I signed up for this race right after running the SDW100 in June. In the final part of this race my pacer told me I wasn’t going to have enough points to qualify for the UTMB as they raised the bar to 9 points instead of the usual 7. I had completed several 2 point races and the 4 points allocated by the SDW100 was only going to give me a total of 8 points. I needed a race worth 3 points!
I went online and searched for a race in Italy that was worth 3 points. I found the Trail del Cinghiale near where I was moving to, and it was only a 50 miler! I immediately signed up.
As I moved to Italy in the following months I decided to run some shorter trail runs on the Apennines to get accustomed to the terrain. I ran the Vallombrosa trail, the Ecomaratona del Chianti and the Trail dell’Ulivo, this last one with 2800m of positive ascent over 43km of run, similar elevation gain per km of the Trail del Cinghiale.
I’m very thankful of having run this race beforehand as it made me understand how having trekking poles can be extremely effective on this terrain with such ups and downs!
So here it is:
Trail del Cinghiale, 86km of course with more than 5000m of positive elevation gain.
It’s mainly on single track trails with a little of white roads and only a couple hundred meters on tarmac.
The runs is organized to start with two other shorter races: the 44km and the 60km, which share part of the course. There are 3 main loops: one bigger one and two smaller ones that have to be run twice.
The race starts at 6:00am so I thought it would have been a good idea to book for sleeping nearby, the organizers offered the opportunity to share rooms for a few extra euros.
I arrived at the Agriturismo (a country inn where the race was to start) the night before the race around 6pm to collect my bib, got instructions on where to sleep and went for a good meal at the inn.
Two other runners Nicola and Ugo joined me for dinner.
Nicola comes from a town nearby and knows the area well. He has run the 60km race many times before and is looking to place well also this year. He’s definitely younger than me and has trained around this area for years (often with a tire tied to his back). Ugo is a long time runner that tells us about when in the early 70s people would point at runners mumbling odd comments.
Both my dinner mates mention how crazy the parking at the inn becomes in the early morning starting from 4pm and how hard it is to find any parking at all! They’re both going to sleep in the car!?!
I consider my options:
1) drive a few miles to the room I’ve booked and sleep until 3:30 in order to find a parking place near the inn the next morning.
2) sleep in the car in the parking and wake up around 5!
The idea of two extra hours of sleep made the dilemma easy to solve.
I curled up in a sleeping bag in the back of my car to find out that the back seats don’t fold flat leaving a small bump just under your lower back.
Next morning I’m up at 5am for breakfast, it’s dark and lots of people have arrived while I was sleeping. I proceed towards the start line to realize I’ve forgotten my bib in the car! I run back to the parking and by the time I get back to the start everyone has already left under the light of fireworks!
It’s an incredible show as a stream of lights snakes up the mountain.
I believe it’s me passing by on the right at 0:44 of the next video 😉
Oh well, off we go!
The course starts with a long climb and I catch up with the slower runners and gradually pass them one by one.
When I get to the fork where the 86k course takes its own route I have managed to get myself back in the run.
The ground is frosted and icy. The muddy parts are solid, which is definitely good, but the steep downhills are definitely dangerously slippery. Thankfully the poles are of great aid and save me from falling down several times.
The sun dawns on this cold sunny morning. It’s a beautiful day for running and the ridges start glowing warmed by the sunlight.
All check points are well stocked with local food ranging from salami to homemade cakes and fruit. There is water and tea, some station also include water with salts.
This is Italian style stations where you need to bring your own cup as there’s no disposable plastic waste, and some foreigners are disappointed of not finding Gatorade, gels and other commercial nutrition products.
Shortly after the 20km I have a few falls in a row. I then slow my pace a little as I decide to be more cautious on the downhills, I now have a badly bruised elbow and a aching knee, but nothing so bad to stop me from finishing.
By the time I end the first big loop I’m feeling strong and definitely enjoying the run. The big loop reconnects to the smaller of the two loops and continues where the yellow and red loops intersect. The rest of the track is composed of two smaller loops that are to be run twice. The trail is still gorgeous but having to pass twice from the same place becomes a little boring and definitely not my kind of thing.
Furthermore this intersection point corresponds to the inn where all 3 races start and finish. I found myself running with someone who was on the finishing lap of the 60km. We both dash down the hill to discover that 100m before the inn’s checkpoint he is to go left towards his finish line! I, on the other hand, take the right and look forward to another 30km… not particularly desirable after running more than 50km
Aid stations are now placed at the bottom of the valleys, thus, once you get to an aid station you know you have a big hike in front of you.
The ground has now become warm and muddy. The trail has been run on in the morning by those doing the two shorter races. Poles are now essential to avoid slipping on the up hills and I manage to catch up with many runners who don’t have them.
I get to the end just after dark. Legs are still good and I’m still running, finishing in 12:52 with a 19th position.
The organization is impeccable, volunteers are great and the area is stunning making this a great and tough race. I don’t think I’ll be running it again as running in loops doesn’t do it for me.
Here’s a video of the Trail del Cinghiale from the 2014 edition