Bolhrad Lago Maggiore International Trail Run 1st May 2022

Late in 2021, I’d asked Kenny and Gill Reid if they could recommend a suitable Alpine race for 2022.  Quite quickly an event based at Maccagno, Lake Maggiore, north of Milan was picked.  Travel was straight forward and there were quite a few places to stay in the village.  Kenny, Gill and I were also joined by Mairi and Ian.  4 of us picked the 55km route and one selected the 20km.

Quite a lot of “admin” detail needed to be sorted with respect to vaccine status, insurance cards, Covid travel logging and medical certificates.  However, all came together in the end although does add to the costs.

The 55km route included 4100 metres of ascent although I was expecting the paths and tracks would all be quite “manicured” and good for running.  That was completely wrong!  The paths were proper hill paths like we have in Scotland, just no bog, heather or tussocks. I think about 360 folk were due to run and perhaps 260 actually started.  So not a huge number and I was fully expecting to be running on my own for a lot of the second half, if I got that far.  The distance seemed Ok but I knew the feet of ascent could be big a challenge and there was a cut-off time for the course of 12 hours which I expected to be close to.

The start was near the Hotel so an easy jog and we were ready for the off at 7am.  Within the sports centre hall there was a table serving super strong espresso coffee in tiny paper cups.  Quite tempting but Italian coffee can be quite fierce so I left it this time.

The early section of the route wound its way up wooded hillsides and fortunately was in the shade.  Then through a multiple clusters of small houses, barns and ruins almost stuck to the hillside and each hamlet seemed to have its own church. The first water station was after 14k and then another at 21k.  Not a huge selection of snacks although lots of bananas and rice cakes with apricot jam.  Now traversing higher open hilltops and areas that are obviously ski slopes in the winter.  At 30k there was a big descent losing all the height we had gained.  I was still within the cutoff times given but only by about 45 mins.  Scoffed loads of nuts and jelly babies at this checkpoint.  Offered some to an Italian chap and I don’t think he’d ever had jelly babies before and said he thought they were pasta!.  The next section was hard.  Uphill for 5km and a climb of over 1000 metres leaving Italy and moving into Switzerland.  And it was warm, after a short rain shower.

Half way up the climb, I was glad to come across a spring and tap for a refill.  And so were lots of other runners

Once on the summit ridge there was a bit of scrambling needing occasional use of hands.  The final summit was Monte Lema at 1619metres. 

All that remained was a long descent over 15km back to the start.  Most was downhill but even slight inclines meant I kept dropping back to a walk. The paths needed quite a bit of concentration and all too easy to trip.

I finished after 11:23hrs.  Mairi stormed back in 10:21hrs and Gill was home in 11:45.  Kenny kept going until the checkpoint at about 30km when he decided his legs were done. If you were going to stop this was a good point as after the 30k checkpoint there was little opportunity to leave the route.   Ian and Andreus did the 20k race although as a result of poor signposting, they and a considerable number of the field added an extra two kms to the race.

Next year 2023?  Would be good to do the run again.  A great area and a good time of year to visit Italy.  There’s loads more I could say but will save that for the Tuesday evening runs.


The 55km completers
L to R; Chris, Ian, Mairi, Gill, Andreas (friend of K and G’s from Baden Baden), Kenny