October's race of choice took place in the lush hills, woodlands, valleys, vineyards and olive groves of Chianti in Tuscany, Italy.
There were three options available. I could opt for the 42km, the18 km or the 10km distance.
I was slowly overcoming the period of tiredness caused by the back to back combination of a tough mountain race, the Asitzkogel, on the Salzburg/Tyrol border, and 43 minutes and 25 seconds of 'eyeballs out' at the Karriegel Hill in the Vienna Woods.
I had therefore chosen the 18 km event and it was fortuitous that I did in view of the hot and humid weather (28'C) which had me struggling to maintain my form after the halfway checkpoint near San Gusme`.
The initial climb from the vineyards below Villa a Sesta to the road crossing near Campi was along a ancient packhorse track through an area of woodland and scrub inhabited by wild pigs and porcupines.
This mountainous terrain suited me admirably and I found myself effortlessly overtaking many other competitors struggling up the first hill. Little did I know then that I would see the backs of most of them during the latter stages. The running shoe would then be on the other foot!
Where I hit the wall, if I dare call my minor discomfort the wall, is where the runner is in the picture above. The trail was now to be mainly through vineyards and olive groves and along endless white avenues of cypress trees under cloudless skies with the temperature rapidly climbing towards the midday maximum.
I was about 4 km from the finish when my Italian runner friend Mauro caught me and glided by with a smile. I hung on to his heels for all I was worth - used him somehow to mentally tow me up the last steep hill and then along the unforgiving final kilometer of tarmac to the finish in the town square at Castelnuovo Berardenga. I was pleased to cross the line one minute behind him and break the 2 hour barrier.
In the final analysis I was happy to be 27th of the 43 finishers in my age category (M60).
There were many runners, perhaps as many as 70 altogether, from a running club called London Frontrunners and they appeared to be in excellent spirits and enjoying the sunshine. They had flown from the UK to Pisa and then travelled by road to the venue. One runner explained to me that the Ecomaratona del Chianti was the club choice for this year's race abroad.
|Recce of the first hill|
21st October 2012
Chianti 18 km Trail Race
1. Stefano Musardo - 1h 09m 17s
4. Shaun Whelan - 1h 14m 31s
557. Mauro Vendali - M50 - 1h 57m 01s
576. Gwilym Williams - M60 - 1h 58m 01s
- - - 869 finishers.