Mozart 100 is a gorgeous running event taking place in Salzburg and its surrounding area: a route crossing rolling hills full of pastures, lakeside trails along the Fuschl and Wolfgang lakes and the beautiful ascents to Zwölferhorn and Schafberg peaks. Usually being held in middle June, this year Covid contingency forced the Race Direction to organize the Mozart 100 in early September, with no substantial differences in the course progress: 108 km with nearly 5000m of elevation gain make it a good ultra-endurance event with its own personality, beautiful landscapes and a big variety of different terrains along the trails, from easy fire roads to hard technical downhills to exposed mellow trails.
This year was my first in Salzburg: I ventured to the Mozart 100 hunting a qualification ticket for the Western States lottery, and the thrill of finally pinging a bib number after the last race I ran :2019 Rio del Lago 100 miles. I came home with much more than a race under the belt: Mozart 100 is really a bucket race for 100k lovers or beginners! I enriched the narration with some music I listened to while running the race. Enjoy!
In the very competitive endurance running community where i come from, the expression ‘Arrivare dopo la musica – Getting to the finish line after the music’ is a pretty common idiom to indicate a way of racing with lots of struggle, or sometimes with so much issues slowing the runner that in the end he crosses the finish line way back in the ranking and far from the top positions. While in every running race there is always a lot of music that awaits for the competitors at the finish line, sometimes it stops before the last of them comes by. So, simple as that: finish after the music is a funny way to mock a friend coming to the end of his racing in a lot of time. This thought had its own space in my head approaching Mozart 100: after a two-years hiatus without putting on a bib number nor even trying to race minor events, I approached the race with respect and fear, but willing to cross that finish line ‘Before the end of the music’. On the other side, there was another thought cheering me up: in the City of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, there could not be any silence, nor could the music ever be stopped. So I chose wisely my playlists (you should do too), and I ventured to the 5.00 am start line.
Early morning Salzburg was a surreal place: empty squares and high white buildings looked at the runners, meanwhile they slipped through the alleys under the towering watchful Castle, headlamps showing the way outside the city across the mist, leading them out to the nearby hills. It was a quiet running, small packs quickly formed and everyone started to battle with the will to run his best race and the need to keep things calm for some more hours before going all in. Chilly valleys and riversides were welcomed with the first pale light while we passed by the first refreshment points, and as the Sun started to shine the mists became sparking clouds over the plain leading to the lake of Fuschl. It was a gorgeous day, and the Salzburg outskirts were reflecting beautiful lights over their green hills and grassy fields.
I approached 1st female Meg Lane, probably the only runner I could recognize after the élite presentation of the day before, on the way to descend to the Lakeside trails. We chatted a bit under the lens of the cameraman filming her, and it was probably the first time since the start that I chose to focus not on my running form but on keeping my mood relaxed and empty-headed. The easy kilometers flowed under our legs, leading us to the next aid station nearly without breaking a sweat, only to deliver us the first real pain in the ass at 34th km: the long climb to Zwölferhorn . The higher we climbed, the wider we saw around the mountain: and once we passed upon the peak cross, a great panorama opened up: the Wolfgang lake still half covered by the clouds, showing here and there good spots of its turquoise waters, pastures all over the nearby hills and topping the picture frame a deep blue sky: a pity that the 4 km downhill full with roots and rocks was so technical that i could not dig the view.
Crossing by St. Gilden 1 I got the idea of the perfect organization put on during the race day: a lakeside aid station where runners were supposed to come across twice during their day is no joke, and things were kept cool and calm all the time. Volunteers and runners have their place and everybody’s task was well executed: I left the aid station both times with the running belt full of orange slices and lots of people cheering, heading to the next climbs. At this time i was alone again, i lost Meg down the Zwölferhorn and she looked the only one i could speak fluently my not-so-fluent english, so when i departed from St. Gilden i know that i’d need my best music to keep me company on the rough ascend to Schafberg peak.
Heads will roll started pounding in my ears as I climb up, and I played it in loop some more times to keep the rhythm. Going slow but steady, I didn’t imagine that uphill and downhills of the Mozart 100 would have been so technical and gnarly, I really hoped for a more forgiving runnable course (imaging some steeper sections now and then). What I got was just a lot of running poles use. Schafberg Alp delivered a wide-open view of both the Fuschl and Wolfgang Lakes and Salzburg, it was the furthest point from the start apparently, from this climb down to Gilden 2 there were just more rocks and roots, and a beautiful second round on the lakeside path on Wolfgang lake: i had so much fun running along this trail and come across the runners coming the other way from St. Gilden 1, cheering each other on this out and back section.
The way to get back to Salzburg now started from getting to Fuschl lake first, and then backwards to the City. I paired up with an Austrian guy, Thomas, and as we hitted a low spot climbing up from St. Gilden across the aerial trails to Weisswand Hutte we then started to work nicely on the smooth paths heading out of the forest. Catching and losing each other, we reached Fuschl passing up some more tired guys, and the lakeside just after the aid station was even better than the one we ran in the early morning with Meg. Luxuriant mellow trails climbed & descended gently until we started climbing again to Hoff and Koppl, at this point the Sun was up and grinding. Luckily a lot of landowners put out on the trails some fresh water cans and spouts, offering more refreshment points away from the main Aid Stations.
Grouping up with some guys from the Ultra race, i enjoyed some more of this return to Salzburg, otherwise it would probably be pretty wild to do alone: multiple forest sections at this point were gnarly and difficult due to the 10+ hours you already heavy on the legs: and roots at this point seems to have hands to bring your ankles down at every step.
Coming into the Aid Station Koppl, at 10 km from the finish line, things looked stable and calm in the afternoon heat.
A Volunteer gave me some info ‘The hard part is now on the next climb to Nockstein, then to Kapuzinemberg but other than that it’s all downhill’.
He probably missed that bit of information regarding the steps; multiple steps, hundreds of steps going up both the last two uphills sections. Doing the first one, I started to lose my head. Every uphill step was a monument to all my sins, or I should say a monumento to all the uphill training i didn’t do properly. The downhills, if possible, were even worse: brutal.
On Kapuzinemberg my phone was exhausted, the playlist stopped in my ears and for the first time i really felt alone. I recomposed myself hearing the speaker’s voice and the music coming from the City: it looked so far in that moment. I bombed down the last kilometers ‘cross the bridge, coming through early aperitifs and joyful crowds, rushing into Kapitelplatz. On a sunny warm evening, on a beautiful finish line in the heart of the city, I put an end to the journey clocking 13 hour straight. The first race completed in two years. With an overwhelming welcome by the speaker as I stepped the finish line and hugged Francesca with a relieved smile on my face, I knew that I didn’t come by after the music.
Thank you Salzburg, thank you Mozart 100, for keeping the music up for me again.
Tommaso Bassa x Mozart 100 – Complete Playlist