After hearing the crazy stories of this 24h race called Zamieć in the south of Poland in winter conditions, I decided I would follow Chloe (and a bunch of other runners) to find out myself just why this race is something everyone should have done at least once (ok honestly I wasn’t there for the race at all but Chloe would be there, yay!). After two flights (not justifiable for this distance, I will find an alternative next time, even simply driving there wouldn’t have taken that much longer) and some delays, we arrived in Katowice (where the climate summit just took place, the irony of flying there for a weekend wasn’t lost on me). There the scheduled train apparently broke down and was replaced with a soviet-model from the local museum, complete with retired tour-guide and all. Or at least that’s what it looked like. A few hours later, we all happily arrived at the restaurant and apartment and, like responsible grown-ups, went to sleep at a sensible time to get some rest for race-day.

Zamieć, I found out after the race, means blizzard. Joy. The concept of the race is genius in all its simplicity, doing as much loops as you can in 24 hours. The route starts at the race HQ in an unpronounceable Polish town (Szczyrk at 500m elevation), going up an unpronounceable mountaintop (Skrzyczne at 1250m elevation), making a loop of 13,5k and 700m elevation. To do a race in these conditions, having all participants on such a short trajectory surely gives a sense of safety. The race HQ has everything needed, a place to leave your dropbag, potatoes with garlic sauce, pasta, coffee, friendly volunteers and a stage that was even more slippery than the route…

Going up during that first loop, stumbling and sliding our way up the hill, it became clear pretty quickly I would be happy with just a participation medal. Doing just one loop in these conditions is already quite an achievement. The largest portion of the loop follows forest trails, so we were sheltered from the weather. Once we were warmed up and all sweaty, we got close to the skiing slope higher up (at 1100m) and were greeted by a sharp cold wind. Up, up, up to the summit checkpoint to speed downhill again through snowdrift and more biting wind to get back to the welcoming shelter of the forest. Interestingly, the flat bits were hardest going. In some races you have the feeling the miles just tick away. No such a thing here. With every step there was a risk of misplacing your foot, so constant care needed (but wasn’t always) to be taken. 12 hours, countless falls and only 3 loops later, Chloe and I decided we might as well have a nice weekend here in Poland. So we actually did something sensible, head to the apartment which was only 500m from the start, took a warm bath to bring life back to various body parts and surrendered to a welcoming sleep for a luxurious few hours. At 6am we got up again for our victory lap, which did in a (personal) record breaking sub 3 hours.

Summarizing, if you want an unbeatable money-for-value race (65eur for a t-shirt, a mug, a medal, potatoes with garlic sauce, pasta and lard and of course endless fun in the snow), this race should be on the top of your list. Don’t forget your micro-spikes though 😉

Mervyn Van Gompel