Climbing. 16,000 metres of elevation over the course of 190 Kilometres. That is 150% more climbing than the Northburn 100 Miler or the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc. For those not living in mountainous terrain, it is going to be extremely difficult, verging on impossible to adequately prepare their body and mind for 16,000m of climbing, not to mention 16,000m of descending.
Time. An equation that I quite like to use when working out how long a run is going to to take me, is for every 100m of vertical ascent, I add a kilometre to the distance and then multiply the distance by my expected cruising speed on flat ground of similar terrain when fresh. By that equation, the Revanant is equivalent to 350km. I'll let you do the maths on that one. And, that is before we calculate extra time for fatigue, heat, darkness and potentially an unequal partner.
Navigation. There is no electronic aiding in terms of navigation. All navigation is to be done with compass and map. How hard that navigation will be is anyones guess. Regardless of navigational difficulty, add two nights of little or no sleep, and tying your shoe lace becomes difficult to master, let alone trying to read a map and compass. Don't forget that competitors will also need to navigate at night.
What you need to complete the Revenant:
A) An exceptionally capable mountain athlete.
B) Experienced at non-stop multi day adventure racing or similar.
C) Exceptional navigation skills.
D) Speed. A super fast cruising speed.
E) Tolerance to extremes in temperature.
F) If you are doing it as a team, a team mate who also possesses A-E.
An event like the Revenant is in a different league to almost all other 'running' events. There is a calibre of athlete who would do well at an event like this. World class adventure racers, such as Nathan Fa'ave, Chris Forne or Stu Lynch who are well adjusted to this degree of physical and psychological insult, and even then there is no guarantee. This event does not lend itself to the average trail runner.
My disquiet or concern is NOT with the race itself, nor the race promoters. I struggle with the global trend towards longer distance events with the emergence of 200 mile races and beyond appearing internationally. What I struggle with is why people feel the need to attempt races like this that they patently are unlikely to achieve. If you enjoy suffering so much just come by and I’ll buy you a 40oz of vodka and you can scull it in front of me. I would suggest that the physiological effects of this and an attempt to stay awake for 60 hours and traverse 190km with 16,000m of vertical ascent and descent would be surprisingly similar.
I question our obsession with going longer and longer and longer. There is nothing wrong with challenging yourself at ultra distance events, however I would challenge those who have an event such as the Revenant on their event horizon to first attempt to complete a fast 5/10/21/42km race. This might also be beneficial for your longer distance runs. The training has the potential to enculturate you to a new level of sitting comfortably with distress. I am pretty sure you can squeeze 60 hours of suffering into the effort and exertion of a fast (relative to each individual) marathon.
Am I wrong on this? I may well be, and I’ll be happy to admit it if that is the case. In the interim, I stand by what I say that I believe that the culture of going bigger and bigger is not helpful if we ignore the fundamentals of running and motility. I believe that in this way we expose ourselves to burnout and injury. Focusing on, and attributing meaning to, these races at the expense of traditional or non-ultra events is not necessarily a healthy or adaptive standpoint and I am concerned that no one will benefit from this preoccupation with going big.
As I said above, I may well be wrong, and would love to get your thoughts on the matter.