La Santa 2023

Over the years the club has had many group trips away. The Dublin marathon and the Majorca marathon (twice) in the 80’s. More recently, smaller groups have been to Amsterdam, Berlin and even Tokyo. There was a long weekend away for the iconic Ballycotton 10 (look it up) and there are gentle suggestions of a trip somewhere in the UK next year.

However, the one trip that has stood the test of time only came about because of war in Yugoslavia! In 1990, there were plans to go to the Split marathon, but when war broke out following the collapse of the Berlin Wall, that went out the window and someone came across the Lanzarote International Challenge. Four races in four days, sunshine and beer, what more could you want? That first trip took about thirty people and it has been going every year since (2020’s Covid closure excepted).

The races have all been tweaked many times and the resort of Club la Santa is constantly changing but the basics of the holiday remain the same. Firstly, it’s a holiday, so having fun is mandatory. The races are not mandatory, but are encouraged – we are a running club after all – and many have been completed with more than a slight hangover!

For those that are unaware, Club La Santa’s strap line is The World’s No. 1 Sports Resort, and while that’s pretty difficult to judge, it’s certainly a wonderful place to come and immerse yourself in just about all sport, whether beginner or professional. To drop a few names of the sports stars who been at CLS over the years with us – Linford Christie, Steve Backley, Justine Henin, Dame Sarah Storey, Jonathan Brownlee and countless other Olympic swimmers, athletes, tennis players and cyclists.

Over the years the group from LBAC has expanded to include friends from many other clubs who have joined our trip, including Ampthill, Bearbrook, North Herts, Redway and lots from MKAC. As a result of this, about ten years ago we adjusted our club name for this trip to Milton Buzzards, as our team was a mixture of both clubs. In total, something like 150 different people have come on the trip with us over the 34 years.

So that’s a bit of the background, but for those of you who are interested in the actual races, then they are fairly varied. The total distance is around 29 miles (48K) over the four days.

  • Day 1 – 10K on the road. A fairly flat course that is quite quick on the rare occasion when there’s minimal wind.
  • Day 2 – 13K Ridge Run. Mostly off-road up to the top of a volcanic ridge and back down again with lots of dirt tracks.
  • Day 3 – 5K on the beach. We cross the island to Puerto Del Carmen for a race on the sand. It may only be 5K, but it’s a killer.
  • Day 4 – 20K from Tinajo to the resort. This is mostly downhill and on lovely tracks, but it does have a killer drag after about 13K.

This year, we were a relatively small group of seventeen and together with the usual LBAC and MKAC squad we were joined for the second time by Pete Mackrell’s recruit from Clayton Le Moors, Danny Fleming, not to be confused with Dan Webber of MKAC!

Everyone arrived over a three-day period from Thursday to Saturday, but with the races starting on Sunday, Saturday is really the deadline for arrivals. In recent years, Saturday has also featured the new Night Run, which for those doing the challenge is really just a chance for a jog round the lagoon if you feel like it, or alternatively keep yourself hydrated in the bar! Our litte posse had a mixture of both…..

Night Runners ready for jog round the lagoon!

It’s fair to say that the fact that the world windsurfing championships have been held in Lanzarote before is justified, and the for the last two years the 10K has been run in an absolute hoolie! This year then, we were delighted when that it was just a “normal” level of wind for the three laps of the lagoon that make up the 10K route. Most people seem to agree that the 10K is the least inspiring of the four runs, but it gets the challenge started and is excellent for spectators with three laps, plus it starts and finishes on the resort track.

I’m not going to give you a blow by blow account of each race, but for a little context, our leading threesome of Pete, Rob Elmore and Danny were all in the top six early on while the rest of us battled for our own positions in the 323 strong field. Despite a storming finish from an extremely fast Irishman, they all remained in the top six to the end, with Pete just pipping Rob to the podium on day one. This immediately gave them a seven-minute lead over the second team from Denmark. The ladies team also ran very consistently and managed to start their campaign with a solid third place.

The team competition over the years has been something for us to focus on as the majority of us aren’t challenging for prizes. The way it works is that you can name a team of four, but only the top three count. Milton Buzzards have won the men’s team competition for the last two years so are on a good run. However, with just six men, we made a last minute decision to not give our leading team any cover, and have a B-team to fight a different battle! Our ladies have come close to the prizes a few times but have never quite made the podium against some very strong Irish teams, but with a fully fit team this year, there was hope!

Tim, making his way around the 10K to kick off his campaign.

While the running may dominate four of the mornings, it’s definitely forgotten by the afternoon, as people use the other facilities available to them. Occasionally this may be five beers in the bar while watching the football, but more often than not it’s some racquet sports, crazy golf or a dip in one the five pools.

