There was an exceptionally warm weather in Northern Finland throughout the NUTS Ylläs Pallas presented by Garmin & La Sportiva weekend. Despite the circumstances the weekend offered some great race thrillers as well as several new course records. Due to bright weather the 134 km race offered an experience of midnight sun as its best.
The event itself was a big trail running festival, which gathered over 1000 participants ranging from novice trail runners to top level athletes to Pallas–Yllästunturi National Park. In addition, there were over 100 trail running enthusiast volunteer workers helping with the arrangements.
The 30 kilometer “sprint race” which included some steep climbs and fast downhills was a fierce battle between Jere Pajunen (FI) and Eugeni Gil (ES) until about 25 kilometer mark when Gil, who at the time had built a comfortable 3 minute leading gap to Pajunen, started feeling unwell and had to slow down his pace markedly. This gave an unexpected opportunity to Pajunen who caught up with Gil and went on to win the race.
Hannu-Pekka Pukema and Leo Laakkonen finished second and third respectively. Despite his unfortunate troubles, Gil decided not to drop out of race and bravely fought his way across the finish line finishing on 16th position.
Sonja Kyrölä was the fastest woman, leading the women’s race from the very start all the way to the finish line. Susanna Tervo was the runner up finishing ahead of Johanka Simkova (CZ). The five of these six top runners are also active orienteering racers.
The time penalties caused some changes in the results of the top 10 in both series. Pajunen’s result declined to the second at the ranking and Tervo’s to the 6th at the ranking. Hence Pukema got up to the winner at the men’s category and Jenni Koho to the bronze at the women’s category.*
At the 55 km race Henri Ansio, the internationally most successful trail runner from Finland, ran the new course record. Considering that even the weather conditions weren’t the easiest because of the unusual high temperature, Ansio’s performance on the course was a tough one (04:19:41). Usually the 55 km’s races of the NUTS Ylläs Pallas events have been taken place in the lukewarm weather conditions.
Jussi Nokelainen completed as second one and due to that he caught the leading position in the ranking of the Buff Trail Tour Finland series. Jyri Uusitalo was the third fastest on the course. The both Ansio and Nokelainen have been familiar faces on the podium positions in recent years.
This year the top of women’s category got a delightful rejuvenation. Yet Maija Oravamäki, already the legend of the Finnish trail running, took the sovereign win and overtook the lead in Buff Trail Tour. Oona Hilkamo and Julia Silvennoinen coped to the second and third positions. Both of them were running their first ultra distance races, so that there is a valid reason to consider the duet as the future hopes of the Finnish trail running sport.
In general the NUTS Ylläs Pallas 55 km is a first ultra distance race to many of those almost 600 participants. For a reason many runners choose this course for their first ultra race: the course is not technically too demanding and the sceneries are unparalleled which helps first-timers to get through the route. That’s why the finish line is so full of joy and feelings of succeed.
The longest race, 134 kms, goes through the whole Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park. It’s is a partial race in two categories: UTWT Discovery Series and UTTF Series. Ultra-Trail® World Tour Discovery Races introduce some new destinations where to run on the trails, in exceptional destinations but attending to these races does not accumulate the UTWT ranking points. The national Ultra Trail Tour Finland series includes three races and NUTS Ylläs Pallas is one of these.
In 2018 the UTTF has been a friendly battle between Jaakko Eskelinen and Antti Itkonen in the male category. As expected, these runners went to the lead in the competition and ran almost side by side the first 30 kilometers. From the third aid station Eskelinen over took Itkonen and ran alone to the finish. His time 15:00:01 broke phenomenally the prior record at the 134 km race. Antti Itkonen was second and Tomi Mikkola captured the third position. Since the NUTS Ylläs Pallas race, Eskelinen heads the ranking of the UTTF series.
In the female category of the 134 km race Anne Kiljunen made an amazing job by scoring sub 20 hours time as the first female runner ever. Kiljunen’s final result was 19:43:14. Henna Majuri (2nd) and Piia Siitonen (3rd), both carried out the course nicely within sub 23 hours. Siitonen fortified her position on the top of the ranking at the UTTF series.
The warm weather was a challenge for sure to many of the trail runners, but atmosphere was enthusiastic during the event and feedbacks from the participants have been praiseworthy – which was the main goal by the organizers. The very delightful addition to the event experiences were the active support of the followers via the social media channels.
Due to the accidental acts against the race rules, two of the 30 km racers have been given the time penalties of 15 minutes. Jere Pajunen (M 1st finisher) and Susanna Tervo (F 2nd finisher) received support on the course outside the official aid stations.
When these incidents happened, the racers hadn’t been aware they were actually breaking the race rules, while receiving cold water showers.
The penalties caused some changes in the results of top 10 in both series. Pajunen’s result declined to the second at the ranking and Tervo’s to the 6th at the ranking. Hence Pukema got up to the winner at the men’s category and Jenni Koho to the bronze at the women’s category.