Ecotrail Florence, Italy – 3 March 2018
80km, 42km and Night City Trail
By Carl Johan Sörman
Countdown – Two weeks before race date…
I’ve just finished my very last training session in an extremely hard 180k week. Intervals.
At the end of the session I feel a bit of discomfort in my groin.
The following day I also sense something, which might possibly be a sports hernia. Whyyy?!
I run shorter and slower, but the discomfort persists.
One week before race date…
I am hardly running at all. Instead I’m doing core and yoga to try to fix my issues.
Two days before race…
I do a test, running a flat 6k at 4 min/km workout without any problems, so I decide to run the race.
The day before…
Nothing turns out as planned this weekend. Weather wise, “The Beast from the East” sweeps over Europe and causes chaos in Italy – even embedding Rome in a white coat.
And the Ecotrail Florence 80km gets cancelled, due to dangerous conditions on the race route due to the strong wind and heavy snowfall.
All the 80km entrants are instead transferred to the shorter 42km race – a great disappointment for me and my fellow competitors, and of course for the organization, who had tried up until just hours before the race to sort out the 80km route, but to no avail. The damage caused by bad weather conditions had been just too intense.
You Can’t Fight Nature
Bring On (a rainy) Race Day!
Early, on race day, me and my family drive to Florence from our home in northern Tuscany, and head to Piazzale Michelangelo where the race is to due start. It’s a fantastic piazza situated on a hill and has wonderful views across the entire city. The biggest landmarks, Duomo, Palazzo Vecchio and Basilica di Santa Croce, rise like giants above the rest of the buildings.
On the nearby mountains one can see streaks of snow. According to the weather forecast it’s supposed to rain during the day, but in the morning the heavy grey sky keeps the water to itself. I’m ok with rain while I run, but I really prefer no rain when I start.
With cheers from the crowds we take off and, as usual, I run right up to the front to avoid the crowd.
The EcoTrail Florence is also the qualifying race* for representation of Team Italy in the upcoming 2018 Trail World Championships in Castellón de la Plana, Spain at the Penyagolosa Trails on Saturday, 12th of May – so there are some really good runners pushing on.
Before the race I had decided to run the first 10k fast. It’s flat and very runnable, and since I don’t know how slippery and harsh it will get in the hilly sections, I run hard here.
We run east, along the river Arno and out of the city. I’m fascinated of how well the race organisation have managed to route the course away from traffic when in the city. We run over bridges, along the riverbank on slippery trails, under bridges, on bicycle paths.
At one point I’m running in the lead together with another runner. He says to me: “We must slow down, we are running in a 2:30, marathon pace”.
Quick Running Quick Thinking
We cover the first 10k in 38 minutes, but then we start climbing. I feel that I don’t have the power to push on uphill today, which is usually my strength, so I start losing the leading group.
When about 10 runners are leaving me behind, I make a snap decision and define and focus on 2 goals:
- I will not let any more runners pass me
- I will aim for a finish time of around 3:30.
After a few more kilometers we reach the actual single tracks. It’s really muddy in places. Now the real race begins, and I start to push. I’m running alone. Even though I am driving really hard, I can’t even catch a glimpse of the great Italian runners in front of me.
At first, I try to avoid the puddles, but after a while I realize that it’s pointless. Sometimes the track transforms into a creek, or the path dissolves into a minor lake. The track also disappears under a blanket of slushy snow in places. My feet don’t like the initial contact with the freezing water, but after a while I get used to the cold and accept it.
I start to enjoy my situation – even LOVE the relatively harsh conditions.
I run with a stiff smile.
Storming The Castle
The first refreshment point is located in a wonderful castle called Castel di Poggio. I would gladly have stayed there to have a closer look at the building, but I do not need to refill anything, so I just storm through it.
The path continues up and after about 20k we reach the highest point of the course. In the downhills I get a sobering reminder of my injuries. They effectively stop me from pushing on when running downward. Every step is painful and I need to activate other, wrong muscles to compensate.
A fellow competitor passes me in a downhill, and there is no way for me to keep up with him. But then a new uphill appears, and I overtake him. We continue this game, kilometer after kilometer. I pass him in the uphills and he passes me in the downhills. We both rush through the second refreshment point without stopping. Because of the cold weather I don’t have to drink. (At the end of the race I had only had a couple of centiliters of water and 3 gels.)
We reach a long, slightly declining asphalt road, and here I can actually run without any greater pain, so I manage to leave my playmate behind.
Closing in Along the River Arno…
At the end of the hill the course takes us along the riverbanks of the river Arno. Only 8k remain.
To my joy, I see a new competitor in front of me and I’m thinking that it’s great to have a rabbit to chase. But unfortunately, he starts to walk after a while, and instead he cheers me on when I pass him!
Soon I can see the finish area at Piazzale Michelangelo up on the hill in the distance. I’m running on a very runnable bicycle path when we are routed down to the muddy path beside the river again, and instantly I feel my injuries when the muscles are forced to stabilize my core when slipping around.
I can sense a runner behind me and instantly I put in a higher gear. There’s no way I’m letting anybody pass me this close to the end! At last it’s only the final ascent left.
And to the roar of the church bells of Florence I cross the finish line after 3:33 finishing in 10th place.
Pleased with the result on a day like this.
*Due to bad weather conditions, another qualifying race was designated for Team Italy selection – the Ultrabericus Trail
2018 Rankings EcoTrail Florence
1 Lisa BORZANI 03:57:15
2 Francesca PRETTO 04:06:27
3 Maria Elisabetta LASTRI 04:16:13
1 Andrea MACCHI 03:15:42
1 Stefano RINALDI 03:15:42
3 Giovanni TACCHINI 03:17:17
Want to run the EcoTrail Florence?
Where: Florence, Tuscany – Italy
13km 300m D+ BY NIGHT
42km 1000m D+
80km 2400m D+
Ultra Challenge: Night 13km 300m D+ AND the 42km 1000m D+
Super Challenge: Night 13km 300m D+ AND the 80km 2400m D+
and Firenze Urban Walking: 10km TIME 21.05
Why Run It?
- Easy to get to. Fly either to Florence, Pisa or Bologna
- Race Website in English
- Special hotel rates available for runners and companions
- A really excellent way to enjoy Florence!
Carl Johan Sörman – born in Sweden, returned to trail running whilst living in Italy, where he now trains and lives in northern Tuscany together with his partner and daughter. “I have this urge… when I see a mountain summit… I want to get to the top. Running of course.” You can find Carl on Instagram