We do not do a run, where it’s only nice and pleasant…

Estimated reading time: 9 min.

Interview translated from the original text published 8th of May, 2019 in Run and Travel online magazine.

“We do not do a run where it’s only nice and pleasant…” What is Kaszubska Poniewierka then? What should the debutants be prepared for this year? What is “bedevilling” even the experienced runners there? Mariusz Adamczuk, project coordinator and Race Director, answers these questions and invites you to the next edition of Kaszubska Poniewierka, which will take place on September 14, 2019.

Monika Bartnik (Run and Travel): On 14 September 2019 the next edition of Kashubian Poniewierka will take place. This is a running event, to participate in which runners do not need to be persuaded. What do you think has to “play” at the event so that the runners return to it every year? What in Kaszubska Poniewierka attracts runners so much? What makes her stand out among other runs?

Mariusz Adamczuk (UKP): I have asked myself this question many times. Every year, we conduct an anonymous study among the participants of the race and the results are similar. A lot of people come back to us, despite the fact that they are developing their sport skills and exploring other runs in Poland or abroad. We also know from research that these people recommend our event to their friends, which for us is a great reward and give us satisfaction. What the respondents emphasize as the assets of Kaszubska Poniewierka is the atmosphere, route and organization. On the last one, of course, we have the greatest impact. We cannot change the routes diametrically, while the atmosphere of the event is something elusive, a bit magical. Something that simply floats in the air and is influencing organizers, volunteers and runners. Something that you cannot just create, even with a big budget. In the end, also something that gives strength throughout the year in the preparation of the next edition. It is difficult to define, but I think that it is a component of many things, among which I would distinguish the commitment and motivation of volunteers from local running environments (over one hundred of them operate on each UKP edition). They are the face of the run, they support the runners, bring in high fives and encourage to fight to the end. Of course we as organizers support this entire process, but we operate only in the background.

Another thing is the challenge. It must be something that will give you hardship (make you mentally and physically almost defeated). Something that makes you, despite getting a DNF the year earlier, come back stronger the next year. Or you just have a strong urge to improve your time. There are many runs that you participate only once and you do not feel like going back there anymore. Fortunately, we’ve probably managed to prepare an event that does not belong to them. And finally the scenery. Kashubia region, to which you have a bond, which many people remember from their family holidays. Large and tiny villages in which life is slowly rolling with its rhythm, seemingly not noticing the group of madmen running among fields, forests and lakes.

MB: As part of Kaszubska Poniewierka, we have four distances to choose from – 30 km, 50 km, 75 km and 100 km. So let’s start with the longest one. The 100-kilometer route starts at the foot of Łysa Góra (Naked Mountain) in Sopot. Well, what mountains in Sopot and on the entire route?… How come 2790 m uphill and 2660 m downhill on the route?… Someone who has never run in the Tri-City Landscape Park is not likely imagining that the route is not flat. So what is on the route of Kaszubska Poniewierka?

MA: Of course, it’s a bit of an exaggeration with these mountains. The landscape surrounding the Tri-city (metropolitan area in Poland consisting of three cities in Pomerania: Gdańsk, Gdynia and Sopot, as well as minor towns in their vicinity) is sub-mountainous. We have here moraine hills and valleys and several streams, which are in fact a big problem for the city during intense rainfall. Due to the specific relief of the area, running here is unique because we have a lot of sharp uphill and downhill sections. They are quite steep, but short, so you frequently run intervals with little room for a steady pace. Dozens of hills and minor hills on the route make up a considerable amount of total uphill, valued by ITRA for 4 points, and in the case of 130 km long HARD variant of the ultramarathon – even up to 5 points. Of course, we do not run for points. However, some starters expect this valuation. For me personally the challenge counts most, the more interesting the better.

MB: The 100 km route also has touristic values. It runs through small Kashubian villages and hamlets. How much of the Kashubian climate can you feel on the route? Or maybe I will ask differently … how to recognize the Kashubian climate on the route?

MA: There are of course some interesting places on the route, but I admit that we tried to lead it in a way that would not disturb the residents. Kashubia is a fairly densely populated region, so there is no way to run in the middle of nowhere. So you can watch ordinary, familiar pictures related to work in the surrounding fields or on farms. In several places, the route leads straight through the owners’ yard (with their permission of course). I must say that we meet with considerable interest and sympathy of the residents. I have seen and heard many times about the spontaneous hot cheering that the runners receive.

Perhaps the most Kashubian place on the route is the midway point of the ultramarathon in Skrzeszewo, where this year there will also be located the K75 route nutrition point and the KP50 route start. For three years a local Kashubian band is giving a concert here and the runners are can taste delicacies prepared by ladies from the circle of village housewives circle (KGW). Similarly at the finish line a warm meal prepared by KGW is waiting for competitors of all distances. This year, we are also striving to have the vegan option, although this requires minor modifications of traditional Kashubian recipes 😉

KP30 runners also can count on hot cheering in many places on their route. One of them is Stare Czaple, more or less in the middle of the distance, where each year a large group of locals gather, cheering the runners during their struggles. Interestingly, this place appeared on the Poniewierka route accidentally. After the storms in 2017, which sowed the havoc in Kashubia and Kociewie, we were forced to change the original 30 km route, which initially led through the now partially damaged, beautiful beech forest. Although the threat has passed and the remains of the cataclysm have been largely cleaned up, we have left the changed route permanently and probably no one regrets it.

