September 17, 2013

Hunter Gatherer Ultramarathons and Survival Runs

Race director Josue Stephens
The world of distance running has been brimming with new events rivaling in creativity and magnificent settings. From jungles to forests to deserts, ultra runners now have a wide choice of quality races to choose from and experience. Our friends at Fuego Y Agua Events have been contributing a lot of these beautiful, unique events with races such as the Fuego Y Agua Ultra, on the slopes of Nicaragua’s volcanoes and, of course, Ultra Marathon Caballo Blanco in the Copper Canyons of Mexico.

Fuego Y Agua director Josue Stephens has also been working on a new breed of events, races for runners who want to push themselves beyond the long distances and test their bodies to a new extreme; he’s been hard at work creating “survival” events. He took a couple moments to explain his ideas and talk about his latest creation, the Hunter Gatherer Survival Run to be held next October 5 in Texas.

Q. Josue, what the hell is wrong with you?
  • Well Flint, not sure what to say there, guess I got the ultra bug, adventure race bug and obstacle racing bug all at the same time!

  • I grew up in a fairly alternative lifestyle as a gypsy missionary kid. We traveled all over Central America, living in tents, shacks, cars, converted bread trucks, in the jungle with tribes, you name it!

  • My dad always encouraged us to be adventurous and I read a lot about the Native Americans, outdoor survival skills etc.. We also lived some years in the Chihuahua Copper Canyons amongst the Tarahumara, many of them were even living in caves back then.

  • All in all, my childhood and current racing/training inspired me to create Survival Runs.

Q. Describe your typical survival race contender? Are they ultra runners looking for an additional challenge? Cross-fitters getting into distance running? Mad scruffy paleo types?
  • The definition of a “Survival Runner” is evolving. Right now it is kind of a mix of obstacle racers who want more than short gimmicky mud runs, ultra runners who want more than just running, and extreme adventure or endurance racers who want to take on the next challenge.

Q. What will Hunter Gatherer feature in terms of challenges?
  • The basis (theme) of this race is the Hunter Gatherer way of life. So our challenges will strip the athlete down to the nitty gritty basics and put them in survival situations through the entire course.

  • While we cannot reveal all of the obstacles/challenges on the course, the runners begin with no shoes and are required to make their own sandals to run the course. Runners cannot carry a pack and are required to make their own carrying implement. They will also be filtering their own water and carrying their own food.

  • In addition to 50km or 100km runs and other brutal physical challenges, some of the survival challenges will revolve around making fire with a bowdrill, making and shooting a bow and arrow, harvesting and identifying native plants and more…

Q. You pioneered the scene of “survival” running with the Fuego Y Agua Survival Challenge last year, which I understand had all of 4 contenders finishing. Will Hunter Gatherer be as brutal?
  • Survival Run Nicaragua 2013 had 40 starters and only 2 finishers, it was absolutely brutal with a very agressive time cutoff of 20 hours for 70km.

  • Survival Run Hunter Gatherer cutoffs are a bit more lenient with 18 hours for the 50k and 34 hours for the 100k. However, because of the nature of the challenges, we don’t expect too many more finishers.

An amazing athlete:
Johnson Cruz
Q. Tell me more about Nicaraguan champion Johnson Cruz. Will he attend the race?
  • Johnson Cruz is from Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua, where the Fuego y Agua Ultras & Survival Run take place. In 2009 he won the Fuego y Agua 50k with no race experience at all. He went on to win the 2012 50k, then the 2013 Survival Run. He is now in the US for 6 months training and racing ultras and obstacle course races.

  • Johnson’s main job at home is working on his father’s plantain farm. On an average training day at home, he wakes up for a 10+ mile run, works all day harvesting plantains, goes for a noon swim, works some more, then goes on an evening run, sometimes topping it off with a track workout or bike ride.

  • Johnson is headed for the Vermont Spartan Race Championships this September, then plans on racing Hunter Gatherer before heading home in Mid-October.

Q. What are ordinary runners like me to do at an event like Hunter Gatherer? Will we be persistence hunted, then eaten?
  • The point of offering the “run-only” 50km and 100km distances is for the Survival Runners to have something to hunt. Just kidding :)

  • However, the “run-only” ultras will not be easy, they are on the same tough terrain as the Survival Runs, will only have two drop bag locations and also require the runner to bring their own water filter.

I'm officially scared.

Hunter Gatherer is an extreme survival obstacle course to be held October 5 in Camp Eagle, Rocksprings, Texas. It will feature a 50K and a 100K course designed for the toughest, wildest and strongest of runners looking for an extreme challenge. And I will be there to witness the madness, and, who knows, maybe take part?

More Information can be found at Fuego Y Agua, LLC.

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