At midnight on Saturday, November 20, the 2021 Madeira Island Ultra-Trail (MIUT) started from the coastal village of Porto Moniz on the island’s northwest coast, and headed uphill into the night. Some 14-plus hours of steep, technical, and often slippery trails later, interspersed with flat running along roads and the island’s famous levada trails (the pathways next to irrigation ditches), race leaders made their way out of the high country and down to the finish line in the port city of Machico, on the island’s southeast coast. All told, runners traveled 115 kilometers (72 miles) and climbed 7,200 meters (23,600 feet).
With that midnight start and the seven hours of night running that followed, runners experienced cold temperatures in the high terrain as well as more temperate conditions down low. Dawn broke on Saturday morning to clear skies, in both the low and high country. In the afternoon, as the leaders traveled the race’s final 20 kilometers at low altitude, the temperature rose but was moderated by cloud cover, fog, and even a couple rain showers. Despite cool temperatures, runners reported feeling the effects of the high humidity. All in all, the weather was quite good for race day.
This course played to the strengths of vert-lover Hillary Allen (pre-race and post-race interviews) and she leaned into it to exact a commanding women’s win. Allen stayed in the lead virtually all race, and while the gap was as large as 40 minutes and as small as nine, Allen’s fitness shined. After a long journey to health following a near-fatal fall several years ago and its residual effects on her body, Allen’s win was a sweet one.
Hannes Namberger (pre-race and post-race interviews) blew everyone out of the water in the men’s race, finishing first in 14:00:36, and over 40 minutes ahead of his second-place competitor. While Namberger was among the lead men all race, he didn’t make substantial gains on the rest of the field until the climb to the highest points of the race after halfway. But then, he simply ran away with it, and scored the biggest win of his trail running and ultrarunning career yet.
2021 Madeira Island Ultra-Trail Women’s Race
Though the women’s race had a smaller lead pack and fewer switcheroos than the men’s, which we’ll learn about later in this article, it was exciting and down to the wire nonetheless. American Hillary Allen (pre-race and post-race interviews) moved into the lead by the top of the first major climb at Fanal, 14 kilometers into the race. She is well known for her climbing abilities and her prowess showed throughout this course as she continued to build a lead from there to the 42-kilometer mark.
Russia’s Ekaterina Mityaeva (post-race interview) also ran strong from the start. Though she was solidly behind Allen throughout the first half of the race, she also consistently gained time on the rest of the field through halfway. While Norwegian Kirsten Amundsgård (post-race interview) was fourth at Fanal, she moved — for the first time — into podium position just after Rosario at 42k, with American Sabrina Stanley (pre-race interview) giving chase right behind in fourth, and Sophie Grant, who is from New Zealand but lives in Europe, solidly in fifth place.
About an hour after dawn, the top women rolled into Curral das Freiras, 60 kilometers in. At a point of low elevation right before the brutal climb to the island’s highest terrain, this was the time for the women to gather their strength. Allen remained in the lead, but Mityaeva gained on her, leaving only nine minutes between them as they headed uphill. Right before the climb, the top five places remained the same. But that was about to change: Stanley went strongly through the race’s hardest section, gained time on the field from Pico Ruivo at 76 kilometers to Poiso at 90 kilometers, and moved into podium position.
From this point, the race was on: at Poiso, the race course continues its dive steeply downhill, and it seemed all of the top women had plenty of legs left to run. In fact, Allen, Mityaeva, and Stanley in first through third places bombed downhill at almost the exact same pace, despite not running side by side, which speaks not only to their fitness but their competitive spirits as well.
As they say, it isn’t over till it’s over! At 104 kilometers just after Larano, Allen had extended her lead to over 30 minutes, and Stanley was gaining on Mityaeva, at this point only six minutes behind. But Amundsgård was gaining too, decreasing her gap to Stanley to only four minutes.
It was Allen who pulled off the win, cruising across the finish line looking ecstatic, nearly 40 minutes ahead of the field.
As for the rest of the women’s top five, it really wasn’t over until it was over. Amundsgård raged in the final 16 kilometers, moving from fourth place all the way into second. Mityaeva crossed the finish line just about a minute later to round out the women’s podium. Stanley experienced physical problems starting before the 100-kilometer mark that caused her to slow down and ultimately finish fourth.
Rounding out the top five was France’s Emily Vaudan, who ran smartly in the women’s top 10 for most of the race before moving into fifth position before the 100-kilometer point.
