Pyrenees Stage Run: A multi-day challenge in the Pyrenees!

So, I’ll tell you a little story… There was this couple once, husband and wife, really nice guys, both had their jobs, a nice home on the outskirts and a big car! You would never hear them complaining about anything and most of the time they were smiling, and kind to each other. Seemed like a happy couple on the outside but the truth was far from that. Everything comes at a cost and when you‘re trying constantly to have a flawless image about yourself, you lose the essence of true living!


On a cold, rainy day, our story couple was feeling very depressed. The husband was staring out the window and all he could see was dark clouds and heavy rain. He could barely hear his wife talking to him due to the loud noise of thunders! There was none outside and both of them were very sad because they couldn’t show their fake happiness to the world! They were stuck inside their beautiful house not knowing what to do. Suddenly, they saw someone running towards their front yard. It was this strange man. He was wearing colorful clothes, a rain jacket, a blue cap and sports shoes. They had never noticed him until that rainy day! When he came closer they could see him better. Despite being totally wet, he had that smile of satisfaction drawn onto his face! Both felt so jealous that rushed outside their front door in order for him to see them but he didn’t turn his head. The man couldn’t hold himself and yelled:


¡Hola amigo! ¿Dónde estás corriendo con este clima?

¡Me estoy preparando para el Stage Run de Pyrenees!

¿Que es eso?

¡Es una carrera en las montañas! 

A mountain race on the Pyrenees…


The next day our friends decided to obtain for themselves the exact same thing that made that man running with such joy when it was truly pouring outside! So, they started running. One year later, they looked tired when standing outside their home. Sometimes, they were dirty and, very often, totally wet from the rain but their faces were shinning with joy! And they both lived happily ever after! End of story.


Well, what have you learned from that story? I’ll tell you, what I‘ve learned! The guy training, that rainy day, for the Pyrenees Stage Run, lived one of the most exciting experiences of his whole life in that race! Want to know more? Fine, I’ll tell you everything I know!



The Pyrenees Stage Run is a 7 stage race that consists of a total 240 kilometer course along the Pyrenees! The race starts from Ribes de Freser and you have to climb 15.000 meters of positive elevation gain until you reach the end to Salardu. Now, you are worried! Don’t be because you won’t be alone in this trip! Participation in PSR is only allowed in teams of 2 or 3 persons, two men, two women or a mixed team. Better, eh? And there’s more good news! When registering, you can choose to spend the rest of each day, after the race, staying in a luxury hotel with the rest of the runners, volunteers, friends or family! In these seven days you’ll get to see unique landscapes, cross five Natural Parks, visit places like Andorra, Queralbs, Puigcerdà, Encamp, Arinsal, Tavascan, Esterri d'Àneu and know different people from other countries! It’s like a honeymoon for trail-runners squeezed in one week, you just have to run and have a great time! The rest is up to the professionals of the organization team and the staff of the PSR that celebrates its third edition on Saturday, the first of September 2018!


Although PSR is a very young race, compared to the similar Transalpine-Run, it offers some of the best services to all participants. It is worth mentioning that last year the organization team of the race worked together with the people of the “Summit Project” on a study that observed the implications of dehydration and muscle fatigue, as well as how the heart responds in such races on each person’s health. All participants, who volunteered for this study, were submitted to a series of medical tests, carried out by professionals, before and after each stage. Finally, each of them got a report analysis of all that data that can be really useful to know when running a race of these characteristics!



Furthermore, since 2017, the staff of the PSR, in order to monitor the athletes' progress, as well as for safety measures of the race, provides each team with a GPS-tracker. This feature, combined with the Race-book and an interactive map, that all participants get, is a great tool of information for the runners as well as their friends, families and followers through the internet.


Moreover, during the seven days of the 2017 race, the organization team hosted two presentations on alimentation and physiotherapy from Àstrid Barqué and Albert Carrère respectively. Both were professionals in their fields of expertise and shared valuable aspects of their knowledge with all the athletes! Among others, the staff of the PSR gets to offer a physiotherapy and massage service for all the participants at the end of each stage. Needless to say how much this is appreciated. Last but not least, more than 35 people, chosen very carefully to be the team of the Pyrenees Stage Race, do their best every day to carry each athlete’s luggage from one place to another, to set up the food-stations of the race, to check the race course, to send emails to participants, to organize transportation and many other things of great importance! The fee for all the above, including hotel accommodation for eight nights, with breakfast every morning, medical insurance and service, 8 pasta parties and entry to the race is 922 euros for registrations until 30th of April 2018. If that amount of money sounds a lot, you can book your own hotels and pay 304 euros less.



