Tengri Ultra Trail: interview with RD Timur Artyukhin

The 2nd edition of Kazakhstan's maiden trail race, the Tengri Ultra Trail in the country's east and close to Almaty, is scheduled for 8 May. What was suggested months ago has recently been confirmed: the longest race distance has been extended to 70km and will be an 8-shape loop, with shorter distances of 35km and 15km also on the programme. Venue is still the campsite at the Ili River bank called Tamgaly Tas, where all participants can camp overnight. The course features grasslands, rocky climbs and canyons with high snowpeaked mountains looming in the background. Race registration is open via our website here and more details here. Below is a translation of an interview done by the Kazakh site Athletex with the event's race director Timur Artyukhin. 

Tengri Ultra Trail 2016  - What can you expect from Central Asia’s Leading Ultra?

Taken from Аthletex.kz / Translated from Russian by Pavel Toropov

The preparation to the unique ultra Tengri Ultra has started. Аthletex.kz decided to find out what can trailrunning enthusiasts expect this year, and so we asked one of the organizers of Tengri Ultra, Timur Artyukhin, a few questions. (Timur holds the titles of Master of Sports of Kazakhstan in orienteering, as well as that of the President of Kazakhstan Association of Skyrunning and Trailrunning). 

Hello Timur, could you tell us how you became an ultra runner?

It was very sudden! In grade 9 (15 years old) I barely passed the PE exam for 500m and so I decided to set things straight. I started by running 1 – 2km every morning. A year later I made it into the orienteering team of my city, and I started to train seriously. My first long race was an orienteering competition in East Kazakhstan and I had to cover the distance within 3 hours. These three hours seemed like an eternity to me, but I realized that I liked it. I started intensive preparations, training, reading up on the sport. The result was that I became a double nationallong-distance orienteering champion (8 hours of running, two man team), took part in 5 races around 100km in distance and in October 2015 I came 10th in a 110km ultra in Kapadokkia in Turkey.

Why do you like trail running?

It is the healthiest way to run, as well as the most interesting and the most productive. You run on natural trails, which is less damaging compared with running on concrete. Doing a trail run you are often surrounded by tremendous views, in nature, which you don’t get running in the concrete jungle.

You spend more effort running trail than road, which has a good effect on boosting your speed and endurance. Running on flat road after trail you feel faster than if you had only trained on the track and in the park. Another key part is the fresh air, which is something you don’t get when running in large cities. 

Did you get to see by yourself how popular trailrunning is outside Kazakhstan?

Yes, of course. I visited many countries, within and outside the former ex-USSR, and I can say with confidence that trailrunning is growing in popularity by day. People have an ever greater desire to get out of the concrete boxes where they spend most of their lives. To give you an example, I once raced in Sweden, and there were more than 20,000 participants! That would be great attendance even for a city marathon.

How did you get the idea to organize an ultra in Kazakhstan?

I wanted to share the emotions that I experience during an ultra with other people. There is great saying by a famous ultra-marathoner Dean Karnazes: “If you want to run, run a mile, if you want to experience a different life, run a marathon, if you want to talk to God, run an ultra.”

Travelling around the world, doing different races, I realized that Kazakhstan has more places where you can do hard, interesting, beautiful and long ultras, than in a lot of other countries. We have mountains, deserts and alpine grasslands. These thoughts led me to the idea to create an ultra in the great steppes - Tengri Ultra Trail.

How did you select the location and make the course for the first Tengri Ultra last year?

I wanted to show the people that there are new and interesting places right“next door”. I wanted to find a little-visited place, and make an interesting course, not too difficult. After having gone through suitable locations we settled on the region of Tamagly Tas – here you have a section of the ancient Silk Road, a real steppe and also the beautiful Ili River.

It is very convenient that the entire race course is accessible by car. This is also important to ensure the safety of the participants.

Who are the people who had the courage to take part in a racing event so unusual for Kazakhstan?

It was a very interesting selection of people. We had professional athletes, businessmen, soldiers, students, housewives. People who took a decision to make a change in their lives. It was great to see people from 12 different countries who came just to take part in Tengri Ultra .

For many this ultra was their first trail race. These people had never run off-road before. After the race many said that it was exactly what had been looking for. The Kazakhstani trailrunning scene exploded after Tengri Ultra. Many people started to train specifically for trail, and also teams appeared who train and go to races together. 

What can the participants of Tengri Ultra expect this year?

They can look forward to an awesome ultramarathon, to new trails and great views of the spring grasslands. The runners will follow the Ili River, traverse canyons and will be able to see the endless expanses of the steppe from the tops of the mountains.

In 2016 we offer a greater choice of distances – 15, 35 and 70km. Our race is the only ultra and Central Asia, it is unique and should not be missed. We also prepared entertainment programs for both racers and fans. We want everyone who comes to the races get into the spirit of the race, to absorb some of the culture of the steppe nomads. 

Race Director Timur Artyukhin and race winner Georgiy Shejko

Race Director Timur Artyukhin and race winner Georgiy Shejko