At each of my 202020 runs I will hope to track down one or two of the fine folk who toed the start line with me and find out what the race meant to them.
When I noticed that one of the other runners on Country to the Capital with me hailed from Kyrgyzstan, I just had to track him down. Some of my early breakthrough pieces in travel writing saw me off to the Central Asian countries of the Silk Route as they emerged from their Soviet status. These nations are universally spacious, often have vast and untampered wildernesses and in the mountains some of the most spectacular trekking anywhere on the globe. Kyrgyzstan’s fabled valley of Osh is still on my list, though I have been lucky enough to travel through various stans as editor of Travel IQ and contributor to CNN Traveller.
As I long to revisit the Tien-Shan mountains and know that those trails would be soul food perfection, I felt a little diffident asking Talant Abdyldaev about how much fun he had scooting along the Grand Union canal and the back end of London, but that question proved rewarding on man levels, not least because I discovered a man with an interesting and quick rise through ultras who can already lay claim to one of the sought after golden prize hauls of 100 mile running.
- What brought you to the UK?
The reason I am currently in UK is my wife, Ainura’s, study. She received scholarship from Johnson & Johnson Foundation to complete a Master’s program at University of Oxford in International Health.
Right after we arrived to Oxford in autumn 2018 I ran the Oxford half marathon. It was my first official race in UK.
Later, I discovered Centurion running and signed up for Wendover Woods 50 (WW50). I found it very well organized and noticed that all Centurion’s races are extremely popular and sell quickly. WW50 was my fifth Ultra since I started running regularly in 2016 and I now felt ready to think about a 100- miler. The choice was simple – Centurion’s Thames Path100. Before I ran TP100, I saw that the other hundred milers by Centurion were selling actively and so I decided to sign up for the rest. From May to August 2019, I completed all of them and earnt Grand Slam 100. I would rate them – in terms of enjoyment – as follows: South Downs Way, North Downs Way, Autumn, Thames Path.
All hundred milers were very hard for me, taking a long time to finish. But, anyway, I became the first and only Kyrgyz ultrarunner who completed a one hundred miler.
- Why did you choose to run C2C?
A friend of mine, Steven Sidhu, ran C2C last year and he offered to run it together with me. I thought a 43-mile Ultra might be a good opening start to the running season.
- What were your main objectives from the race?
Nothing special. I expected my finish time to be between 8 and 9 hours. Did it in 8h 12m.
- Did you enjoy C2C? Why? What did you think of the route?
Yes, I got a nice impression except, all the rubbish lying along the Canal in the last miles.
The flat and unchanging second part of the route was not a problem for me although the first half is more interesting, of course.
- Your race looked like a pub-to-pub with a social at the end. Was that part of the appeal?
Hmm, I would say “yes”. Having a beer at the end and chatting with other finishers is a nice way to reward yourself.
- Were you impressed with the event support, and the Go Beyond team?
Comparing Go Beyond to the Centurion team, Go Beyond seemed weaker, however I had everything I need, no prob. The only thing I would suggest is to have Cola and apple slices at the checkpoints.
- What previous endurance races (marathon and ultra) have you done, can recommend?
I highly recommend Cappadocia Ultra, member of UTWT. Best organization, delicious food, historical place included in UNESCO heritage.
[I was pleased to hear this. Cappadocia Ultra has a tremendous reputation and is in a setting I am longing to run in. I couldn’t fit it into my Run 202020 schedule, so I found a compromise, with Manavgat Ultra, also in Turkey, my next endurance event. Before travelling back from Turkey, I am going off to Cappadocia to run some of the trails there and soak in the amazing geology.]
- What is it like to run in Kyrgyzstan? Have you participated in events there? Are there any you would recommend for runner tourists?
Silk Road marathon was my first marathon. Foreigners wishing to run it have to come one week in advance to acclimatise because the altitude there is 1650 metres.
There is Kashka Suu mountain half marathon in September. I ran it twice.
Kyrgyzstan is one of the best destinations for hiking and trail running although we don’t have a long history of running events. I would say, we are at the beginning of a running boom. Last three years the number of runners has increased rapidly.
The first Ultra trail (50K) is going to be coming this summer, at the south shore of Issyk Kul lake.
- What endurance events are you planning in the year ahead?
I have registrations for NDW50 in May and Skole Ultra in Ukraine in June.
There is North Downs Ridge 50k in March. I will probably go for it as well.
The North Downs Ridge, from Freedom Racing is on 22nd March. That looks like a really good first ultra as well as a pace tester for those with more experience.
Skole Ultra Trail, aka The Gorgany Ultra Trail, 13-14 June 2020 looks a real beauty. There are distances up to 101km. Below is a very tempting event video. The location, found from the city of Lviv is far away from the Russian dominated part of the country. That’s another one for the list. I have made a diary note, so perhaps we will catch up with Talant again following it.
Centurion’s events are once again selling out or sold out for 2020 but there are a few places left. I am doing the Wendover Woods 50, where I hope to meet some runners completing Centurion’s 50 grand slam. There are still entry places in this one at the time of writing.
In a bit of a coup, Centurion’s elite Track 100-mile event has secured the entry of the 100 mile and 12-hour world record holder Zach Bitter. 18th April, Ashford, Kent.