Running on spring hills and chilly weather is one of the biggest pleasures I get from trail running.
This spring, on May 18th, I’m going back to one of my favourite races, in one of my favourite places – Transylvania 100k. It’s a competition in Bucegi mountains, that blends the beautiful scenery of the wild mountain valleys and peaks with the legend of Dracula and overall a great vacation-like atmosphere.
The kind of vacation in which you run ultras and sweat a lot.
There are different distances runners can choose from – 20k, 30k, 50k, 80k and 100k.
Last year I did the shortest one, the 20k, because I had just recovered from an injury. But this year it’s time to finally do the 50K race and I hope I’ll be prepared to face it.
Transylvania 100k is a race with very many participants from abroad. My Spanish friends who have raced there love to tell the story of how they were the 5th team in the 100k distance a few years ago and they were praying not to meet any bears.
That was back when you could do the long race as a team, but now participation is individual, so better be prepared 🙂
Because not everything in life has to be about running, I thought about giving you guys – especially the readers who don’t know Romania that well – some ideas about how you can build a great experience for you, your friends, family and whoever else might be joining you if you decide to come and run in Transylvania.
The good part about Transylvania 100k is that it’s a race that takes place in Bucegi and starts in Bran, where Vlad Tepes’ castle is (aka Dracula).
So you can turn the days spent there into a mini vacation and a complete experience overall to enjoy the best of what Transylvania has to offer.
Here’s what you can do besides running if you decide to sign up for one of the Transylvania 100k races:
- Take at least an extended weekend (Thursday to Sunday or Monday) for the entire trip. The area is too beautiful to travel just for the race.
- Fly or drive to Bucharest, take a shuttle or rent a car and get to Bran in about 2.45-3 hours.
- Book a room in a traditional guesthouse. Look for those who preserve the original architecture of the area. Bonus points if you find something with a view to the mountains and where the host can cook some traditional dishes for you. Don’t focus only on Bran, but look also in Moieciu, Fundata or even Cheile Gradistei, especially if you have a car. Here are some suggestions: one, two, three.
- On Friday, the day before the race starts, you can activate your muscles with some light walking. Maybe do a route recognition for a part of the competition track and then finish with a carboloading based on local products such as cozonac (sweet bread similar to Pannetone) or some polenta with sour cream and cheese.
- Saturday is race day and you’ll love it. The most beautiful routes, if you ask me, are the 50k and 80k, while the 100k is an extended version of the 80k. At the finish line you’ll get your medal from Vlad Dracul himself. If you’re running the 100k you might finish the race on Sunday morning, though.
- After the race, enjoy the refreshment point at the finish line, full of regular race products such as trail mix, but also with fresh local products, such as cheese, pickles and much more.
- If you have time and energy left, on Saturday or Sunday you can also book a visit to the Bran Castle and even buy a bottle of Dracula wine from the gift shop. My sources say it’s very good.
- Also, if you have a car and a half a day to spare, go to Poenari Fortress, that is a 2,5 h drive away from Bran. It used to serve as Vlad Tepes’ residence and it’s where he took shelter from the ottomans. Good luck climbing the stairs to get up to the fortress – that will be the ultimate endurance test.
For the rest of your stay in the area I recommend you take one or two days in Brasov just to chill, enjoy some local food, some specialty coffee and do your recovery by climbing Tampa hill. You’ll get a beautiful view of the city from up there and, as you come back down, just at the bottom of the descent you can try some reinvented local cuisine at great prices at one of my favourite restaurants, Sub Tampa.
From there on, it’s your choice if you want to spend some time in Bucharest as well, maybe to visit the People’s Palace (second largest building in the world), the old city center, and enjoy the nightlife.
In any case, you’ll be leaving with sore legs, but beautiful memories of an authentic place, the kind that it’s so rarely found anymore. And some well deserved ITRA UTMB points.
So don’t forget these are the last days to sign up for any of the Transylvania 100k races. For registration and any other details, check out the competition website.
Good luck and see you there!