Inspirational Trails 6: Montserrat
Written By: Ben Mounsey
Here, in part six of a series featuring inspirational trails, our Sportsshoes.com Running Ambassador, Ben Mounsey, shares one of his favourite memories of competing in the Montserrat Sky Race, 2020.
I remember the first time I saw it: we were driving down the coast of Southern Spain when suddenly, out of nowhere, something in the distance caught my attention. A large flash of pink on the dark horizon, lit by the final rays of the sun. Almost alien in size and appearance; a jagged shape rising sharply from the ground. It looked strange and misplaced, like it didn’t belong to the Earth. Was I dreaming? It was like nothing I’d ever seen before. I was so fascinated and transfixed that it was difficult to keep my eyes on the road. Then, as we drew closer, things slowly began to make sense. I was gazing at a mountain and it was very real. It was Montserrat, the heart of Catalonia. My eyes had not deceived me. We had arrived.
Carved by wind and frost, this multi-peaked mountain offers incredible views from every angle. It’s impossible to describe Montserrat’s beauty. Words and images alone could never do it justice. Comparable to a film-set for a fantasy movie, this magical mountain is like no other. Home to one of Spain’s most important religious sites, it is undoubtedly one of the most spectacular and spiritual places in the world.
I found it difficult to believe that Montserrat would provide the setting for my next competitive race. This historical and mythical site was about to become a battleground for hundreds of athletes, as we all prepared to take on the challenge of the Montserrat Sky Race.
It was an early start and the race began in the dark. I was preparing myself for the effort to come: climbing 1500m in 25km requires some serious tactical thought. Soon, we left the streets of Monistrol behind and began the long and challenging ascent towards the monastery. The tracks and trails rose sharply, constantly switching back and forth through the thick woodland at the foot of the mountain. I had been told many stories about the beauty of this race and the expectation was weighing heavy in my mind.
I didn’t have long to wait. High above the trees, the sun began to rise and I was treated to my first unforgettable view. A thick layer of mist enveloped the valley floor and the pale sky began to glow in every shade of orange and pink. And there it was, like the Phoenix rising from the flames; an enormous silhouette of the magical mountain; its huge serrated edge impossible to ignore. It was a jaw-dropping sight and one that nearly floored me. Never before have I felt so connected by nature and sport. And for a brief moment I had forgotten that I was still in a race.
The mountain trails provide an endless journey across this idyllic landscape, creating a unique experience for every competitor. More ups and downs, twists and turns and endless amounts of spectacular scenery. I felt like I was running through the pages of a Gaudi sketchbook.
As I approached the long and final descent towards the finish, I knew I’d been treated to a unique and special experience, both spectacular and challenging in equal measure. I felt an enormous sense of fulfillment. Montserrat forms a powerful connection with everyone lucky enough to blaze its trails.
I will return, for this is a race that has it all.
Klassmark pride themselves on organising some of the best trail races in the world, setting the benchmark for outdoor sporting events. Find out more about their races and events in Southern Spain, or follow more of Ben’s running adventures on his website.