The sun rises in Embilipitiya for the start of Ultra X Sri Lanka
Day 1 – 07:03
After months of preparation, runners assemble at dawn at Embilipitiya before starting the first leg of Ultra X Sri Lanka – a five-day, 250km ultra-marathon across the country’s wilderness. Founded in 2018, travel-adventure start-up Ultra X is the world’s first multi-stage ultra-marathon series with upcoming races in Jordan (5–13 October) and Mexico (2–10 November). Its first race in Sri Lanka took place in April.
Day 2 – 11:16
Up against intense tropical heat and humidity on day two’s 55km race, runners cool off with buckets of river water supplied by local children.
Day 2 – 14:42
Spring when you’re winning
River crossings and muddy bogs (and wild elephants) on parts of the trail make for a regular test of the runners’ athleticism.
Day 2 – 16:05
Battling dehydration, heat exhaustion and hyponatremia (low sodium levels), runners are kept safe by a team of medics who watch from a fleet of 4×4 Land Rover Defenders.
Day 3 – 07:06
Third time plucky
The runners set off on day three, when a battle begins at the front of the race between multi-Marathon des Sables-winner Salameh Al Aqra of Jordan and relative newcomer Edson Kumwamba of Malawi.
Day 3 – 12:18
Show of strength
The spectacle of the race draws locals out of their homes to line the trails and cheer on the runners. To the delight of the racers and organisers, many offer coconuts, bananas and home-cooked treats.
Day 4 – 03:52
No mean feet
For the longest stage of the race (67km), runners wake in the dark so medics can begin the daily ritual of patching and taping their battered and blistered feet.
Day 4 – 15:20
Track and yield
The fourth and toughest day of the race sees the highest drop-out rate of the five-day event. Still, the remaining runners press on through tea plantations and Sri Lanka’s 10,000-year-old rainforest towards the finish line at the central highlands of Horton Plains.
Day 5 – 14:03
Shortly after an elephant sighting forces a last-minute change of course, the runners who complete the 250km trail assemble at the Jungle Camp for a photo finish. Many have already signed up for next year’s Ultra X Sri Lanka on 21–29 March 2020.
Apply for Ultra X
Registration for Ultra X Jordan (5–13 October 2019), through the desert wilderness of Wadi Rum, is now open. Fees include airport transfers via Amman, accommodation, medical assistance, as well as a team trip to Petra. For details, see ultra-x.co/jordan