I ran the Patagonia International Marathon as race number one of seven for the 777 Project.
If you’re thinking about running the Patagonia International Marathon, here’s my official race review, so you can see what it’s like.
The weather is like a day in the chilly Midwestern fall. Wear warm clothes (almost as if you were doing a winter run). The wind is brutal (although it can be at your back sometimes). I actually rolled my ankle pretty badly coming down on a hill because the wind caught me off guard when I was coming downhill around a corner. Most of the time it’s at your back, but when it’s not, it’s tough!
The Location & Scenery
Torres del Paine is one of the most breaktaking place I have ever been to. Words do a bad job of describing this, so I’ll just leave these photos here.
Why hello, Patagonia. You’re looking beautiful today. #pim14
Yo, Patagonia. Anytime you want, you can knock it off. Or… you know… you can keep on looking ridiculous. Yeah – on second thoughts – keep looking ridiculous. #nature
Let’s play a game: which one is the real mountain? Please discuss. #patagonia
#nofilter needed. Patagonia is a real life painting. #777project #pim14 http://impossiblehq.com/777
The course is mostly gravel road. The beginning boasts some glaciers, and you start off running in sand (which is frustrating and a slow way to set the pace). You run for about a mile until you’re on the main road and you stay on that around the park. The course is beautiful (as I’ve already said 1,000 times), and the individual parts of it are broken down later in this article.
Logistics & Organization
Because of its remoteness, the organization is a bit difficult. You’re supposed to pick up your packet in Puerto Natales, which is an hour or two outside the actual park.
I ended up grabbing mine on race day, which wasn’t a problem, apart from the fact that I didn’t have any pins for my bib. I tried to tape it on but it fell off after a mile, so I stuffed the number back into my sweatshirt and kept running.
I can’t speak for the other distances, but it was a little weird to walk as a group to the start line. It was totally worth it for the view of the glacial lake and icebergs, but it was different to most races I’ve done before.
Also, it would have been nice to have had an additional one or two aid stations. You’re supposed to carry your own water (which means the race is super clean!), but for the first 21km, we didn’t get any water stops at all. If there had been one or two more, the race setup would have been perfect.
The pre-race communications were solid. The organizers weren’t overly communicative, but they were helpful enough that we were able to get to where we needed to be and find the things we needed to find.
The biggest problem here was with packet pickup, since they didn’t have an expo-type event where you can typically pick these things up. It would have been hugely helpful if they could have had this in the park somewhere, although I’m not sure exactly where they would have had it (maybe in one of the hotels?).
Forget pasta dinners. They had a bunch of lambs roasting up on a BBQ spit in the middle of the post-race ceremony. That was awesome, delicious, and paleo. Nom nom nom.
Beyond the lamb though, there wasn’t much else available, apart from a couple of pieces of bread and a few drinks. Some sort of fruit would have been nice.
Showers, massages, and other amenities were all available at cost. This wouldn’t have been as big of a deal if it wasn’t for the two hour drive back to my hotel.
The race entry itself is $110 US, which isn’t incredibly expensive, but it’s not cheap either. More than the entry fee though, the whole experience will put you back a few pennies.
Flights to PUQ are at least $1,500. You can minimize that a bit by using travel hacking strategies, but the main airline that flies down there (LAN) is a bit tough to work with. Don’t bother trying to change flights with them. I spent eight calls and half a day trying to change a flight by one day.
On top of that, Punta Arenas (where you fly into) is relatively cheap, but it’s a bit of an adventure to get to Torres del Paine. You take a bus to Puerto Natales (three hours and about $10) and then another bus to get into Torres del Paine.
Inside the park, EVERYTHING is very expensive (because it’s so remote). Basically, every hotel is at least $125 per night. Some of the nicer ones end up being a better deal than the cheaper ones (more on that in a second). There is wifi, but very often it doesn’t work, and this is completely dependent on where you are in the park.
Also, if you don’t have your own car, you end up paying for everything in the park. We were charged every time we stepped into a car. A five minute ride to the park administration where the hotel picked us up cost $40 for a round trip for two people, when we thought it was free.
If you do this, I recommend you take one of the packages. They might seem pricier, but once we added it all up, the total cost was very, very similar to the prices of the packages, and we might have had a nicer experience if we’d chosen one.
That said, the area is beautiful. It’s almost a shame that you don’t take advantage of it. If you’re really wanting to get the full experience of Torres del Paine, I’d recommend spending a week or so there, and bringing or renting gear to camp, hike, and explore the area. That way, you’ll be able to spend longer there for less money.
The Race Distances
The 63km start line is absolutely gorgeous. You jog out to the starting line, which is surrounded by icebergs sticking out of a glacial lake). Awesome. After you get off the sandbar, the view flattens out for the next 21km. The mountains are gorgeous, but they’re just warming you up for what’s next.
The 21km from the marathon start to the half marathon start is the most beautiful part of the course. You run along Lake Pehoe the entire time and it’s absolutely gorgeous.
The “worst” views of the course were along this stretch. The race started out overlooking the lake and the mountains, but the last 21km mostly consisted of hills with views that weren’t quite so scenic. Of course, “worst” is a relative term here.
This was a longer trail race that was added at the last minute. I would have signed up for this if I’d known about it.
This is the epic trail race. They just announced this recently and they’re going to be adding it to the circuit. From what I understand, with this race, you have much less of a view because you’re in the mountains the whole time.
If you can, do the marathon or one of the longer distances. Coming all this way for 21km seems like a bit of a waste of the ridiculous scenery there.
This race is out of the way. It took us 48 hours to get to it (from San Diego to Torres del Paine), but it was well worth it. The race is still young (it’s only in its third year), so I imagine they’ll be working out some of the kinks in the future.
Torres del Paine is expensive and if you can figure out a way to spend more time there while minimizing the cost, you’ll have a better time.
From an ultra perspective, the 67km and 109km races intrigue me. I’m interested in seeing how the organizers continue to grow this ridiculous race year after year.
If you found this review helpful, check out my other race reviews.
If you’d like to join the 777 Project, click here.