Pisa’s Trail Monte Penna

By Carl Johan Sörman

Trail del Monte Penna, 30k, 1300 vertical meters – 4 February 2018 – Molina di Quosa Pisa, Italy

It’’s Monday, one week before the race…

Things are not looking too good.
a) I have to shorten my daily workout due to my Achilles tendon, which has been sore for the last few days.
b) At home my daughter and partner are in bed with the flu, and the house is full of germs that are ready to make a hostile takeover of my body.

The lead up…

Throughout the days before race weekend I offer my Achilles tendon all the best possible love and care. Long and slow running-workouts to get a good blood flow, hundreds of different toe raises, and massage every evening.
I wobble back and forth during the whole week. I was quite eager to start, specially after 2017 closed so well with my win at the Trail del Cinghiale. But now? Should I race or not? Then, on Saturday evening I decide to give it a go. I could always slow down during the race if necessary (yeah, right..!).

So, with the decision finally made, it was time for my mandatory pre-race ritual: to eat a considerable amount of sweets to top up all stores of glycogen.

An activity which I just love.

Race day…

Come Sunday morning my family is well again, and they accompany me to the race start in Molina di Quosa, a small village located between Pisa and Lucca.

As the ultra runner I see myself as, I have absolutely no expectations to reach the podium, since distances like today’s 30k are not where my strengths lie.
And even with my Achilles playing up my legs have already collected 120k and 4500 vertical meters over the past week. Therefore, I’m aiming to consider the Trail Monte Penna as a hard workout session and keep it as light as possible. I have the obligatory equipment with me in a minimalist waist bag, a whistle, survival blanket, a drinking cup plus two gels.

Image courtesy of Trail Monte Penna - Podistica Rossini
Image courtesy of Trail Monte Penna – Podistica Rossini

Off we go…

All too soon it’s time for the start. We’re off! I’m bunched up in a group of between 5-10 people. We lead for the first two kilometres. Since I’m not a fan of crowds, I prefer to stay at the front right from the beginning, so after about 3k I take the lead, but right behind I can feel two competitors chasing me.

We are running mostly on single track, but we also speed through some narrow back alleys in a small village. Somewhere around the 5k mark the course starts to ascend considerably. About there, I loose my chasers and continue alone. I push hard on the uphills and roll down smoothly on the downhills. It’s muddy in places, which forces me to slow down a bit to avoid slipping.

Our surroundings are stunning. A mighty old watchtower solemnly overlooks the passing runners.  Just a dozen kilometers away the Apennines sparkle majestically under a fresh layer of snow. Cheery Mimosa’s grace the side of the trails, in full spring-yellow bloom. In the valley below lies magic veils of mist.

I continue as planned…

Being used to running long distances without water and food, I skip the aid stations and suck on a gel instead. Feeling strong I manage all the climbs without having to walk.

I keep going.

All too soon there’s only 5k to go….

And all on a very runnable downhill. I haven’t seen any other competitors for the last 20k, so I make an effort to slow down a bit. I want to avoid getting any injuries in the descent. I decide that if anyone will catch up with me I can probably change into a higher gear again 🙂

But when I actually cross the finish line – I am the first runner to do so!

3 minutes later and  last year’s winner crosses as well.

Trail del Monte Penna was a great start to the season. With an unexpected first prize of a foldaway bike!

And now I’m very much looking forward to run the Ecotrail Florence – 80k, in the beginning of March.

Trail Monte Penna - Podistica Rossini
Trail Monte Penna – Podistica Rossini


When: February
Where: Pappiana – San Giuliano Terme, Pisa  (PI), Tuscany – Italy
Distance / elevation gain: 30km / 1300m

Website: www.podisticarossini.it
email: podisticarossini@gmail.com

  • Easy to get to
  • A great chance to tie in a Trail Race with a visit to Pisa
  • Nearest airports: Fly to Pisa
  • See the leaning tower of Pisa
  • Visit the nearby Vespa Museum in Pontedra

Carl Johan Sörman
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.”