INTERVIEW WITH RENATO MENCI, FOUNDER OF RONDA GHIBELLINA
For example, talking to one of the people who most understand the Trail as a heroic act by man against the adversities of nature and life!
We are talking about Renato Menci founder of the NBS Ronda Ghibellina Trail the race of Castiglion Fiorentino in the province of Arezzo, famous for its medieval atmosphere, which in January 2020 celebrated its 10th anniversary, and is one of the few competitions held this year..
Renato was born in Castiglion Fiorentino, a place where he still lives and which he has chosen as his base camp for the NBS Ronda Ghibellina Trail, the race he founded 10 years ago and from which the NBS Team Ronda Ghibellina was born.
A former paratrooper and vintage trailer, of those who ran before the Trail was defined as such, he is also a great lover of medieval history and in the Ronda he pours these two souls: love for the Trail and for the Middle Ages. https://www.youtube.com/embed/IckTELt4lUI
NBS: hi Renato, would you like to tell us about yourself and the Ronda?
RENATO I am 63 years old and I started running to stop smoking and to manage stress. At the beginning it was blood and tears, and it still is, because luck has not given me an athletic physique suitable for running, but rather that of a lifeguard or a bouncer. However, the fact that I am used to fighting for results has made me increasingly fond of ultra-distances. I started on the road, in fact my first race was the Passatore and I was still smoking…then I turned to trail running and my first race was the Gran Trail du Mont Blanc, the second edition. We were 600 runners, I remember the climbs which seemed to me hallucinating and I was not equipped… you know when they say a shoe and a slipper? There were some participants who looked at me like an alien and even made fun of me…finally that time I arrived completely electrocuted in Courmayeur. This is to tell you that I did not miss anything. In short, I started with impossible feats that always gave me the energy to go on.
However, I enjoy the trail more than the road because you are running in nature, which gives you that extra something.
That was until the day I wanted to promote my territory through running, found a group of crazy people to come after me and 10 years ago we created the Ronda Ghibellina.
Ten years ago I had people arriving who didn’t even know what they were supposed to be doing, just like me on Mont Blanc, wearing my grandmother’s woollen gloves and running in the snow, which had to be thrown away after 5 km. They arrived in street shoes: I saw people giving people such a hard time in the mud!
Then time went by, the Ronda grew as an event and the whole trail business did too, perhaps losing a little of its wild, romantic aura and becoming more professional and more VIP, and we adapted to keep up with the times.
NBS…and then we come to the present day, to this strange and tragic 2020. By the way, the Ronda is one of the few races that has been run this year, but I imagine you will not be free of doubts and concerns. Tell me your point of view on the Covid-19 emergency.
RENATO I support the thesis that the days of the epidemic are numbered, in a couple of months it will be a bad memory. Then the facts may prove me wrong, but this is my opinion.
I think that by the end of the year some races can be held, but I expect that regulations will be put in place that are so stringent as to make it impossible to organise and manage them. In Italy there are no laws to protect the organiser, in reality there are only significant criminal responsibilities and the Coronavirus issue adds an extra risk. In other words, you organise a race out of passion, to entertain people, and then you run the risk of being charged with massacre!
What really worries me, however, is not so much the organisational issues, but in view of the economic disaster that is about to befall us, I wonder if people will have the money to run. For three months now people haven’t earned any money, and I’m not talking about the top end of the market, but about those with a salary of 1,000/1,500 euro a month, with which they manage to indulge their whims, such as those two or three races a year.
The Ronda, for example, is a low-cost race, but if people don’t have that 2/300 euro budget, it’s tough.
Another question is related to the sponsoring companies, which are clearly also going through a difficult time and therefore will most likely reduce their sponsorship investments.
The problem is not the disease itself, but the economic blow that will follow.
NBS Do you think we will lose races in 2021?
RENATO In my opinion, yes. Trail running was born, it has grown and in recent years it has made a big impact and this is why races are springing up everywhere. It’s also a question of natural selection, because athletes can’t do all the races and inevitably a choice is made, plus the economic problem which I mentioned will hit harder on the races which haven’t had time to take root and establish themselves.
NBS: do you think something can be done at this stage to absorb the shock?
RENATO This is the phase of confusion, it is the phase of everything is not, that is, nobody gives clear indications, everybody talks but without finalising anything “no, you can’t do this, you can’t do that” but everything remains suspended. Perhaps the small races with few starters could organise time trial starts, but the problem of overtaking, refreshments, showers… in short, we are in the phase in which nothing is possible.
We’ll have to wait until the end of the summer and I think there will be more definite indications towards the end of the year.
NBS: do you have concerns about the Ronda 2021?
RENATO no, there is still time. We’ll start in a month or so to keep up to date, to take stock, and we’ll reconnect, but we’ll be sailing by sight. I’m an optimist in life, so obviously if Covid explodes again in November we’ll update to 2030…
NBS Will we have to expect different races in 2021?
RENATO The problem is that the laws are made by people who don’t understand anything about sport, in fact some of these restrictions are not dictated by common sense and are not even really useful. In Castiglion Fiorentino, we have a municipal administration that looks favourably on the Ronda and supports us, but if this is not the case it can become very complicated.
As Ronda I would like to find a way to meet people, ideally we would do a race at zero cost, I would like it like that in 2021 but it is not easy.
NBS The biggest costs in a race are the pasta party, the refreshments and the race package, which account for almost 50% of the costs. Do you think that the formula of a self-managed trail, a more essential trail, could work?
RENATO: If there is a regulation that prohibits them, the refreshments will inevitably not be there, but in general races without this type of service are boycotted. I think that by now we have become accustomed to certain types of services, see this year the claims that have been made in this sense, for next year we will try to equip ourselves with fish and caviar, if necessary in collaboration with the fishermen’s association… in any case I don’t think that this is the solution.
Lowering membership costs is a good thing, I organise for passion, not to build up a pension, and I want to make it easier for people.
NBS What do runners need to prepare for psychologically in 2020?
RENATO The season will be completely redesigned and shifted forward, in fact a race like the Ronda could be the Italian or World Championship, as the Top Runners will be fit in January. The season in any case will be completely redesigned and shifted forward, in fact a race like the Ronda could be the Italian or world championship, as the top runners will be in shape in January.
NBS Do you have any appeal to the running community?
RENATO You have to hang in there and be patient, use your head so as not to behave rashly. In my heart I think that the first race I will do will be the Trail del Cinghiale! The ones with the most difficulty are definitely the international races.
NBS see TOR which has competitors from 74 different countries, mobility for those from abroad is not easy…
RENATO: In fact, I’ve anticipated that the internationals will be cancelled, perhaps at the end of the year there will be some national competitions and in January we will resume. For the moment we are thinking positive.