Enzo, King of the Brenta

Enzo, King of the Brenta
Friday 30 August 2019

Seven hours, four minutes, and twenty-three seconds: this was the time that  in 2018 placed Enzo Romeri, trail runner from Fai della Paganella, on the top of the podium for his "home" race, the Dolomiti di Brenta Trail, a route of 64 km with 4200 metres of ascent among the most beautiful mountains in the world, and a World Heritage Site.

Amazingly, just a few years ago he found walking to Andalo not very appealing.

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“Three or four years ago my son Gabriele put his hands on my belly and asked me if I was expecting a baby. I realized that I had to start doing some form of physical exercise again, after having interrupted my competitive career in cycling in 2011. When I set off from home the first evening to go running, I met Yanez and Christian, friends and fellow residents, and we started training together. After just a couple of months, Christian light heartedly suggested entering for the Garda Trentino Trail, a race of 60 km with 3800 metres of ascent. I still laugh when I see the photos of that first race, with a rucksack full of water and sandwiches, as if we were setting off for a two day hike. However, I realized that I had a strong affinity for this type of race: after all, competitive sports and the desire to push limits are an integral part of myself.”

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“Do what I do for a year and you will find that by the start of September the Dolomiti di Brenta Trail no longer seems so impossible.”

Many people probably wonder how Enzo and the other trail runners can run for so many hours and face ascents of more than 3000 metres. “The truth is that the competition is just the point of the iceberg and behind the scenes there are months and months of training, starting as early as January. When I am training for a race I run twice a day for an hour and a half each time, morning and evening: the first straight from bed to lose weight and get the body used to being hungry, and then a more intense training session in the evening. Competitions themselves serve as training for the big race, which is the true objective of the season. This year at the beginning of August I allowed myself ten days of complete rest to recharge physically and mentally. The mental challenge is what I concentrate on most over the days running up to the race.”

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Indeed, Enzo believes this is what makes the difference. “Obviously you have to be physically trained, you can hardly jump off a sofa and run the Dolomiti di Brenta Trail, but I believe that with a minimum of basic training, if somebody really wants to, they can reach the finishing line, because it is the mind that decides in these cases. The objective does not necessarily need to be winning. Everyone taking part in these races does so for a reason, some just so that they can say they have finished, even if they arrive last, others might have come through a difficult period in life, or an illness, and for them the race assumes a deeper and more personal meaning.”

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“It is our home race, the Dolomiti di Brenta are our mountains, I have always loved them. Part of my heart remains forever in the Brenta.”

It is no surprise then that Enzo knows the route perfectly. “The race starts at six in the morning, so you run the first section almost in the dark. When you reach Malga Flavona the wildest part of the Brenta begins, possibly the least known but what I consider the most beautiful. You feel you are truly in the mountains: alone and free. The last part leads back towards the Rifugio Brentei, at the foot of the Campanil Bas, and the Rifugio Pedrotti and you start seeing people and hearing some words of encouragement, probably just when you need it most. The huts are more than simple refreshment points, there are friends waiting who cheer you on. The paths are also busy, and the encouragement of the hikers helps a lot. People from Trentino look forward to and experience the Brenta race with real emotion, even more so if a local manages to do well. I see this now that the race is drawing nearer, when I meet the locals from Fai they always ask whether I am ready.”

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Do I feel pressure to repeat the win? Yes, a bit, everyone is hoping for a repeat. Starting with vest number 1, an honour reserved to last year's winner, makes me feel as if the spotlights are on me. Obviously the will to win is still there and I will set off with this objective in mind. But, as somebody more famous than me once said, it is a dream, not an obsession. I have trained up, physically I'm in shape. To win you just need the right day: you put on your vest, feel the adrenalin rising in your body, and a voice in your head says, 'OK, let's go'.” 

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