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Showing posts from January, 2017

Ronda Ghibellina 45 km, Tuscan hills

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I've done a lot of races but I still run up against the unexpected. When I checked into my hotel in Castiglion Fiorentino for this race I asked at the desk for directions to walk to the race expo, which was also the race start. The desk lady was so sure that I shouldn't walk to the expo that she was not prepared to give me directions! She said the road was a highway and definitely not to be used by pedestrians. I knew she had a point since many Italian roads don't have a shoulder. This put a temporary damper on my plans for running the race, but then I asked myself just how impossible it could be to walk two kilometres on a busy road.

Not impossible at all. I had a most enjoyable stroll to the expo, walking up through the old town and then out to the race HQ along a quiet road which had the ancient town wall on one side and a grove of olive trees on the other. On race morning I asked for a lift with some other runners.

This was a hard race, there's no other way to put…

A morning on Tuscan hills

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This morning I was able to satisfy my desire to run on the Tuscan hills. This was the reason I came to Montepulciano, although it is an absolutely delightful hilltop town in its own right. There are gorgeous views of the surrounding countryside at every turn, many old churches and palazzi, and generally quaint narrow streets of ancient stone buildings (but maybe not quite narrow enough since they are wide enough for cars and the traffic zips around at high speed with total disregard for pedestrians. At the moment the town is deserted and I don't like to think how the cars behave when the streets are hopping with tourists.)

I decided to run to another hill town about 8 kilometres away, Montichiello, my choice being guided by seeing on the map that there was a quiet road winding through the hills which I hoped would have little traffic. I was proved right so that was good; I could run in the middle of the road and enjoy the scenery. That is, after I had made an initial false start …

Short run in Padua

My very short run in Padua was unexciting, the best thing about it was the total abscence of frost or ice, and the worst thing about it was that I ended up running by busy roads where the footpaths were also congested. I had planned a route that would take me through the park with the Capella Scrovegni, along to another park and then back to complete a circuit. I intended to follow the river where possible.
Shortly after leaving the Scrovegni park I realised I was not on the intended route, and I thought I might be able to run it the opposite way round. That wasn't going to happen, even after I consulted my map. I was so glad I had brought a paper map with me as I was clearly going to be completely lost.
However the running gods were shining on me and I came upon a riverside trail, first an unpaved minor road and later a footpath, alongside the river and in places alongside the old city wall. I felt I was headed in the right direction. This was pleasant off road running despite un…

Montefortiana race, 44 kilometres with snow and ice

Ecomaratona Clivus 44 km, Monteforte d'Alpone, Italy
22 January 2017

Well, I don't think I have ever underestimated a race so much. This was just meant to be a warm up for next week's ultra, and while I knew it was going to be hilly I was blithely unaware of what else was going to be in the mix. I didn't expect the Verona countryside to throw up any serious challenges. To be fair, I don't think there is usually so much snow and ice on the course, and everyone had been talking about the unusual amounts of recent snowfall, but this turned out to be a much harder day than I had been anticipating. Despite perfect blue skies all day race conditions were little short of treacherous in many places.

Even before the start the Italians had provided me with entertainment. There had been no pre race information so I had emailed the organiser to ask the location of the race expo and start - basic info in my view. His reply: Dietro la Piazza della Chiesa (behind the church squar…

Riverside Bressanone

After a cold night in my hotel room (the heater was working hard making a constant and irritating noise like someone flossing their teeth but it didn't emit any heat) I was glad to get out on my hour's run. And Bressanone held the promise of lots of tracks along the river, same Isarco River as in Vipiteno.
I ran along the river as far as possible on the track going north, and then a bit further as I wondered if the path would continue beyond the industrial section. Then I crossed the river and went back south on the other bank. One side of the river had the main part of the city, and I had another good view of the Duomo and the White Tower, then became industrial. While the other bank was residential and then became quite countrified with small vineyards. The river itself had a lot of bluish ice floes and little of it was flowing. It definitely looked cold. On the horizon were the hills surrounding Bressanone, with no snow on them, and then in the distance some snowy mountains…

Another run from Vipiteno

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Today's run didn't turn out quite as expected and was very cold. I intended to do only about five kilometres return, to Castel Tasso just on the edge of Vipiteno and I planned a route using my map, which has not proved to be a particularly accurate map in the past but it's the best I had.
I headed out through the medieval town centre to the bike path I had noticed yesterday which should take me in the right direction. It led to the path alongside the autobahn, so far so good, but then the signs seemed to be pointing in the wrong direction to what made sense to me. I followed my instinct and was soon rewarded with the sight of a castle on the hillside in what looked like the right place. I ran towards it. Then by chance I looked to my other side and I saw the castle I was actually intending to visit (I'd seen a photo of it so I knew what it should look like). The moon was still out just above the castle.
A country road took me right to this castle on a snowy hillside, a…

Vipiteno to Colle Isarco

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I'm back in Italy now and having a break from skiing to run a bit and prepare for my race at the weekend. It was a beautiful day when I woke up and I was pleased I would be able to put my plan to run from Vipiteno to Colle Isarco into practice. I went on a school skiing trip to Colle Isarco in about 1972 and I had some sort of romantic attachment to the place, even though I didn't enjoy the skiing trip all that much at the time.
The only thing standing in my way was a bit of doubt about the route. The main road linking the towns had some odd colouring on the map which suggested either a discontinuity in the road or a tunnel, neither of which would be of great benefit while running. I also read about a cycling route between the towns but it was not shown on the map and I had my doubts about it being runnable in winter. However, all worked out well in the end. The bike route was clearly signposted and was certainly runnable.
I set out from the medieval centre of Vipiteno and wen…

Return to Austria's Tirol

Innsbruck
After dithering for ages I decided not to ski today, common sense prevailing (unusually for me) because of hurting my thumb skiing yesterday (it was very swollen when I woke up) and because today was again overcast and promising limited visibility on the slopes. Although I was aware that a run might not be the best thing for helping my thumb heal, but I was going to ignore that side of things.
I headed down the road towards the river, not running this first bit because the footpath was slushy and slippery, and also busy as I didn't start out until 9am. By the time I got down near the city centre where the Christmas market had been last time I was here a few weeks ago, I tried running and it was ok. I was fully aware that the worst thing I could do for my thumb would be to fall on it.
I stayed on the city side of the river at first, going east, on the pedestrian walkway and then going through the park in front of the Hofkirche. It was a winter wonderland with all the new …

Bologna and Florence

Looking at the map the obvious place to run in Bologna appeared to be around the outside of the former city wall. As it was New Year's Day we thought the roads would be quiet. We took a route out of the old town and onto the more major road that was part of the ring road around the wall.
It wasn't especially interesting at first, until we reached the first of what would be many of the old gates into the city. Some were more elaborate than others, depending on their era and how much they had been renovated. They were all red brick with arches. There were a few stretches of the walls left and even a bit of moat. We occasionally got views towards the hills around Bologna, some of which had churches on top.
The roads we ran along varied between passing large buildings in good condition to some fairly derelict parts beyond the railway station. The last parts were more residential, and then there was the largish Giardini Margarita park. I went inside this park but kept parallel to t…