Trail Running in Turkey

[by Emre Tok of Istanbul, Turkey. Emre works in Microsoft and has a travel and trail running blog www.geziyorum.net]

Turkey is a country with 7 different regions where you can taste summer, fall, and hot, freezing cold, heavy rains in a huge natural ecosystem. The seven regions include the Marmara, Aegean, Middle Anatolia, Eastern Anatolia, South Eastern Anatolia, and Mediterranean regions as well as the magnificent Black Sea Region.

Istanbul trail running

A view of the sea from Istanbul.

Starting from the Marmara region, Istanbul, the most populous city in Europe, has small forests and areas for 15 million residents. Recently, people began trail running to explore the paths and forest areas on the Black Sea side of Istanbul. These areas include Riva, Belgrado Forest, Ağva, Şile and Aydos. Belgrado forest is the place where most people trail run. People train for the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc, a marathon, or an Ironman on this forest’s trails. It’s a hidden heaven for trail runners in an enormous city.

Belgrado Forest trail running

Trail running in the Belgrado Forest.

When not trail running, Istanbul’s resident run close to Bosphorous on a 30 kilometer path along the sea in the city’s Europe portion. In the city’s Anatolian portion, Istanbul has a 40 km long path near the sea by the Prince Islands.

In addition, the Marmara region has a few running clubs. Adım Adım is a charitable organization with almost 1000 members nationwide. Every month they organize a free 6 km trail running event. Adım Adım members collected more than $700,000 for charity events since 2005.

Macera Akademisi is another organization that organizes trail running, adventure racing and orienteering events. In November, there is an epic Cookie Adventure Race with short, advanced, and ultra courses that last for 12 hours per day. New Moon is a night adventure race consists of at least 30 km of running and 50 km of mountain biking, as well as kayaking, orienteering, and other disciplines.

In January and March, there are the fun Deers on Trail pure trail running races. There races are 4 km and 14 km.

The Aegean and Mediterranean regions are generally hot areas with intense sun. The regions include coastal and mountainous areas. You can taste all kinds of outdoor sports here. You can do especially diving, kayaking, coastal walking, and running, as well. It’s here that the famous OGER Antalya Maraton is run every year. Dragoman Outdoors handles many types of courses for every kind of sport. There can provide  long distance hiking guides, too. Turkey’s first ultramarathon, the Lycian Way Ultra Marathon, is run between Fethiye and Kaş in this region in September. It’s 250 km on the ancient Lycian Road.

On the Lycian Road, you run on an ancient path as you can also do on the nearby  St.Paul’s path. Both paths run more than 500 kms. Along these paths, you see magnificent views and mountains. You can stay in villages with bed and breakfast or camp easily.

Lycian Road

The Lycian Road.

The Black Sea Region has beautiful mountains that lie adjacent to the Black Sea. Perfect trails, rain, fresh nature, and fewer people make these trails an enjoyable secret. Skiing and rafting are the most popular sports in north Black Sea Region. Trail running is not popular, but will in few years time.

Turkish coast

The Black Sea coast

The East Anatolian regions are very mountainous to the east, but the Middle Anatolian region is less so. The weather is very hot in South, but cold in Middle and north East Anatolia. The epic DASK ADAM; Anatolian Mountain Marathon, which is  since 11 years old, provides 2 points for the UTMB races. The race is handled in Anatolia close to Marmara region in the cold mountain city of Bolu. The race is a two-day multi-stage race with more than 3,500 meters of ascent. The ultra long edition of the race runs more than 90 km.

Turkish mountains

Turkish mountains

Turkish Runners
There aren’t any widely known Turkish trail runners. Several, such as myself as well as Serkan and Sertan Girgin, run major European races such as the UTMB races and the Swiss Alpine Marathon. Others, such as top women ultramarathoner Bakiye Duran (Team Touareg Turk team) prefer adventure racing.

Questions/Comments
Anyone who has run in Turkey, either as a local or as a visitor, please share your thoughts on trail running there.

Likewise, if you’re considering taking a trip to Turkey that involves trail running, ask away. Hopefully, Emre Tok will be able to answer your questions.

Emre Tok trail running

Emre Tok trail running