Now, let’s talk some more about each stage. The first section of PSR starts from Ribes de Freser and ends after 34.3 kilometers in Queralbs. The elevation gain for this part (2.180 meters) won’t be easy as you have to follow an alternative course, other than the known GR11, that crosses the Pyrenees Mountains. In return you’ll get to reach the summit of Balandrau, located at 2.585 meters above sea level, run the so called “Cami d’Enginyers”, a mountain road made due to the construction of a power plant and a dam that were never carried out, and visit the Vall de Nuria (Valley of Nuria), a high plateau where the Sanctuary-Basilica of the Virgin of Nuria is built together with a great mountain resort!


Day Number 2: I guess it’s not too far from Queralbs to Puigcerdà through the mountains, is it? According to the organization team of PSR it’s only 37 kilometers with 1.700 meters of positive elevation, also crossing two 1.900 meters altitude cols. What? You don’t know the definition of col? Well, in geomorphology a col is the lowest point on a mountain ridge between two peaks but in plain language, a col is the perfect spot to shoot photos! So don’t forget your camera. Now, I know someone told me about a lake in Puigcerdà! Better remember to take a stroll before setting off the next day!



You are probably getting used to it until this moment, so the next 47.5 kilometers from Puigcerdà to Encamp won’t bother you. And why should they? The total elevation gain of 2.600 meters doesn’t sound that much but the climb near the summit of Puigpedrós Mountain (2.912 meters) is indeed going to make you sweat! Brace yourselves and think that soon you’ll be in Andorra. Thumbs up if you, already, knew that Andorra is a microstate between France and the Spanish autonomous community of Catalonia. Wait, does this mean that I have to carry my passport in my backpack? What’s more, there is a National Automobile Museum in Encamp so I don’t know about you guys but me, I’m a big fan of cars and there’s no chance I’m not visiting that place!


Wednesday morning. Wake up, brush your teeth, dress up with your gear and trail shoes and off you go to face the fourth stage of this epic trip! This is a short one, from Encamp to Arinsal, and you won’t have to leave Andorra either! The organization team of PSR suggests that this 20 kilometer course, into the mountains, with 1.900 meters of elevation gain, is the best way to recharge your energy after three consecutive days of running and hiking on the Pyrenees! Hey guys, I don’t want to be a spoiler but what happened to beer and pizza?



There’s a saying that goes like “Rainbow in the morning gives you fair warning”. Still haven’t found out why I am saying this to you? Well, if you take a closer look at the elevation profile of this stage you shall understand. Four down, three to go and the stage from Arinsal to Tavascan is going to be a tough one! You start with a steep, technical ascent towards Baiau col, passing close to Comapedrosa, the highest summit in Andorra. This climb is very strenuous and this is only the beginning. Hopefully, you’ll get to see the Baiau lakes and maybe swim if it’s a hot day before heading to Molinassa Bridge and Vallferrera. Before reaching Tavascan, all runners cross inside Àreu, a small, typical village located in the middle of a plain. Its name is a combination of Celtic and Basque words that means “Cold Lands”. No wonder where that came from… Not far from Àreu you’ll reach your final destination for the day, the finish line in the small town of Tavascan. Mission accomplished, 41.5 kilometers and 2.720 meters of positive elevation. Not bad, not bad at all! Rest now, the most difficult part is over. See you tomorrow.


Day 6 and it’s already Friday in case you didn’t notice it. Normally, Fridays are movie days for me but for you it’s crossing the Natural Park of Alt Pirineu, the largest natural park in Catalonia! Dense forests hide very well these 29 kilometers, with 1.960 meters of elevation gain, on Friday’s stage. The finish line is located in Esterri d'Àneu, next to Noguera Pallaresa River which flows into the Mediterranean Sea after a long trip similar to ours!



The end is near but first you’ll have to cross the last 32.3 kilometers from Esterri d'Àneu to Salardu. No one says that these 2.280 meters of elevation gain will be easy but you already feel like flying! Moreover, this part is going to be your favorite! The National Park of Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici is a wild mountain region in the Pyrenees, with high peaks and with nearly 200 lakes, many of them of glacial origin. The park's name is freely translated as "The winding streams and St. Maurice Lake" and you are about to cross it. The last stage consists of a long ascent to Basiero col and a long descent to Vall d’Aran (Aran Valley) where Salardu lies.


Cross that finish line one more time and then turn your head back to see what you have just achieved! Stand still for a moment and close your eyes. Now, you are the person running when it rains in my story!  



Theoharis Lezpouridis

Photo ©: PSR 2018


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