This is not a race for the novice runner

The Karkonosze Winter Ultramarathon is not only a test of physical endurance, but also a test of mental endurance.

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Runners in the winter scenery of the Karkonosze ultramarathon.

     The Karkonosze Winter Ultramarathon is a race for those who want to test their strength, courage and endurance. This 48 kilometre race takes runners through the breathtaking winter scenery of Poland’s Karkonosze Mountains. Named after Tomek Kowalski, an avid ultramarathoner and mountaineer, the race is a tribute to his indomitable spirit and love of challenge. 

Runners in the winter scenery of the Karkonosze ultramarathon.

     The race is not for novice runners as they may encounter harsh winter conditions such as snow, wind and cold temperatures. To take part in the challenge, runners must have experience of long-distance mountain running and knowledge of winter mountain conditions. Starting from Szklarska Poręba, the route takes runners up Szrenica Mountain, through Śnieżne Kotły and the Karkonoska Pass, to the top of Śnieżka Mountain and the Okraj Pass, finishing in Karpacz. With a time limit of 10.5 hours, runners will need to maintain a strong pace throughout the race. There are four refreshment stations every 10-15 kilometres to give runners a chance to recharge and refuel. However, stopping between stations is discouraged, as even short stops in unprotected areas can increase the risk of hypothermia and weaken motivation. 

Runners in the winter scenery of the Karkonosze ultramarathon.

     The Karkonosze Winter Ultramarathon is not only a test of physical endurance, but also a test of mental endurance. Participants must have self-confidence, be prepared for discomfort and have the fighting spirit to overcome the harsh winter conditions. The unpredictable winter weather in the Karkonosze Mountains increases the difficulty of the route and adds to the excitement and unpredictability of the race. To take part in the Karkonosze Winter Ultramarathon, runners need to love challenges, like Tomek Kowalski. He has inspired others with his efforts and determination to follow his dreams showing that, with the right attitude, anything is possible. By taking part in this race, runners will be following in his footsteps, pushing their limits and respecting his legacy.

Runners in the winter scenery of the Karkonosze ultramarathon.

     If you love challenges and have a fighting spirit, participating in the Karkonosze Winter Ultramarathon will be a great opportunity to overcome your weaknesses and test your physical and mental strength in this amazing winter mountain race. 

Runners in the winter scenery of the Karkonosze ultramarathon.

Zimowy Ultramaraton Karkonoski – Distance: 48 km Elevation: +1945 m/ -2089 m 

Event website:
Photography: Bikelife


Karkonosze Winter Ultramarathon - Strong pace and winter on the route

Press release after the 2023 edition.
   Real winter conditions, 48 mountain kilometres, which almost 400 runners faced on 25 February. That, in a nutshell, was the Karkonosze Winter Ultramarathon. Tomek Kowalski. Michał Rajca was the first to cross the finish line in Karpacz. Aleksandra Narkowicz won the women’s race.

   This year’s Karkonosze Winter Ultramarathon was a real winter. It had been snowing since the morning and sometimes there were snowdrifts on the course. The wind was also blowing at times, but in the end it was weaker than the forecast had predicted. It is no surprise that the Queen of the Karkonosze – Śnieżka, located in the middle of the route, was a test for the competitors. Strong wind on the ascent, its gusts and poor visibility on the descent made it one of the most difficult sections of the ultramarathon. 393 people took part in the race.

Runners in the winter scenery of the Karkonosze ultramarathon.

   The runners agree that the conditions in previous years were less favourable than last Saturday. This is proven by the amazing results of the top teams. The fastest was Michał Rajca of the Hoka Garmin team with a time of 4 hours, 16 minutes and 12 seconds, improving his result from last year by over 15 minutes (on the identical course). It was his fifth victory at the Karkonosze Winter Ultramarathon.

   – The ground we were running on was quite hard. Sometimes there were drifts, but I think there were definitely less of them than last year, so the conditions were more comfortable for me. I was able to go really fast, said Michał Rajca.

   Tomasz Skupień was second (4:27:3) and Kamil Leśniak of the Hoka Garmin team was third (4:37:23). From the beginning of the race the men competed with each other and took turns in the leading positions.

   – That was the result of fair play. One person would lead a bit, the other would rest a bit at the back. But it does not change the fact that after a while everyone gets tired and the best simply wins – commented Tomasz Skupień. – The pace was very high. The three of us attacked and that was cool for me. I was counting on the fact that it wouldn’t be a passive race and that we would want to fight for the best possible result. 3rd place in the open competition, I’m happy with that – added Kamil Leśniak.

Runners in the winter scenery of the Karkonosze ultramarathon.

   Just off the podium were: Piotr Wołąkiewicz, Miłosz Szkołuda, Roman Ficek, Aleksander Badowski, Maurycy Oleksiewicz and Tomek Curyło. The women also showed great preparation and sporting ability. The first to cross the finish line in Karpacz after 5 hours, 38 minutes and 24 seconds was Aleksandra Narkowicz, who was also making her debut at the Karkonosze Winter Ultramarathon.

   – It was my first start here, my first winter race in Poland. I didn’t expect a place like this. I liked the course. The most difficult moment was probably the entrance to Śnieżka and the descent, where there was some ice and a strong wind that threw me to the side and I couldn’t see where I was running. Then it got better and better,” said Aleksandra Narkowicz.

   The fight for 2nd and 3rd place went on until the last metres. Katarzyna Konkel finished in 5 hours, 59 minutes and 24 seconds, just 42 seconds ahead of Alicja Białobłocka (6 hours, 1 minute and 6 seconds). The top six were completed by Agata Toporowicz, Joanna Oberlan-Maroń and Monika Krużołek.

   – We are happy with these great results from the top teams. But everyone who finished the race deserves a big congratulations. Each of the ZUK competitors left a piece of heart and sports spirit on the track, it must be emphasised. We would like to thank all the volunteers, hundreds of them, for creating this unique event with us – said Agnieszka Korpal, the organiser of the Karkonosze Winter Ultramarathon.

Runners in the winter scenery of the Karkonosze ultramarathon.

   The race is in memory of Tomek Kowalski, an alpinist and ultra-marathon runner who died during a winter expedition to one of the world’s highest peaks – Broad Peak. This year marks 10 years since the accident. The Karkonosze Winter Ultramarathon is difficult and demanding, just like the goals that Tomek set for himself and that drove his life.

   – We came here not because of the ultramarathon, but to honour Tomek Kowalski, because he was a mountaineer, a climber and a runner. He also took part in adventure races. And now the ZUK is one of the TOP winter events – recalls Piotr Paszyński, who has taken part in the race eight times.

   From the very beginning, ZUK was considered one of the most difficult races of its kind in Poland. It was the first Polish and perhaps the first European winter ultramarathon. Registration for the next edition opens in November.

Press release.
Photography: Karolina Krawczyk

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