For the first time in history, Romania has a team of trail runners competing in the Trail World Championships (TWC).
This Saturday, May 12th, at 6am, Cristina Cecan, Ana Cristina Constantin, Andrei Țale, Radu Milea and Robert Hajnal will start the 85km race with 5000m elevation on the trails in Penyagolosa, province of Castellon, Spain.
Overall, 350 athletes from 49 countries will take part in the 8th edition of TWC, out of which 143 are women.
So what does this mean?
Maybe the most important thing is that trail running is growing. There are more and more new events and the ones that already have a history are gathering even more participants.
It means that trail running is getting more attention in Romania as well. That it matters enough to send a team to represent us.
It’s a sign that trail running is getting more visibility at an institutional level, which brings hopes of increased future budgets directed to training and race preparation.
And, who knows, maybe it might contribute to spreading the passion for running trails among new adepts.
It means that for Romania, it’s the pilot that everyone will learn from.
TWC Opening Ceremony
On Thursday evening, after checking in at the official hotel in Benicassim, the delegates of the 49 participant countries gathered in the center of Castellon for the opening parade and ceremony.
Hundreds of Castellonians gathered to greet the delegations, while the local autorities and the organizers from IAU, ITRA and Penyagolosa race gave welcoming speeches.
The ceremony was relatively short, with the parade, speeches, an acrobatic show and the fireworks that closed the evening lasting just a bit over two hours. Long enough to make the runners queue for a late dinner, though.
Because of the impressive number of Romanian inhabitants in this small city, our team got probably the most attention.
More than a dozen people approached them in Romanian, asking to take photos, including a Romanian local politician.
There was a mix of restlessness, anticipation, and maybe a bit of pre race anxiousness in the crowd at the opening ceremony. The level is high and so are the stakes, especially for the favourites.
Some countries, such as Greece, sent only one runner (but I’m talking about Dimitris Theodorakakos, a very strong runner that I had the privilege to meet while exploring the trails in Castellon), while other countries such as Ukraine have a delegation of 15 runners.
Well, 14 actually, as one of the Ukrainians corrected me. The 15th crashed his bike into a tree and broke a few ribs just days before the championships so he couldn’t make it.
What you should know about TWC
The first edition of the TWC took place in 2007, in the United States.
Previously, most victories have gone to Spain and France, while countries such as Germany and UK have also had outstanding results.
As I mentioned, this is the 8th edition of the Trail World Championships. Last year, the event took place in Portugal, as it will next year, too. Lucky them.
The route this year starts at about sea level and goes as high as 1512m, with the finish line being at 1200m altitude. It’s a relatively fast race, runnable yet with some quite technical parts.
The runners will compete both as teams and individually. This means the top three results in men and women for every country will be added and taken into account for the team classification. Unfortunately for Romania, since we only have two women competing, their results won’t be considered in the teams.
Another interesting thing to know is that there are two other races apart from the 85k reserved only for the WTC. The races are MIM (60k with 3300m elevation) and CSP (108km with 5600m elevation).
Also, a hot topic right now is the cut-off times. They are the same for men and women, and quite challenging, especially the first one, at km 31, where the initial time limit was 3h45min and now it’s 4h. Last year, apparently only 10 women made it to the finish line.
On Friday morning there were talks about changing the cut off times and making them more accessible.
What are Romania’s odds?
Individually, it’s difficult to make assumptions. However, in the teams men’s classification, we could all keep our fingers crossed for a good ranking.
An interesting point to think about now is whether the Romanian Athletics Federation (FRA) will send another team to next year’s edition and who would be part of it. Any bets?
Who do you think might represent Romania next year, considering the prerequisites they would have to comply to in terms of distance, results, and points (see this year’s prerequisites for the delegation here).
If you’ve been following the subject, you probably know about all the things that haven’t gone so smoothly, from selecting the athletes to logistics and organization (speculation over who will be part of the delegation, logistic issues with the athletes traveling, expenses, equipment arriving late etc).
Even so, it’s a historical moment for Romania. And when it comes to the logistic details, those are the easiest to improve over the next years.
A more concerning topic would be making sure that we do have a valuable presence in the next years’ TWC and understanding that it’s not only each athlete’s responsibility. This means more than calling a few runners and telling them to pack their bags. It means taking responsibility and offering them the support they need in order to perform. It’s not a backyard race.
With this being said, let’s keep our fingers crossed for our team, as well as for the other runners. It’s going to be fun to watch and hopefully fun to run.
You can follow the Romanian runners here: