By Sean Meehan, RD

Sean Meehan has been working on and designing SURVIVAL RUN with Josue since 2013. This year Sean took the role of RD as Josue had to leave Nicaragua early for the birth of his son. 

Sean Meehan has been working on and designing SURVIVAL RUN with Josue since 2013. This year Sean took the role of RD as Josue had to leave Nicaragua early for the birth of his son. 

I’m going to start with all the thanks that need to be given. Too often these get tagged on at the end!

We had the good fortune to assemble our most experienced crew ever to work on Survival Run 2016. Led by myself and Josue Stephens, we had:

  • Yishai Horowitz, chilled and calm, supporting all course operations.

  • Peter Marston, being mysterious and climbing the volcanoes more than ever before.

  • Kate Uhler, being awesome and leading volunteer recruitment and management.

  • Christian Griffith and Margaret Schlachter getting word of the race out to world and generally being patient and flexible with this unusual race.

  • Johnny Waite and Andrea Hagarty working crazy shifts and always smiling.

  • Jeff Genova for his amazing photography skills and unfailing race support. 

  • Robin Johansson and Fraser Koroluk climbing Volcan Concepcion to offer plantain associated counselling services to beleaguered Survival Runners, and still managing to knock out 50km finishes a couple of days later

  • Our intrepid filming team led by Jason Rita and Alberto Campos. Excited to see the footage from this year. Hugely appreciate the lengths you go to to capture the race action!

  • Our excellent team of local Ometepe support including Alexis Hernandez who knows the volcanoes better than anyone else, Sidney Barrera whose patience is a virtue to us all, and Adalis Bien, Danilo Barrera.

  • Carlos Sanchez, and Alvaro Alvarez who accept their often unusual instructions with wry smiles, humour, and always get sh#t done.

2016 marked our largest ever team of volunteers for whom we are eternally grateful. No volunteers = no event. The formula is that simple. We thank for your patience with us, your hard work and long hours, and your support for the runners. Special mention in this category to Tony Stephens, Josue’s father who in many ways is the inspiration for this race and, still supple and strong at 64, demonstrated impressive command of many of the core abilities necessary to finish this race.

Survival Run wouldn’t be possible without the support of the wider Ometepe community. Whether for land access, procuring bamboo, firewood, rocks, or storing fish and chickens (!) we are grateful to the island for inspiring and facilitating this race. Ometepe will always be the spiritual home of Survival Run.

The Race


On Cutoffs:


Cutoffs are either for your own safety or because there simply isn’t enough time on the clock for you to finish. No tricks here. The race isn’t supposed to be about tactical clock management. Attempt all challenges and move forward as quickly as possible. That’s the simple rule. If you had the whole course map, all the challenge details, all the cutoffs, would the race be easier? Maybe not...

On Water:


The single most important factor in a real life survival situation. If we had a do-over there would be water available at bottom of Concepcion, I will admit that one. Purely for reasons of medical safety. We aren’t trying to give people sunstroke and bloody urine here kids. It was an unusually hot day, even by Nica standards, with zero cloud cover on the volcano. That said, the essence of the challenge was more pure than ever. I’m quite sure that everyone at some point on that climb stopped thinking about the race and started thinking about self-preservation. That is no bad thing. To put yourself through that could prove very useful somewhere down the line. Dropping trash is never cool. You know who you are.

On the inclusion of local skills:


The race design team see things on the island every day that could go straight in the race. The more we can connect racers directly to that, the better. Awesome to hear of racers hanging out with locals practising Spanish, making slingshots, learning tree climbing techniques, carrying heavy sh#t etc. That is what it is all about. We hope you enjoyed the local artisan teaching the petroglyph carving and the local fisherman we kept awake all night to teach throw-net fishing. We hope to include more of this in future.

The Finishers

The Hall of Fame of Ometepe finishers is a distinguished group indeed. 5 newbies were added to the ranks this year - a record high that brings the total to 12 people total in 4 years who have collected I DID NOT FAIL.

Joint 1st, Dylan Morgan (South Africa) and Paul Romero (Cali, US). Amazingly these two are roommates in Squamish, BC, and have lots of ultra-running and adventure racing pedigree between them.

On Dylan: leading the race at about 16 hours he declared,”I shouldn’t be winning this, I am a mid to back of the pack ultra-runner.” But he had every right to be winning and his statement serves to illustrate that this race is not won by running prowess alone. Adaptability, humility, perseverance, and resilience will serve better than raw pace on Ometepe.

On Paul: He has climbed the 7 summits and races huge adventure races and ultra marathons all over the world. Most interesting to me though was his response to his #eggdrama. Not once but twice during the race he broke the egg necessary to check into challenges. The second time late at night near a small village he somehow charmed his way into possession of a new chicken egg by means we might never know the truth of. Despite being frustrated with egg rule Paul overcame this and stormed through the rest of the race with a smile on his face.

3rd Place, no stranger to us, Johnson Cruz Barrios (Nicaragua).

He has started 3 Survival Runs and completed 3. Pretty incredible by the local champion from the island. Most enjoyable to watch on this occasion his racing attitude. He coasted through the first several hours, taking time to help other runners, teaching tree climbing, smiling and laughing, before dropping the hammer later in the race and coming close to snatching 1st. An amazing competitor and a true gentleman. Johnson cruised to 3rd in the 100km just 48 hours after his Survival Run finish.

4th Place, Arian Van Helden (Netherlands)

The first person to complete both Survival Run Australia and Survival Run Nicaragua. With a wealth of Specials Forces training to call on Arian has a remarkable resolve. He approaches his tasks with positivity and steadfast effort. He invested time before the race understanding the energy of the people and the flow of life on Ometepe - a worthwhile investment. He went on to finish the 100km in an incredible display of sheer will.

5th Place, Helene Dumais (Quebec, Canada)

Wow. Wow. And wow again. First ever female finisher!! The race design team had a sneaky feeling that we would have a female finisher. But to see it actually happen was perhaps the most emotional moment in Survival Run history so far. We are in awe of Helene. Not just her athletic ability but her pure adventurous spirit. She won the hearts of many here. Oh, and then she knocked out 2nd place in the 100km 48 hours later. We shall follow her future adventures with interest!

6th Place, Curtis Pote (Iowa, US)

The first person ever to complete Hunter Gatherer Survival Run in Texas and the Nicaragua edition. Curtis doesn’t seem to do ups and downs or emotional wobbles. Forward motion no matter what, he completed every single challenge on the way to his finish. It was a pleasure to watch him go about his business in a quiet, effective manner, and a great moment to see his father greet him at the finish.

Special Mention - David Dietrich and David Muhm (Austria)

Not everyone ends this race with happy moments. In fact, quite probably, most don’t. Few disappointments can be tougher than missing the final cutoff by just 30 minutes. Race staff were rooting for them but they didn’t quite get there. There can be no doubt these two have the ability - athletic and mental - to complete this race. We hope to hand them their NOT medals in 2017.

And the other 52:

I could write paragraphs on each of you! Thank you for your patronage and congratulations for what you have achieved. Not many people will ever make the starting line on Ometepe. You are all part of a special Tribe. More than ever I feel that we are on the same journey - you as racers, and us as organisers - searching for common truth with Survival Run as the vehicle.

If the race inspired you, great. If the race frustrated you, I hope it is a step to a greater achievements in future. We have seen many athletes use their FAIL as a springboard for future success. We will continue to draw on daily life on the island, the history and culture of Nicaragua, and the raw truth of survival situations to put more challenging races in your path in the future.

Until next time on the island.

Sean Meehan

Race Director 2016