Evenings tend to start in the Sports bar where they have happy-hour every night from 6-7pm, where beers are 2 for1 and it feels wrong not to join in. Then people head off to one of the four restaurants on-site or take a mile trip to the village where there are another six or seven places to eat. The only other debate on a standard day is whether you go to the bar after dinner………

Race two is the favourite of most people! My extensive research down the years says 63% like this best, 29% like the 20K on the last day, 7% the 10K and 1% the beach race – as it’s horrible! All of this is fact and unarguable!!

The reason people like it, is that it’s only day two so your legs aren’t battered; although it’s up a big hill, you do all that in the first half then run down for four miles; there’s a great view at the top; it’s diverse terrain with track, tarmac, gravel track, rocky path and sandy tracks mixing it up completely; it’s eight miles which is quite a nice distance to race.

From a results perspective, it was more of the same from Milton Buzzards, only this time both Pete and Rob made the podium, Dan was getting closer to Danny and Wendy got the better of Linsey (for whom it is definitely not her favourite race!). The teams all remained in the same spots, which was good for the Men’s A and ladies team, but the men’s B of Dan, Andy and Tim were getting stuck in fourth despite strong runs from all three.

Well Pete was definitely enjoying his Ridge Run, on his way to second place.

Day 3 is the one that (almost) everyone detests. We get on a bus to go to the other side of the island to run 5K (actually 4.5K) on a sandy beach in Puerto Del Carmen. It’s a perfectly pleasant beach, and whilst Carmen wouldn’t be our choice of holiday destination, it’s not unpleasant……..but running on sand is!

The good thing you can take from it, is that it’s over with fairly quickly and you can have a long debate about the quality of this year’s sand, whether the far turning point was the sam as last year and how Dan looks like he’s running through treacle in the soft sand at the ends of the course etc.

This race did at least bring the biggest position variations as Rob sneaked onto the podium in second as Pete finished fifth, while Andy got the better of both Dan and Danny to come home third for Milton Buzzards in 11th place. On the ladies side of things, Amy was delighted to be ahead of Wendy and Linsey temporarily, while Hannah reversed the positions of the first two days in finishing ahead of Karen.

The eagle-eyed amongst you may spot Dave from Wootton doing battle with Andy.

Tuesday evening is always the quietest as people are starting to hurt after three days of racing, but also knowing they have a 20K to do in the morning. It’s noticeable that people have two beers instead of four and go to bed at 10pm instead of 11pm, but we’re all getting old!

The last race is actually only tough, because it’s the last race of four. The profile is actually a dream with loads of downhill from the start point in the town of Tinajo, but it’s the climb from 8.5-9.5 miles that everyone bitches about. This is partly because you are very close to home (in straight line) when you start it, but they make you run away from your ultimate destination up a long drag with zero support.

There’s also a horrible kick at 12.1 miles, but don’t tell anyone!

It’s fair to say that this race sorts the men from the boys (if you’ll pardon the sexist old saying ladies!) as trying to finish four races in four days is why it’s called the International Challenge. The first three home on the day were the overall top three with Pete (2nd) and Rob (3rd) being beaten by James Stockings of Hercules Wimbledon. Dan and Andy tried their best to pull back some of the time they lost to Danny in the first two races, but couldn’t quite catch him as they finished 12th, 13th and 14th overall, just 100 seconds apart after 29 miles of racing!

Having never finished on the team podium before, our ladies were a little worried that something would go wrong on the final day, but they needn’t have as all five of them ran very strongly to consolidate their third place team position. Below are some pictures kindly taken by Az, our friendly photographer – on a downhill section!

Wendy, Karen, Hannah, Linsey & Amy all “enjoying” the 20K

It’s all downhill from here! Pete, Rob, Dan, Andy, Danny & Tim

Following the conclusion of the challenge, Wednesday night is the awards night, which is often quite a big celebration and goes on until the early hours – if you’re that way inclined!

With Pete and Rob both making the individual podium, and two of our teams securing top three positions as well, there was quite a lot to enjoy and the result of this was quite a late finish to Wednesday and quite a slow start to Thursday! Suffice to say that there is a disco on site and it took a couple of days for the taste of Jagermeister to leave a few people!

Collecting awards……… before the celebrations started!

Following the end of the challenge, most people start to hit the other activties the resort has to offer with a little more gusto. Kayaking, padel tennis, pickleball, cycling and various fitness classes were all much more in evidence over the last few days of the trip. There is a traditional mountain bike ride for lunch along the coast at Famara that always take place after the challenge and Pete Mackrell took rare oppoortunity to do the Lanzarote marathon three days after the challenge finished!! Crazily, he ran a negative split to finish 3rd in 2:37 and was gaining on the two leaders throughout the second half.

Unfortunately we were too busy doing stuff to take many photos, but here’s some expert padel tennis play………..

If this trip is something you’d consider for next year, then please feel free to ask any questions you’d like. There’s plenty of people within the club who have been, but you can be confident if you pick an Inchley!

Due to the huge popularity of the event, we usually have to book in January/February each year so if you’re even thinking about it, let Richard know and he’ll add you to the email list.

Full results from all of the different races can be found here: Results