Running on Mt. Etna

In October 2016, my personal running season came to a successful end. Back in Sweden,  long training sessions along the icy-cold beach at the coastline awaited me. How was I supposed to stay motivated to go for training runs before breakfast? That is when a friend asked if I want to run on Mt. Etna in December. The idea was to plan an ambitious project that keeps us pushing during the dark winter hours. After some research, we picked a route from the sea all the way to the summit; an estimated 30 kilometres distance with an elevation gain of 3,500 metres. It was the perfect challenge and we decided to give it a try. So we booked flights to Italy, made sure we were properly acclimatised, and had enough rest prior to the run.


When checking the weather the night before the challenge, our plans started to fall apart. The temperature on the summit was going to drop down to -20º Celsius. Reaching the top was not our main objective anymore. Running above 2,500 metres was going to be extremely difficult for us. Snow and ice dominated the upper part of Mt. Etna. Back to the map, we sketched out a new route until late that night. Early next day, we started somewhere outside of Catania. The course went only uphill from there. First, we had to tackle some 500 metres of elevation gain on technical terrain.  Then, the rocky trail turned into an icy ridge. Easy trail running became strenuous climbing. It took hours to cover short distances. We faced the truth and abandoned our project midway. Instead of climbing further up, we finished at the Rifugio Giovanni Sapienza. Over a cup of coffee, we enjoyed the spectacular sunset before heading down to Catania by car. We failed but I promise to come back Mt. Enta!