Interview by Maria E. Bellini

Carl Johan Sörman is from Sweden but currently based in Italy. Although he started some road running at a young age, due to work, injury and a small child, training was inconsistent and ever more dwindling. “I used to read running magazines about ultra marathons in Europe, and I thought, one day… I want to run those competitions as well,”  He told us. And just a year and a half ago Carl Johan took up running again. “I thought it’s now or never.” 

We catch up with intrepid Carl Johan Sörman, fresh from a year of ultra-running self-discovery as he places first in two Italian – Tuscan ultra trails, the 58k Trail del Montanaro in September and the recent 90k Trail del Cinghiale, in an extremely speedy 10:14:23.

Carl Johan Sörman
Carl Johan Sörman 1° at the 2017  90km Trail del Cinghiale in 10:14:23.

The end of November Tuscan trail race – Trail del Cinghiale got off to a bumpy start as race directors and volunteers had to fight against the clocks, in order to get the race route in a fit state for runners as a freak storm battered parts of the course in the days leading up to the start – which we cover in our article with Race director, Marco Gurioli and Russian ultra runner Yakov Frenklakh who placed 2° in the 90km.

With the unforeseen modifications that the race had undergone just hours before the start we want to know, how easy… or hard had it been for winner Carl Johan Sörman to adapt to a new course profile and route, at such a short notice?

Maria Bellini for Italy on Trail: Carl Johan, did this have an impact on you in one way or another?

Carl Johan Sörman: I didn’t really mind the changes that were made to the course. It was the first time I was running in that area so I didn’t really know what to expect anyway!

Carl Johan Sörman - Focused training for the vert
Carl Johan Sörman – Focused training for the vert
Tell us a bit about how you train for the Italian hills and mountains – Did you train specifically for the Trail del Cinghiale?

Most of the time I train with an ultra trail focus.
Aiming for at least 100k a week
, preferably with plenty of climbs. This year I averaged 4000 vertical meters a week with competitions such as Trail del Cinghiale in mind.

When I have a competition coming up I decide on a couple of key training sessions. For this race, for example, I had a 10 x 200 vertical meters training session set up.

A month ago I ran the UTLO 120k, (Lago d’Orta Ultra Trail) but had to DNF because of pain in my stomach. I couldn’t eat or drink properly, so after 75k I decided to drop out so I wouldn’t harm my body. Because of the UTLO DNF I registered for Trail del Cinghiale, and prolonged my hard training season a bit.

Carl Johan Sörman - sometimes races don't turn out all that good
Carl Johan Sörman – at the UTLO race start
With all that intense training, were you going for a ‘win’ at the Cinghiale?

In the back of my mind there was the idea of fighting for one of the top positions. But you never know who will be at the starting line or if you’ll have a good or a bad day. Small factors can totally ruin your race. In both Montanaro Trail and Trail del Cinghiale I managed to run my own race. Not letting any body else set the pace for me, just enjoying being out there on the trails.

How did you find the race route? Which were the parts that you liked most and the parts you found hardest?

The route was very nice. It was very runnable, which I like. Wonderful with the autumn leaves on the trail and the stunning views. Especially at dawn when the sun was rising.

It’s always great fun to run the downhills… when you just manage to let go. Maybe running a bit too fast, but you are supposed to have some fun out on the trails! The hardest was probably the muddy parts. Since I don’t run with running poles it gets a bit tricky when going uphill on a muddy slope. On one muddy hill I had to use a tree branch as a running pole to be able to get up.

Trail del Cinghiale… the word “Cinghiale” means “wild boar”. Carl Johan, have you ever had an encounter with a wild boar (or any other animals) whilst running in Italy?

Yes, actually I met two big wild boars a couple of weeks ago when training for Trail del Cinghiale. We ran our separate ways! And a couple of days earlier a small wild boar crossed my path right in front of me. I was a bit afraid its mother would show up, but luckily she didn’t. I have seen quite a lot of different animals in the mountains and hills where I train. Badgers, foxes, lots of deer, jumped over snakes (hope they are not poisonous), a raccoon…

At the Tuscany Crossing
At the Tuscany Crossing

Carl, tell us a bit about your background. You’re from Sweden, and now you live in Italy…

A year ago I moved from southern Sweden to Italy with my daughter and partner. We wanted to escape the cold climate we have in Sweden. We ended up on the coast in Camaiore, at the foot of the Alpi Apuane, The Apuan Alps in northern Tuscany.
I have this urge… when I see a summit… I want to get to the top. Running of course. And here in Camaiore I have several summits which I can reach from our apartment. There is just so much wonderful nature to run in here – so I became an ultra trail runner…

What are your plans for 2018? 

Last year I ran the Tuscany Crossing 100k but I had severe stomach issues, so I would like to give that race another shot. I wasn’t very pleased with the 13 hours it took me.

I’ve also got a place in the Lavaredo Ultra, so I will be running that next year and I’m also thinking of CCC. I do not have enough ITRA points for UTMB, but hope to run that race 2019.

And… another dream would be to run Ultra Trail Mount Fuji. Both me and my partner really love Japan, so it would be a great trip!

Maria E. BelliniMaria Elisabetta Bellini is’s founder, born in the U.K, she came to running whilst living in Italy, where she still lives and trains. Never ceasing to marvel at what’s at the summit of a hill, or around the bend along the trail, she loves using trail running as a means to explore nature, contemplation and Italy.