‘Brutal’ is how the organisers of The Coastal Challenge Costa Rica
describe the 236K, 6-day race that took place this February on Costa Rica’s tropical Pacific coast. Perfect, then, for endurance runner Susie Chan, who has spent the last few years seeking out the world’s toughest ultras and multi-stage races, and putting her mental and physical strength to the absolute test.
So it was that Susie flew out to San José to begin the adventure that would take her along golden sand beaches, through dense jungle, across rivers and over coastal mountains in extreme heat and humidity – a highly challenging course, in spectacular yet demanding terrain.
One of the top trail running races in the world, The Coastal Challenge Costa Rica offers two options: the full Expedition Run of 236km, and the Adventure Run of 155km. With the Tokyo Marathon on the cards just one week after Costa Rica, Susie opted for the Adventure Run in order to save her legs for Japan – especially given that the Tokyo Marathon represents one of the six World Marathon Majors, which she is set to complete this year and become one of only 130 women to do so.
Tokyo was far from her mind, however, as Susie tackled the six gruelling stages of The Coastal Challenge. Pushing herself to the edge of her comfort zone in territory better suited to snakes and spiders – which, she admits, terrify her – Susie discovered diverse beauty in a small pocket of the world and experienced the wonderful camaraderie of a multi-stage race.
All the heat chamber training that Susie had endured in London prior to her trip became worth it, her regular Tweets and video uploads describing the extreme heat of the Costa Rican tropics. Added to the steep terrain, there was a point on Day 5 when even Susie could only cover 8 miles in two hours. But this is a race with stunning views, dramatic scenery and sparkling seas around every corner, and Susie is never short of a smile during what is clearly an incredible week.
So, how did Susie do? She only came home with the tropical trophy for the Adventure Category! An outstanding accomplishment, Susie won the Adventure Run with a time of 18:46:46.9. She won both the Female and the Overall categories, almost 1 ¾ hours ahead of the second placed female and 2 ¾ hours ahead of the first placed male. Congratulations, Susie! Those cold beers at the end with your fellow runners could not have been more deserved.
Susie commented, “I am over the moon to have won the Adventure Run at The Coastal Challenge. It was a really tough race but the atmosphere was absolutely superb, with everyone on your side and willing you to cross the finish line. I met some inspirational people and had the most fantastic tent mate, elite runner Elisabet Barnes
, who gave me huge support every step of the way. Costa Rica is a breathtaking country and I feel privileged to have run through parts of it that I know few people do; the people are incredibly friendly and I can’t thank them enough for welcoming us to the race.
“Huge thanks also to Run Ultra for organising such a brilliant race and for my award, which I am immensely proud of. It was a truly unforgettable experience.”
Photos courtesy of Run Ultra and Ian Corless.