Mountain Ultra 2023 | Our 1st #GlobalRaceSeries Finishers?

200km and over an Everest of ascent stand between 2 runners and completing the entire Global Race Series...

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Mountain Ultra

At the time of writing, the inaugural Mountain Ultra in the Tian Shan mountains of Kyrgyzstan is just a day away. This will be the first time we’ve taken athletes into this staggeringly beautiful area and we’re excited to see how our first batch of hopefuls perform.

The runners have 200km of trail to cover in 5 days, and more than an Everest of climbing between them and the finish line. Many of the athletes have spent the last 3 days amongst the summits on an acclimatisation trek, preparing their bodies for the rarified air and learning how to adapt their technique to the altitude and steep terrain.

Reports coming from our team suggest that we were right about hyping up the magnificence of the scenery surrounding our course, but also right in saying this is likely the most technically challenging event in the Global Race Series.

The Mountain Ultra completes that Global Race Series and fits perfectly among our more established events, fully channelling our ethos of taking runners to the most remote, stunningly beautiful, and uniquely hostile environments on earth. Those wishing to complete the full series, grabbing a prestigious Series Finisher’s medal, have nearly 1000km of trail in the Peruvian Jungle, the Namib Desert, The Ice of the Swedish Arctic, and now the Tian Shan Mountains of Kyrgyzstan ahead of them.

It’s worth noting that Beyond the Ultimate held a mountain race many years ago in Colorado. Our plans to move to Nepal were stopped by the earthquake and the move to Japan stalled due to Covid. In the intervening years, we’ve seen the For Rangers Ultra grow and added the Highland Ultra to our calendar, but we have always been working to bring the 4th race of the #GlobalRaceSeries back to life. Now we have, among some of the most dramatic, remote and unspoiled mountain scenery that any of our team has ever set eyes on.


Among the runners out in the Tian Shan Mountains are two who’ll have completed the whole Global Race Series if they cross the line in Kyrgyzstan. Those runners are Kristina Madsen and Russell Jackson and both started the series in Peru in 2016 with the Jungle Ultra, our 230km race through the Amazon Rainforest. Both have since completed every step of our Desert and Ice Ultras, once again covering that enormous distance of 230km but in wildly different conditions again. 

In the trio of races they’ve completed so far, the pair have endured extremes of temperature as high as 50°c and as low as -45°c. They’ve pushed on through the slick mud and chocking humidity of the Amazonian Jungle, the strength-sapping sands and building winds of the ancient Namib Desert, and the endless snow fields and windswept frozen lakes of Arctic Sweden.  

Russell finished 16th at the Jungle Ultra in 2016 utilising what we now see is his trademark mix of consistency, positivity and well-managed multi-stage racing. We’ve seen that again and again around the world now. As a runner, Russel’s approach is calm and considered. As a character, he is a welcoming and positive presence around camp. He can always be relied on to move at a good pace and to have an amazing time doing so, seemingly thriving in whatever conditions he throws himself into. We’re hopeful we’ll see the same this week.

Kristina finished the Jungle Ultra as 1st female and sixth overall in what was her first-ever stage race, starting a long and successful career with Beyond the Ultimate. She has gone on to be 1st female in the Ice Ultra and the Desert Ultra.

Kristina’s a competitive, driven and extremely talented athlete with multiple world records to her name, including a speed-climb of Mt Kilimanjaro, a feat that will no doubt have furnished her with a lot of skills relevant to this race. She’s looking to seal a 4th win in the series when she races in Kyrgyzstan, an outstanding achievement that you’d expect from this exceptional athlete.

Kristina is fast becoming a celebrity in her homeland of Denmark building a reputation for inspiring others to challenge themselves through her indomitable spirit. We’ll all have our fingers crossed that we’ll see her earn another medal this week so she can inspire more women to join us in future as the Global Race Series takes us on our yearly tour of some of the most beautiful and challenging environments on earth.

She’ll be up against a strong field though, and the win is by no means a foregone conclusion. Among the runners are many with experience in other multi-stage races with BTU and beyond.

One runner who is looking to upset her plans will be Jon Shield. He’s in-country acclimatising to and arrived in Kyrgyzstan with a CV including wins in our Highland Ultra, proving he has skill over steep and technical terrain, our Jungle Ultra, and our Ice Ultra, as well as a recent win at the Montane Summer Spine Challenger South. If there is any athlete in this field with a competitive edge comparable to Kristina’s it is Jon.

Of course, we’ll be celebrating the successes of all our athletes over the coming days. It is a massive feat just to put yourself on the start line of a challenge so seemingly overwhelming. It takes courage and dedicated preparation and we know every step they cover in this unforgiving place is a little victory. We’re sure you’ll join us in wishing them all luck.

As always, we have a media team in-country ready to capture as much of this incredible experience as possible. We’ll share as much as we can across social media in the coming days, but we expect to find that Wi-Fi is difficult to come by amongst some of the most remote Mountain-tops on the planet. All runners will be carrying GPS trackers though and you can access that tracking system throughout using the link below.

Start your #GlobalRaceSeries journey here: #GRSJourney


About the Author

Jenny Hall

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