the chimneys. The region became a monastic site FROM 300- 1200AD.

Now the region is a tourist haven. The transfer from the airport was 45mins to arriving in Ürgüp.

Our hotel was amazing.

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We had a day before the race so I did a little jog out but sprinted back followed closely by some dogs. They were actually being more friendly than aggressive but at the time instinct prevailed. We then got our race bibs.

It was so well organised. In the compulsory kit check was trainers and I had flip flops on. I said you’ll have to believe me when I say I have them.

It got dark about 7pm and so as we headed to the pasta party the stars where coming out.

The race started at 7am. We got up at 5am and had a coffee and a homemade flapjack. We were all set.

 

Nervous smiles!

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I carried the compulsory kit and a selection of gels from Komfuel and 32Gi. My energy levels were spot on. Although my stomach began to cave in towards the end….

Me (before the race): ‘Do you need a final poo?’

My stomach: ‘No’

Me: ‘Ok good lets go and race’

My stomach (10km from the end): ‘I think I need to go now’

Me: ‘What? Are you telling me we’ve carried an extra kilo around this whole time? Typical I race for 6hrs and then you say I do need that poo!’

The conversations you have as a runner!

Anyway back to the start. It was a steep uphill and I was definitely blowing out backwards. My lack of leg speed after practicing going slow and long all summer was showing through. I lost the girl who won here! Anyway with 64km and 2000m of elevation to go I thought I still had a chance obviously! We started with the runners who were doing the 119km route. It was a great atmosphere.

The first aid station was at Ibrahimpasa 11km. I felt as though I still hadn’t really got going. It was a real effort but then the terrain never changed and I realised it was actually a pretty punishing course.

Rollercoaster hills

…..constantly up and down wore the legs down. The profile didn’t really depict this.

I was running with many people. I got the opportunity to catch up with people I raced with in Iran at the Geopark trail, in Kazakhstan at the TengriUltra and in Russia at the Golden Ring Ultra. It was so good.

I had the goal to break the course record so I was trying to stick to a set pace and not go off too fast but I also didn’t want to leave anything on the course. I wanted to push hard so it was tough finding a rhythm. The next check point was at 28km so the 10miles between checkpoints took us through the Zemi Valley, Goreme and the Pigeon Valley, before reaching Uchisar. If you didn’t look up it was easy to detour off the trail because it wound through caves and down narrow river beds. The next stage was 8km of sandy tracks to Goreme and I felt I could push on through the Love Valley (honestly it was really called that!). Then the hills returned – 500m in 12km to Cavusin (checkpoint 4). I got stuck behind a dog who seemed to want to join the runners on their route. The problem was as I bent over to put my hands on my thighs to climb my head was at the corresponding height of his anus! It was no good…I had to push passed him which he conceded to. I then imagined he wasn’t that amused as I bent over to continue climbing (although knowing dogs he probably didn’t mind at all! ?).

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A nice downhill to checkpoint 5, Akdag, which was very welcome after what felt like 400m in 4miles but wasn’t quite as bad as that. My legs didn’t really want to pick up much pace but I kept pushing on in case the leading lady could be caught. I had no idea how far in front she was.

The last stage only had 122m of height gain in 9km but it was in the form of a gradual ascent to quite unrelenting. I was pleased to be finishing but did spare a thought for those runners doing the long course who had to head out to do another loop somewhere. The finish was down the cobbled streets into Ürgüp. I was the 2nd woman. 6hrs 22min. 8th overall. 

 

Thank you to the race organisers for having me. It was an incredible venue with superb organisation and such a friendly atmosphere meeting old and new friends alike.

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Jo Meek
Jo Meek
An early riser who likes to make the most of each and every day ❤️ Run ? Run

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