It’s a project that has been growing for a few years in Luca's mind... and which is finally blooming: "We took the decision in March this year, during our stay in the Canary Islands", Philippe tells us. "Luca imagined this trip and I was directly hooked up by the madness of the project! ».
What a challenge: running in barely a week, 762km and 34 780m of cumulative elevation gain on the GR131 routes. It's a done deal: Luca Papi and Philippe Verdier are in.
Luca Papi, the Canary Islands lover, who runs 25km every day to get to work, is always looking for new challenges, each time crazier. His last big challenge was in September, when he went for 3 editions of the Transgrancanaria 360
Philippe Verdier is also used to long runs in extreme conditions. His prize list includes classics such as the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc (7th in 2004), the Diagonale des Fous, the MARATHON DES SABLES... Just like Luca, he is able to link up sporting feats. Philippe Verdier is also the founder of the No Finish Line, a charity race which works to support underprivileged children.
This will not be their first time together, as in August 2019, they won the “Échappée Belle” as a duo. A 144km and 11,100m elevation gain race in the Belledonne massif.
This time, it’s an “off the record” challenge the two friends will tackle the different islands composing the Canary archipelago, off the coast of Morocco.
What’s the programme?
More than 750km, 34,000m positive elevation gain and 8 islands to cover.
On the programme, there are some very challenging stages, including on the island of Fuerteventura, which Luca knows well for attending the HALF MARATHON DES SABLES. Another difficult stage will take place on La Palma, the most feared by the two men, with 174km and nearly 11,000m elevation, after having already covered more than 500km.
Stage 1 - La Graciosa: 28.4km and 474 m+.
Stage 2 - Lanzarote: 70.8km and 1,578 m+.
Stage 3 - Fuerteventura: 159km and 3,647 m+.
Stage 4 - Gran Canaria: 84.5km and 4,869 m+.
Stage 5 - Tenerife: 122km and 6,707 m+.
Stage 6 - La Gomera: 81.1km and 4,684 m+.
Stage 7 - La Palma: 174km and 10,819 m+.
Stage 8 - El Hierro: 42.8km and 2,002 m+.
"Timing is going to be very tight on some islands" forestall Luca.
Even if it’s off the record, the particularity of this challenge is that there are precise timings to respect. They are imposed to the runners by the schedules of the boats they have to catch to be able to go from an island to another.
For each stage, the two friends must arrive on time. "If we miss a boat, in the best case, we will take the next one, but that means that we have to be even faster on the next island to catch up." Luca tells us. The best thing remains not to miss any connexion to avoid complicating a hard enough adventure.
Progress as a duo: a notion that requires a particular race management.
Indeed, the two men will have to adapt to each other, adjusting their speed but also their recovery brakes. As a duo, "the performance calculated in a given time is always based on the slower of the two", explains Philippe. "Luca is an excellent climber and I am more comfortable on the slope. To avoid downtimes, you have to slow down and adapt to the speed of your team-mate".
As for the recovery times, there will be very few of them during the race. The main ones will be on the ferries while connecting from an island to another.
Such a challenge is not something to be prepared lightly in terms of material. When you plan to cover more than 700km, it's better to avoid having an itchy t-shirt or forgetting something. But being used to this kind of adventure, the two men know exactly how to handle it.
For Philippe, "it will be very light", and adjustable depending of the island. His equipment will be composed of the Ultrabag 3l, a frontal, a survival blanket and the Ultra Light Jacket 2.0. On other islands, such as Tenerife, where the temperatures will be cooler due to the altitude, he plans to add a pair of gloves, a cap and a warmer jacket. He will also swap his 3l for the Ultrabag 5l in order to increase his carrying capacity of water during some stages.
Luca will go with the same equipment he used during his last trip to the Canaries: the Ultrabag 20L, an Ultra Carrier Shirt 3.0 and an Ultra Short 3in1, without forgetting his mythical visor which accompanies him in all his adventures!
To get water and food, they will be helped by a few friends, but for the most part, they will stop by small shops on their way.
Nevertheless, they will always have enough to last at least 12 hours in self-sufficiency, for the most technical courses, in the middle of nature, where access will be difficult for the team who will assist them along the way.
The question we all ask ourselves: how do you prepare for a 762km race with 34km elevation? Which program, frequency of training, distances, preparation for the elevation, etc...
Well, nothing special, at least nothing more than usual for Philippe and Luca. Knowing that Luca has already ran 10,000km in 2019, it makes you feel more confident.
Philippe would have liked to focus on his uphill trainings, but the current curfew and overall context didn’t help.
The starting line
The much expected start of this fantastic journey will take place this Sunday, November 22nd, at 9am, on the island of La Graciosa, for the first stage. A course of 28,4km and 474m of elevation gain that they plan to complete in a little bit more than 3 hours; enough to get into shape for what’s coming next.
See you this Sunday on our social media to follow the adventures of Philippe and Luca.