Sept 2017 - Pavel Toropov (UK) Course Director
Pavel Toropov (UK) is a 3 times GlobalLimits course director (he was also a team member in another 2 races). Pavel lives in China, he speaks several languages, is an accomplished trail runner, holds a PhD in biology, and is also a free-lance journalist and writer. Here he talks about his most recent experience being the course director in the inaugural GlobalLimits Albania – The Hidden Treasure.
1. Can you tell us about yourself?
I am from Wimbledon in London, but have been living in China for almost 10 years. I work for a Chinese company which organises running events\ and also works in inbound and outbound tourism. Its a fun but hard job - I am the only foreigner and I work on Chinese terms and everything is in Chinese. On the plus side, I have really learned about how Chinese society works. I also travel all over China and a lot abroad - this year I went to Norway, the North Pole, France, Kazakhstan and will soon be going to South Africa and to the South Pole. The polar trips are as a guide, but taking a Chinese tour group abroad alone is far harder than running any ultramarathon! Unfortunately, with all the traveling I don't get much of a chance to train and run, and race like I used to.
2. What’s the most difficult part marking the course in Albania?
The difficulty was road access for vehicles and the horrendous quality of the secondary roads - good for running, but a torture in a 4x4. Luckily we had a great course marking team - Nathan Montague from the UK, a great runner, anda fantastic local team - Adri, Chimi and Ilir. We had a great time together.
3. How safe is it to run in Albania?
Very safe - the local people are incredibly welcoming and friendly, but you must respect local customs, especially in the interior - the people in the villages are conservative and traditional and very proud. You must be aware of your actions and be respectful. Albania and Albanians get bad reputation in the press, I admit that I also fell for that, but I discovered very friendly, charming people who loved receiving visitors and the country itself is amazing.
4. Any advice for future participants in the race?
This was the best race I worked on - the country is incredible and has a huge amount to offer to a visitor. After the race - stay on and travel and see more of Albania and its people. As to the race itself - don't worry about safety issues. Oh - bring strong gaiters that will protect your shoes from thorns - one section has some really annoying prickly plants.
5. Where do we see you again?
I would love to come to Albania again next year to be the course director, but I have so much work in China that I cannot guarantee that, unfortunately!
6. You have been in all 4 locations of GlobalLimits races (Albania, Bhutan, Cambodia and Sri Lanka). What is the difference?
These are all very, very different events. Bhutan is a Himalayan mountain race where you can experience Buddhist culture first hand, it is really unique. Runners have to cope with steep climbs and altitude. It also gets a bit cold. I think it is a great way to see Bhutan, as you travel on your own two feet through a country where tourism is very tightly controlled, which is not something a standard visitor to Bhutan can do.
Cambodia was hot and tropical, I am bad in the heat, I really suffer, so this is not for me!
Sri Lanka, was a great race - very runnable, and there is wildlife everywhere! Unfortunately, some of that wildlife included wild elephants, which are very dangerous. We had some adventures marking the course at sunrise and sunset, the times when elephants are active, in the forest!
Albania is a chance to see a landscape that you will be hard-pressed to find anywhere in Europe! I thought some of the valleys that we ran through looked Neolithic! No houses, roads, people... and so much history, pre-Hellenic, Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman. You also feel like an explorer in Albania, there are so few tourists.
The best thing is that there is now a great GlobalLimits community, the same people come and do races again and again, and new people also join with every race, and stay on, doing other GlobalLimits races. I enjoy seeing old friends - there are some real characters amongst runners, staff, and volunteers, everyone has fun together. I really hope I get a chance to come back to a GlobalLimits even as soon as I can.