Being a little competitive when it comes to sports and fitness is a good thing. Science backs this up: One study, for example, in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that when cyclists on stationary bikes were told they were up against a cyclist in the next room (and they could view that cyclist's avatar on a screen in front of them) they peddled significantly faster. And though competing against a simulated stranger works, so too does competing against yourself—constantly trying to one up your PR, competing with Bob from marketing by exchanging split times in the break room, and competing against everyone else at the ½ marathon starting line. But how’s this for a little twist: Compete against nature.
That’s the idea behind Asics Beat the Sun—a trail running event, now two years strong, around the highest mountain in the Alps (elevation: 27,395 feet), Mont Blanc.
In addition to competing against each other, runners race against the sun itself—attempting to beat it back to the starting line in Chamonix, France on the longest day of the year, the Summer Solstice.
Consider it an unfair advantage, but the sun’s time was already set in stone: On June 21, 2015, It would rise and set in exactly 15 hours, 41 minutes.
It’s competitors: 5 continental groups of relay runners (Team Americas, Team Nothern Europe, Team Southern Europe, Team Africa, and Team Asia/Pacific)—a mix of both professions and amateurs—representing 17 countries in total.
Covering 150 km (just over 93 miles) in total, the race is divided in to 13 relay legs. Most runners would tackle two, some three. Legs ranged from 3 km to 19 km—some straight up vertical climbs, other rocky single track trails; some runners would battle snow, others heat. They call it nature’s toughest challenge for a reason.
“You can learn a tremendous amount putting yourself in uncomfortable situations,” says Megan Kimmell, Team Americas captain, who led her team to victory against the sun (by 38 minutes)—and the other four relay teams. Second place wen to Team Southern Europe, who came in just four seconds after Team Americas.
But Asics Beat the Sun is about a heck of a lot more than winning. “It’s different cultures, different life experiences—all coming together for one common goal,” said Iazaldir Feitoza, of Team Brazil.
And it’s also about taking in the incredible scenery throughout the route. Click through these 20 shots from this year’s epic event.
Inspired to get outside and try trail running? Get inspiration from the Asics Beat the Sun pros here. Want to get involved next year? Click here.
The first relay runners line up in Chamonix, France