One of the most unique adventure races that I’ve ever seen is now underway in Europe. Yesterday, the Red Bull X-Alps began in Salzburg, Austria, where 31 athletes took to the starting line. Once the gun went off, they embarked on an 1138 km (707 mile) journey that will end when they reach the principality of Monaco. In between, they’ll have to remain self supported as they travel by foot and paraglider from start to finish, crossing 7 different countries along the way
Yep, you read that right, paraglider. One of the things that separates this race from so many others is that competitors must trek/trail run across wide open spaces as they scramble up various mountains, reach the summit, and then set-up their paragliders, before launching themselves into the air. They’ll then glide as long and as far as they can before setting down, and beginning the entire process again. On their way to Monaco, they’ll have to pass through a series of checkpoints, but other than that, they are free to choose which ever route suits their strategy in order to get there.
That isn’t the only thing that makes this race unique. Other interesting elements include the elimination of the last-placed athlete at the end of every 48 hours, which serves as an incentive for the racers to keep moving. Race directors have also enforced a mandatory dark zone between sunset and sunrise, although racers can use a “night pass” that allows them to ignore that rule for one night during the race. On the first day of racing, three individuals chose to use their night pass to get them off and running at a rapid pace.
Poor weather has reportedly made for tough going at the start of the event. The competitors first ran to the top of the Gaisberg, a 1287 meter (4222 ft) peak that served as the first launching point for the gliders. But, stormy conditions have made flying a difficult and dangerous proposition at the moment, although things are expected to improve soon.
So how ling will it take the fastest athletes to complete the course? The is the longest edition of the X-Alps ever, but to give you an idea of how fast these racers are, Chrigel Maurer holds the speed record for the event, reaching the finish line in 6 days, 23 hours, and 40 minutes. In other words, the quickest athletes will reach Monaco in about a week.
You can follow all of the action for yourself on the Redbull X-Alps official website. Really interesting stuff.
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