The trail revives the Sil mining basin | Sports

Primout is proof that the beauty of a place is linked to how much it costs to get there. This enclave of the municipality of Páramo del Sil (León), with its slate roofs and old houses on the banks of the river of the same name, is only accessible by a complex forest track. “You can get there if you are not very fond of the car,” warn the organizers of the Alto Sil Race with the humor that characterizes them, since their unofficial motto is #quesejodan, in reference to the surprises that the runners receive each year. Precisely for this reason the route is not repeated, but the passage through the town of charm is non-negotiable. And the beat returns to its streets, decibels that exceed those of the San Miguel festival on the last weekend of July. This is how the trail revives a Bierzo museum in danger of demographic extinction.

The decline of mining and the closure of a power plant in Anllares del Sil questioned the future of many towns in the Sierra de Gistredo, a wound that does not hide the outdated urban planning at the foot of the road that connects the place with Ponferrada. But an idea swarmed through the mind of Lolo Díez, a mountaineer who always has a joke ready. In his expeditions he spoke of a career that would restore the pulse of the land that he saw dying day by day. The event arose in 2009 with a thirty-odd kilometer test with a start and finish in Santa Cruz del Sil, another town in Páramo that also puts the car at risk, with a steep slope and a couple of sharp curves to leave the vehicle. in a wide meadow.

Its brand image is precisely that improvised parking lot full of vehicles: “We see a mining basin, with all the accommodations full in the low season. We see the restaurant packed with smiling people. “We see consumption in the businesses in our area.” A fixed date on the calendar—the last weekend of winter—and the big day of the year. With a paella that revives the more than 500 runners who dared to go out in one of the toughest editions, since almost half of the route was covered in snow, with sections more than a meter thick. In milder editions, the number of registrants is close to a thousand. After rice, a DJ in the mid-afternoon and a concert at night. Not even at parties.

Winter runs out with a race of 34.2 kilometers and more than 1,900 meters of positive elevation gain, with snow from kilometer 11 to after kilometer 30, which crowns the 2024 champions of Castilla y León. There are no bars in Santa Cruz from Sil, only a large garage next to the square to collect the numbers. From there, with a speaker thunderous, hostilities begin at 9:00 a.m., with extensive mandatory equipment to avoid unpleasantness: tights below the knees, gloves, hat or thermal blanket. The thing begins with a paved ramp; Shortly after, in Páramo de Sil, with its wet cobblestones next to the river, it is time to run around thirty stairs.

But this year Lolo has an ally for his menu of torture, that snow that evokes mountaineering and that prevents running on moderate slopes. Leaving the trail is a foolhardy act that sinks that breathable shoe and freezes your foot. Maintaining balance and continuing to move forward is enough of a task. The proof is that the winner, Jaime Romo, clocked 4h2m49s—Marta Martínez was the fastest with 4h14m14s—in a race in which the winner usually goes under three hours. Pedrosillo, at 1,838 meters above sea level, marks the top of the route and the beginning of a horrendous descent. Because walking downhill is not enough: jogging is imperative and makes it easier to leave the trail. Knees stuck in the cold snow, hands frozen when it’s time to get up. Then, a braña parallel to the river bed: kilometers and kilometers running between stones and water, sometimes above the knees. “Not a good kilometer!” summed up tiredly one of those runners who must drink half a liter of water an hour and maintain energy with caffeine gels. This is the tourist who resurrects a mining basin, the one who feels it in his legs.

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