As for touristic values, it is worth noting that the race route runs through five beautiful nature reserves, quite specific for Kashubia. Someone who has ever organized a sporting event knows that it is a challenge to settle all the related consents and formalities. However, we are still doing it successfully to show the runners what is best in Kashubia and enable them to run the ultra-trekking tour of our region.

MB: Sharp, maximal and inevitable maltreatment … Both the distance alone and a varied route course may be bedevilling. What in particular should call the attention of runners making their debut on the 100-kilometer distance of Kaszubska Poniewierka?

MA: I think that route vertical profile analysis is crucial and wise distribution of runner’s forces. Of course, there are single flat and easy sections on the route, where you can run really fast, but too strong exploitation of the body in these places can take revenge later. I would advise, especially beginners, to training downhills in the dark, and of course build the running strength, because it really is not flat here. Some beginner ultra-runners use running poles, and these are useful sometimes, mainly on the first 30 km of the route, perhaps also on short technical sections in the middle part. They can also relieve sore muscles on the final 15 km. So if someone wants to have such support – they are welcome. The key is, however, to train with sticks beforehand and prepare for work with the upper body. Otherwise, the poles will only become unnecessary ballast. The general guideline is also that I would advise you to be prepared for running on narrow single-track paths on the ground covered with roots and natural obstacles. It can really come in handy.

MB: Kaszubska Poniewierka is a challenge not only for debuting on the route. Last year over 50 people passed DNF. What’s so daunting? What do runners have the biggest problems with?

MA: Yes, that’s right. This statistic mainly applies to 100 km route. Certainly, it is of some importance that our run might be chosen by the less experienced, and sometimes even by the debuting ultras. Of course, we do not have a problem with it, on the contrary: we like it very much, that we are the first, serious race in the ultra-career of many people. It is a distinction for us and I hope a nice memory for the participants of Kaszubska Poniewierka for years.

Here, however, it’s not just about having running experience. Last year I saw a few experienced faces that descended from the route after 10, 20, 40 km due to fatigue, fall or injury. In fact, every kilometre of the route is very well thought out. Many people running only in the mountains can smile at these words, but the fact is that we have here very interesting, technical passages on the route, which cause a lot of problems to many people. I know these paths fairly well, designing Kaszubska Poniewierka route I tried to get the most out of the beaten trails, using my favourite running tracks, i.e. single tracks used by MTB riders, ridge tracks or narrow paths, fragments only trodden by animals. Certain sections are led along the slopes of ravines just above the water level. If the water level is high in a given year, then you have a problem and you get a little more fatigue in the tricky terrain. It seems to me that my passion for orienteering races played a role here – I just like it when the course terrain is varied. And this is exactly what Kaszubska Poniewierka is.

„Poniewierka” is a tricky Polish word. It is hard to translate it into a single English term. It carries the meaning of maltreatment, adversity, hardship, life of misery, endless wandering…

The name itself was chosen not by accident. We do not do a run where it’s only nice and pleasant. The sections between nutrition points are long and this is on purpose. One needs to have a strategy for this and must be prepared. The time barrier at the first stage of the run is demanding for beginners. The start time is also unpleasant. The middle of the night: neither to fall asleep nor sleep well … And we are still sending people on a 100 km linear route deep into Kashubia.

MB: “If you do not like running at night and do not want to cook your calves in the Tri-City Landscape Park for 30 km, then this flatter distance is for you!” That’s how you write about the distance of 75 km. Is it possible to say about this distance that it is easier when it comes to the diversity of routes from the 100 km?

MA: It’s definitely easier than 100 km route, but that does not mean it’s easy. For sure it will be faster. I cannot wait to see how the runners will manage the technical sections at full speed. I think KP75 will be a great choice for people who just do not like running at night. It is definitely a flatter race, but I would advise them not to underestimate it. After a few flat sections comes the last one, on which about 90% of the climbs wait to be overcome, so the wise distribution of resources will be crucial.

MB: On Kaszubska Poniewierka, you can “batter yourself” also on shorter distances. Is 30 km a good idea for the debut on the trail and 50 km for the debut in ultra?

MA: Definitely yes. We dedicate a distance of 30 km to people who would like to try their selves in trail running. The run has almost 1000 m of uphill climb with several viewpoints on the route. The time limit is friendly and the run is technically easy, which also favours fast running and competition. KP50 is a short ultra with not a very high uphill climb, where you can check your skills on the charming, technical section in the Jar Radunia (River Radunia Gorge) reserve. I think it is a very nice experience before running similar courses, for example in the Bieszczady Mountains.

MB: What new elements can we expect during this year’s edition?

MA: We do not plan a revolution in this run, but we want to develop and professionalize it. The biggest change this year are certainly the new distances. Having a relatively limited time, due to family and professional responsibilities, we try to ensure that the development of the event takes place organically. We have a lot of ideas in our heads, some of them are waiting in the freezer for next editions. From year to year, we add more bricks where it is needed and we look after things that we manage to do well. However, you can be sure that everything we do is done to the max. I hope this is visible. And you can read about details about changes on our website: changes in 2019 edition.

The portal is the media patron of the Kaszubska Poniewierka Ultramarathon.