Chianti Ultra Trail 2018: Running in the land of the Black Rooster!

Από 26 Απρ 2018

“Molto fango”: the two words that marked my first ultra-trail race, in beautiful Tuscany, Italy - a region better known for its wine labels than its high mountains! A road trip that took a group of us to Milan, Verona, Siena, San Gimignano and Bologna, also brought us to beautiful Radda in Chianti for the first edition of the Chianti Ultra Trail event, which included 15, 37 and 73 km races.


After a heavy winter with a lot of snow and heavy rainfall in the whole of Northern Italy, I found myself at the starting line of the 73-km race at 6 a.m. on the 24th of March 2018, next to Dimitris (Nousias - another nut who drags his family to races all over Europe) and Dimitris (Troupis, the man responsible for our presence at this - and other - races). It was chilly, but the sky was clear and a beautiful day was dawning...



The night before, at the extensive technical briefing in Italian, the organizer spoke the phrase "molto fango" many (MANY!) times; in other words, we were to expect a lot of mud during the race, with everything that that entails!


Another memorable line from the technical briefing, was the organizer's reference to Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde, a warning about the fact that the route would 'bare its teeth' after the halfway point, in the climb up Monte San Michele, the highest peak in the area, at 900 metres.


The race started in the historical centre of Radda in Chianti, a medieval village built at the top of a hill, overlooking the area's vineyards.



The first 30 kilometres or so were smooth, as expected, along the characteristic Tuscan "white roads" or dirt tracks. We passed by countless vineyards, full of vines that were bone-dry because of the season, but would definitely be displaying their first green leaves over the next few weeks. In passing, I was impressed by the order and organization of each vineyard, and the beautiful way in which the fields were divided, using wooden poles and avoiding barbed wire as much as possible. I saw uniquely beautiful grey stone mansions, some fortified with turrets and moats, and many converted into hostels and hotels. Throughout the first half of the race, we followed an undulating route, increasing our ascent almost imperceptibly, which allowed us to get into a pleasant pace.



One of the most pleasant aspects of the race, for me, was the fact that the recent rainfall meant that we had to wade through torrents on three separate occasions; in one case, the water reached up to my knees! This not only provided relief for my painful calves, and a good rinse of my extremely muddy shoes, it also allowed for some high-pitched shrieking that was a welcome diversion after a couple of hours of silence and reflection...



After the 30th kilometre, the route truly undergoes a Mr Hyde-like transformation, with much sharper ascents, eventually reaching the race's highest point at the 54th kilometre approximately.  The trails here are narrower and steeper, with mud and muddy puddles everywhere! I felt more in my element then, and enjoyed the wilder scenery, the enormous trees, the silence of the mountain, the drifts of snow at the side of the track and, of course, the panoramic views of Tuscany.



The descent and return to Radda in Chianti starts at around kilometre sixty.  One special moment during this part of the race was passing through the beautiful village of Castello di Volpaia, a very popular destination for tourists due to the many local wineries, and one of the few times that we encountered people who weren't race volunteers!


The race's six aid stations were very well-equipped, with many different sweet and savoury snacks, delicious Parmesan and prosciutto, coke, sports drinks, hot tea at kilometre 65, and even wine and beer from the 10th km onwards!



Not being a fast runner meant that my race lasted literally from dawn to dusk, and the moment I will cherish forever is catching the sunset at one of the very few unattractive parts of the race, just after a steep, gravelly ascent. I lifted my eyes to see Radda in Chianti in the background, with the sun setting magnificently behind the village and lighting up the grey stone with purple and orange hues; all I could think of was that I was in exactly the right place at exactly the right time, and that the universe had conspired to give me that moment... Afterwards, of course, I had to look back down and try to swallow the fact that although I could see the village, I still had several painful kilometres to go!


At the finish line, just one hour before the official closing of the race, I was greeted by my little family. In a strange way, I found it quite satisfying that there were no crowds, or noise, or music - I felt that the end of the race was perfectly fitted to the calm, pleasant, and introverted journey that took me there....


Results of the Chianti Ultra Trail races: 73K, 37K and 15K.

Sofia Vlavianou

Photo ©: Chianti Ultra Trail

View this photo set on Flickr

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