A decade ago, trail running was just about to take off from being a niche activity to become one of fastest growing outdoor sports. Nowadays trail running races are among the most popular sports activities in the Azores with events on all islands. All started in Faial, inspired by a TV documentary about races such as the Mont Blanc Ultra Trail, by the marking of 10 Volcanoes Trail and by a common workplace. The Natural Park of Faial, decided that the 40th anniversary of declaring the Calderia and Pico Mountain as nature reserves could be celebrated by organising a trail running and hiking event, with some sports and nature enthusiasts
How it all started
On March 10, 2012, a small group of 15 runners and some hikers started at the top of the Caldeira of Faial for the first Azores Trail Run. Nobody really knew how long the race was going to take, the winner José Baptista arrived after 1 hour and 43 minutes. Not only he, but also the following competitors arrived in Capelinhos before time control was set up and before the team of RTP Açores were on site. Despite its small start, the event organised by the Clube Independente de Atletismo Ilha Azul (CIAIA) and the Natural Park of Faial Island, became over the last decade one of the most important events of Faial.
The following year, the event continued to be a small race of enthusiasts, it was in 2014 when the Azores Trail Run started to turn into what it is today. The 47 km Coast to Coast Ultra Trail and Ten Volcanoes Trail, were added to the program. Support from the government allowed it to offer an attractive package to participants including flights, accommodation and whale watching. The participation of both the Portuguese runner and blogger Vitor Dias and Anna Frost, one of the top stars of trail running, helped to boost the event. Only in its third year, the race in the middle of the Atlantic attracted about 200 participants from more than 11 nationalities.
A success story
What followed is a real success story. Becoming the Whalers Great Route Ultra-Trail® and adding a 65 km and a 118 km ultra-race. Spreading trail running among the other islands of the archipelago. In 2015 the Triangle Adventure, a three-day event in Faial, Pico, and São Jorge. In 2016 the Columbus Trail in Santa Maria, in 2018 the Extreme West Atlantic Adventure in Flores and Corvo and in 2019 the Windmills Trail in Graciosa. Not even the pandemic could stop the success and in 2020, the Golden Trail Championship reuniting the entire world elite topped the Azores Trail Run’s story.
Join the race in 2022
In 2022, a decade after the first race of some running and nature enthusiasts of Faial the Whalers Great Route Ultra Trail will be on May 6, 7 and 8 in Faial, in the Azores, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, registrations close on April 15.
In case you have any doubts, check out the video.