Even though it’s a marathon race the Lanjaron – Trevelez is not the hardest race of the weekend. The Blue Ribbon event takes place on Saturday and it’s called the Backwards Hop race, where competitors hop around Trevelez five times in reverse. In this contest only one leg can be used for the entire race; to ensure this rule is strictly enforced the other leg is tied. Competitors can use wing mirrors attached to their shoulders to help guide themselves around the course; they must not be guided by a coach and can’t attach guide dogs to their bodies.
The steepest part of the course is at the southernmost edge of Trevelez where one 400-metre road connects the lower town with the upper town; this is the part of the course where the race is won and lost because most people have difficulty walking down this road in a forwards direction in dry weather. In fact most competitors spend more time on this section of the course than on the rest of the course altogether. Grooves are cut into the surface of the road to make gripping the surface slightly easier but even then it’s horrendously difficult going. Most injuries are caused when people overbalance on the later laps due to tiredness. Even the strongest hoppers can spend ten minutes negotiating this road.
The rest of the circuit is through narrow streets, past bakeries, shops, and cafes – the downhill section is fairly gentle and allows racers to gather their strength before the uphill. The person who has won this race most often is Benjamin Ortega from nearby Juviles with eight victories between 1948 and 1963; he trained for the race by hopping backwards up Alcazaba the third highest peak in the Sierra Nevada three times in succession. His advice for hopping backwards up the steep hill during the race was to take small hops and always keep the back straight so as to avoid overbalancing.
The fastest race is the final race of the weekend on the Sunday – the 10 lap forwards hopping race where the hoppers head down the steep hill and around the village. Strangely this race has had the worst accidents of the whole weekend, usually when a racer trips at the top of the hill and rolls downwards knocking over the other hoppers like bowling pins. Edinson Suarez from Cordoba has won this race five times during his career including a hat-trick between 1978 – 1980 – his fastest time was 2 hours 23 minutes and 18 seconds in 1979. He retired in 1984 after suffering an Achilles tendon injury when he was flattened from behind by a tumbling hopper on the hill.
Extract from Sports the Olympics Forgot