|This small band of runners contains 5 preterhumans, who completed Trail Ticino 2012. The other runners are actually human!|
|My friend and Marathon des Sables 2012 tentmate Steve|
Sixty six runners were pre-registered for the full course on the organisers' website. A few more registered in person the evening before, or the morning of the race itself. Some of the pre-registered runners did not turn up at the start, for one reason or another. One of those who did not start was me. I decided that I was not 100% fit and healthy and that the event was just too extreme considering my less than perfect state.
I would have estimated, looking at the starting group on Saturday morning at 8am that it was around 50 strong. All the runners looked like they had plenty of experience and many were sporting Ultra Trail de Mont Blanc T-shirts. Most were middle aged males, but there were also a few female runners. There was also one runner who looked like he was in his late 60s.
Of those who started only 5 people would end up finishing the race. That is the highest DNF rate I have ever heard of, at over 90%. My friend Steve was one of the 90% who did not finish, but he made a fantastic effort and covered around 80km.
One of the reasons for such a high DNF rate was the weather. There were heavy thunderstorms on Saturday night in Ticino, and the race was abandoned several times, and then restarted. Running on mountain passes in the dark in bad weather is not the safest thing to do, and this was the main reason that Steve chose not to continue, after he had been sheltering in a mountain refuge for several hours with a large group of other Trail Ticino participants.
Another factor Steve told me that made the race just too tough and into the realms of ridiculous was the fact that there were no flat sections at all. You were either running uphill, which is extremely tiring on your muscles and lung-bursting, or you were running downhill, which is also tiring on the knees and quadriceps. In most races you at least have some flatter sections on which you can recover from the uphills and downhills.
It will be interesting to see what happens next year and if the organisers try to run the race again. In my opinion there are two ways the organisers could go from here. Either they could decide that the race was just too hard and go with only the half course next year, or they could try to use the DNF rate as a selling point to attract the most hardcore ultra runners on the planet. If I were the organiser, I would go for the latter choice, baiting people by claiming that it is a race only for super-humans, and that normal people are not able to complete it. They could even try to claim it was tougher than the Marathon des Sables as the selling point, because the DNF rate of the MDS is less than 10%. The MDS and Trail Ticino are certainly different beasts, but Steve has attempted both (and completed one), and he thinks that the Trail Ticino is harder than the MDS.
What would you do if you were the organiser?