Continuing my monthly look at world ultras, the January race is the Brazil 135-mile ultra, or BR135, along a pilgrim trail in Brazil from January 18-20. Many thanks to Tony Portera, a US rep for the race and multiple-time finisher, for his help with the information in this article.
As the BR135’s website states, it was inspired “in concept and in spirit” by the Badwater 135 in Death Valley, California. The event includes five races simultaneously, split into two solo runs with different cut-offs as well as relay categories for two, three or four people. The BR135 had its inaugural running in 2006 with 10 competitors and only four finishers. It remains a small race with entry limited to between 67 and 77 runners in the main 48-hour event and a further 74 across the other divisions.
Finishing the solo event in under 48 hours is included in the qualifying standards for entry into Badwater because it’s part of the Badwater World Cup, an international series of 135-mile races held in exotic locations under extreme conditions. The other two are Badwater itself and the Arrowhead 135 in freezing Minnesota, also in January.
One question people often consider when thinking about this race is which of the three Badwater World Cup races is hardest. From speaking to people who’ve done combinations of at least two of them, it seems it really depends on the individual and all have huge challenges. For some it’s the raw heat of Badwater, others find the humidity and climbs of the BR135 tougher or it can be the frigid conditions of the Arrowhead 135 – it comes down to which of these is an individual runner’s relative weakness.
When I asked Tony Portera, what he found to be most special about the race he told me:
Everything! The country you will see while traversing the Caminho Da Fé is amazing. You won’t see anything like it in the USA. It is really amazing to get to experience such a remote area of a foreign country. And the people… they are fantastic. Not just the amazing race directors (Mario and Eliana Lacerda) and their staff, but also the local inhabitants of the villages, towns and cities that you pass through. It is truly a cultural experience as much as it is an “ultra” experience.
When I ran the Brazil 135 Ultra in 2010 I was really taken by surprise with what the Caminho Da Fé was and had to offer. It was a unique experience, meandering through small villages and municipalities on a dirt road.
The Race in Numbers
- 135 miles on a point-to-point course on the Caminho Da Fé, with only 10 miles of relatively flatter terrain
- Held in January (summer in Brazil)
- 48- or 60-hour time limits
- 30,000+ feet of cumulative ascent (similar to UTMB but on a longer course)
- 28,000+ feet of cumulative descent
More About the Race Location
Considered the most difficult foot race in Brazil, the race follows the hardest, most challenging segment of the Caminho Da Fé, or Path of Faith. This trail is used by pilgrims to reach the Nossa Senhora Aparecida Basilica in Aparecida, one of the world’s greatest Marian centers, i.e., focusing on the veneration of Jesus’ mother, Mary. Inspired by the Spanish Camino de Santiago, it’s intended to send pilgrims on foot or bike on a spiritual journey.
The race is held in the Serra da Mantiqueira Mountains, a sub-range of the Andes Cordillera, in the state of Minas Gerais. The Caminho Da Fé is a route marked by yellow arrows and consists of stretches of dirt roads, forests, waterfalls, asphalt, trails within farms and railroad tracks. It usually takes hikers 12 to 15 days to cover the race route.
The BR135 has a small field but the course records are impressive for the distance and terrain.
Men’s record: Eduardo Silverio Calixto, 26:20:51 (2012)
Women’s record: Debora Aparecida de Simas, 28:49:20 (2012)
Call for Comments (from Bryon)
Would you be interested in running the Brazil 135? Why so?