Last updated: 18-Apr-17
The Ultra Trail Stara Planina is known as one of the most beautiful and wildest races of south-eastern Europe.
The race, which is nicknamed “ultra juniper” by competitors (named after the unbelievable fields of this evergreen plant) is a must-do for true fans of untouched trails at 2000m plus. The trail goes mostly along the narrow goat tracks between Serbia and Bulgaria, by the borderline road which was closed to civilians for over a century.
Only the army could use the road so it remained untouched and primordial. There are countless water sources at high altitude on this, the longest ridge of the Balkans. Competitors must be aware that they have to be independent. On the trail, there is only one village and that doesn’t even have 50 inhabitants, everything still looks like it was in the nineteenth century.
Terms and conditions are such that we do not want a big number of runners, the goal is that the athletes can enjoy the race without commercial stalls at the start point and in the absence of crowds and an audience. GPS is recommended; the markings are such that some level of orientation is required (at least for the longer distance).
This year sees the fifth edition of the race. There are three distances (24.57 and 108km) and registration is open until April 27th. The race is open for amateurs and elites. It counts towards UTMB and this is the toughest trail race in Serbia. In past years we had around 10-15 nationalities in the competition. The Serbian Ministry of Sport has decided that this is an important event for the country when it comes to mountain sports and protected natural parks.
Bojan Dulejan, the winner of the longest race in 2014 (122 km)
“Considering that I have run a lot of races in the region, including UTMB, I can say that this is a real challenge and a race that differs from what we are used to seeing. What distinguishes this race is that there are no crowds, no fairground atmosphere, and the rules are strictly respected.
The track is incredibly beautiful, untouched but also cruel. There are parts of the trail where junipers are unavoidable – they are the symbol of this race and the views are unreal. During a great part of the race you are on a ridge of 1800 metres plus above sea level.
There is plenty of drinking water outside of the refreshment points. The weather changes rapidly. In the evening temperatures can fall to zero but during the day it is always pleasant even if the sun is really hot. There is always a breeze.
This race is a real pleasure and a unique experience but not an easy one. I recommend it to all experienced ultra runners. Come and experience this completely different trail, untouched nature and a great atmosphere. For beginners this could be a real mental test and an excellent track for making progress.”
All images: Skyrunning Serbia.