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The Raid Laos, an extraordinary ultra-trail

Updated: Jul 24, 2020

Every year, ORLA TOURS organizes an ultra-trail in Laos. It is a unique sporting event! But what are we talking about exactly ? 125 kilometers of running spread over several days, and with no less than 40 participants. Jungle, river crossings, cruise on the Mekong, stays overnight in village, ... This is an unforgettable experience for any runner. In this article, we tell you everything about the origins, the organization and the future of this unique race. Enjoy the reading !

Who is at the origin of this running event in Laos ?

At the very beginning, there is Gerard Verdenet. Great sportsman, he participated in many running events and in very varied conditions. Ultra-trail, sand marathons, self-sufficiency raids, nothing scares him. During his adventures, an idea grew up in his mind: organize his own sporting events. What could be better than adventures organized by a runner for runners? He then triggered the decision and created his association "Course autour du monde" in 2013. Thanks to it, he can organize events on different continents: Vietnam, Ecuador, Colombia, Madagascar and Laos.

The concept of these races is always the same: to prefer the human adventure rather than the sporting event. Thus, meetings and moments of sharing take precedence over pure competition. Gerard is above all a generous and passionate guy. We can say that his races are like him.

What is the Raid Laos?

Let's go into the details of the ultra-trail of Laos. How long has it been? Well, the first edition took place in 2013. We selected the region of Nongkhiaw, located 3 hours’ drive from Luang Prabang. Why there, you may ask? First, the area is made up of mountains, jungles, rivers and tribal villages. All these elements make it an ideal starting point for trekking or running. Then, our travel agency regularly sends hikers to this area. We know all the nooks, the paths and all the village chiefs. Believe us, it helps a lot !

In 2017, thanks to our experience, we decided to innovate by offering a brand-new itinerary. This second version is rather a concept : Along the Mekong. So, what is it exactly? During the 5 days of races, the runners will go up the mythical river in a slow traditional boat. The racing stages start from the banks and the nights are done near the Mekong. Between each event, athletes enjoy a cruise to rest. Can we imagine a better way to combine running and resting ?

This event implies precise and great logistics, right ?

What is the organization to manage this event? The Raid Laos is composed of 5 stages, spread over a stay of 10 days. The first days are devoted to the welcoming of the 40 runners, their transfers to a charming hotel, distribution of bibs and a briefing. For acclimatization to be ideal, they spend a day or two visiting Luang Prabang. Only then really starts the sporting event. During 5 days, the running stages are held in the morning until early afternoon. The second part of the day is dedicated for resting, visiting villages, meeting the locals and making donations. Once the race days are over, participants return to Luang Prabang. We take them to Kuang Si Waterfalls, Tad Sae Elephant Camp and hold a graduation ceremony.

As you can imagine, managing 40 runners roaming in the remote jungle requires a consequent supervision. Thus, we have 3 local guides in charge of setting up supplies, a Lao / French duo to mark the itinerary, 2 French doctors for possible health concerns, and a team of boatmen for transfers and catering. Not to mention the general leader Phasouk, armed with his phone, who personally ensures that everything is in place: marking of the routes, installation of supplies, lunch breaks, reception by the villages, etc ...

This event obviously requires perfect logistics, before and during the tour. Before the tour, several members of the ORLA Tours team go on site. The goal is to check that all tracks are doable, to collect the phone numbers of local people, and warn local leaders of our future arrival.

Then during the tour, Thanks to this attention of every second, the organization is flawless for the runners. Over the years, ORLA Tours has shown its ability to manage complex sports events in terms of organization, logistics and coaching.

What is the future of the Raid Laos ?

For the Utra-trail to keep its interest, we have to innovate! Thus, after 4 times in Nongkhiaw, and 3 along the Mekong, our event changes of country! It will now be held in Burma. 2019 will mark the end of the Raid Laos such as it is. 2020 will be a raid-free year for the development of Burma. Then finally, we will organize our first event in Myanmar in 2021.

As you can see, this is a sporting event that is constantly evolving. It is essential for us that the runners do not get used to it. It is therefore likely that we will again organize an Ultra-trail in Laos in a few years. We will keep you posted !

Humanitarian aspect

The Laos Raid is more than just a sport event, it's a human adventure. We do our best to encourage exchanges and meetings between runners and local people. Our itinerary for this event is off the beaten path, we go where others do not go. It is therefore not uncommon that some villages welcoming us see foreigners for the first time of their lives. These visits are also a way for us to help them. Thus, before the events, we tell the runners that making donations is possible. Sportsmen bring second-hand clothes as well as school supplies. These material donations are then distributed to the local communities who receive us during the various events.

We hope that through this article, you have understood that the Raid Laos is more than just a sporting event. It's an extraordinary adventure, a subtle mix of discoveries, encounters and moments of sharing. If you are interested in this experience, do not hesitate to visit the website of the association organizing these races around the world. And if you are tempted by exploring Laos off the beaten path, do not hesitate to contact us to organize your trip !

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