2021 Madeira Island Ultra-Trail Women’s Results
- Hillary Allen (The North Face) — 17:18:26 (pre-race and post-race interviews)
- Kirsten Amundsgård (Dynafit) — 17:57:17 (post-race interview)
- Ekaterina Mityaeva (adidas Terrex) — 17:58:55 (post-race interview)
- Sabrina Stanley (adidas Terrex) — 18:18:57 (pre-race interview)
- Emily Vaudan (Salomon) — 19:17:00
- Sophie Grant (La Sportiva) — 19:38:47
- Noélie Monney — 20:44:41
- Manu Vilaseca (Craft) — 20:48:17
- Maria Abreu — 21:46:17
- Nicole Bitter (Altra) — 23:33:01
2021 Madeira Island Ultra-Trail Men’s Race
The men’s race for the lead was tight for a number of kilometers. At Fanal, 14 kilometers into the race and at the top of the first major climb, the top-11 men ran within one minute of each other, and even more trailed behind in a long train of chasers. By the bottom of that descent, however, at Chão da Ribiera, 23 kilometers into the race, the lead pack was cut down to only six.
Things got a little more interesting around Rosario at 42 kilometers, after yet another brutal climb and descent. Here, three men shared the lead: Norwegian Erik-Sebastian Krogvig, France’s Beñat Marmissolle, and Germany’s Hannes Namberger (pre-race and post-race interviews). They headed into the next two more gradual climbs with Italy’s Daniel Jung and France’s Hugo Deck hot on their tails.
Up until this point, runners were still traversing the island in the dark. The men spent some time reeling each other in or dropping off in the high country as the sun began to rise, and as they rolled into one of the lower points of the course at Curral das Freiras, the 60-kilometer mark, the fatigue and effort began to show. Namberger and Marmissolle managed to hang on to each other in the lead, and asked the crowd how close third place was behind them. Krogvig came in soon after, despondent about a twice-rolled ankle that would eventually mean an early end to his day. Early pace pushers Jung and Deck also dropped from the race.
Switzerland’s Jean-Philippe Tschumi (post-race interview) rolled in right behind and was only 10.5 minutes off the lead in third. The ever-smiling Dmitri Mityaev (post-race interview) of Russia came in only two minutes behind Tschumi in fourth, and began another big climb looking very fresh. Another Russian, Aleksei Tolstenko, came in after to round out the top five.
The climb from Curral das Freiras to the high country gains about 1,100 meters (3,600 feet) in only 10 kilometers. This climb to Pico Ruivo, the high point of the course and the whole of Madeira Island, and then the traverse to Pico do Arieiro is extremely technical and completely blew apart the men’s field. On the climb alone, Namberger gained an eight-minute lead on then second-place Marmissolle. We got to see runners on Pico do Arieiro, the 76 kilometer mark, and nearly all of them said some version of “this is really hard” – or at least looked like they were thinking it.
From here, the course descends way down, and the field stretched out even more until we saw runners once again at Portela at 99 kilometers. At this point the course is extremely runnable, and it was clear who had legs to cruise and who didn’t. In a bit of a switch up, Marmissolle wasn’t to be seen in the top five: Mityaev had made up a huge amount of time and was in second, Tschumi was only a few minutes back, Tolstenko just behind him, and Romania’s Robert Hajnal had cracked into the top five.
And with a long downhill route to the finish, peppered with flat stretches, Namberger put a huge gap on the field to win, all smiles, in 14:00:36. Second through fifth positions held to the finish as well, though Mityaev and Tschumi leap frogged each other several times before sorting back out to second and third respectively.
2021 Madeira Island Ultra-Trail Men’s Results
- 1. Hannes Namberger (Dynafit) — 14:00:36 (pre-race and post-race interviews)
- 2. Dmitry Mityaev (adidas Terrex) — 14:41:49 (post-race interview)
- 3. Jean-Philippe Tschumi (Hoka One One) — 14:49:28 (post-race interview)
- 4. Aleksei Tolstenko (adidas Terrex) — 14:59:14
- 5. Robert Hajnal (Altra) — 15:10:16
- 6. Sam McCutcheon (Scott Running) — 15:15:38
- 7. Beñat Marmissolle — 15:23:47
- T – 8. Ryan Sandes (Salomon) — 15:37:38 (pre-race interview)
- T – 8. Maxime Grenot— 15:37:39
- 10. Greg Vollet (Salomon) — 15:45:12
[Editor’s Note: In 2000, Greg Vollet served a three-month doping ban after two positive tests, for prohibited stimulants nikethamide and ephedrine, while competing in mountain biking in France. For more information, please read iRunFar’s Policy on Doping and Athlete Coverage.]
Thank you so much to João Guerreiro for his assistance in covering MIUT!