When my friend told me about a 10K through the biggest wine cellar in the world, I knew I had to go. The Milestii Mici wine run takes runners through the wine cellar at up to 100m depth. They fill you up with wine before and after the run, making this race the perfect combination of adventure and fun.
Are you thinking about running in the Milestii Mici wine run? Read on to find out how to plan and prepare.
How to Get to the Milestii Mici Wine Run
Milestii Mici is a winery located in a village near Chisinau, the capital of Moldova. Since you’ll be staying in Chisinau, your goal should be to get to this city.
Getting to Chisinau
You can fly to Chisinau International Airport (KIV) and then take a taxi or bus into the city. There are several taxi drivers hanging around the exit to the airport, but they were asking for 20 euros to take me and my backpack to Chisinau. Instead, download the taxi apps “Yandex Taxi” and “iTaxi” to get to and around Chisinau.
There are also several mini buses that pass the Chisinau airport and go to Chisinau. This is the cheapest, but also more complicated option. If you’ve ridden marschrutkas before, this will be a very familiar experience for you. Here’s what to do:
- Pull Lei (Moldovan currency; different from Romanian lei) from the ATM. The ride should not cost more than 70 lei (about $4).
- Walk out of the airport and towards the parking garage.
- Pass the parking garage on the right-hand side and walk towards the highway.
- Cross the highway and wait near the crosswalk (this is the bus stop).
- When you see a mini van approaching, look for a sign that says the mini van is stopping in Chisinau. If it is, wave it down. It’ll pull over.
- You’ll pay as soon as you enter the bus, so have your cash ready.
- Once you’re in Chisinau, you can ask the bus driver to stop at any bus stop along the route it is already driving. Simply say “na ostanovka poschalista” (Russian) as you’re approaching the bus stop to ask them to stop.
Other notes about taking the bus: You can get off when someone else stops the mini van, if you’re nervous to speak. Some bus drivers are friendly and, if you show them the address of your hotel or a picture on the map, they’ll let you know where to get off. Not all of the drivers are very friendly, though. If you have a lot of suitcase, I suggest you take a taxi because the drivers aren’t always patient when there’s bags involved (technically, though, you can bring them on board or put them in the back of the van).
You can also fly into Odessa International Airport (ODS) and then take a bus or train for about 6 hours to Chisinau. You will pass through the unrecognized republic of Transnistria on this route, meaning you’ll stop at a “border crossing.” You’ll only need a 2-day transit visa, which is free. Sometimes the guards ask for money, but the visa really is free. They can’t actually charge money for this visa since it isn’t a real country! Since they can’t stamp your passport either (it’s illegal to falsely stamp a passport), they’ll give you a sheet of paper. Keep that inside your passport while you’re in Transnistria.
Alternatively, if you’re in Ukraine or Romania, you can take a bus into Chisinau. Check your local bus station or Rome2Rio to see bus times.
Getting to the Race
You will need to take a taxi from Chisinau to the village if you have no other form of transportation. Again, I recommend the apps YandexTaxi or iTaxi.
However, if you’re one of the first 200 people (out of 350) to sign up for the race, the race organizers offer free transportation to and from the race. The bus picked us up in Chisinau. On the way back, you can ask the driver to stop at any bus stop located along the route (similar to marschrutka).
The Race Course & Preparation
As advertised, the majority of the race course is through the biggest wine cellar in the world! On the wine tour later, the tour guide clarified that the winery no longer stores wine in the big barrels the runners ran past.
Wine soaks up everything from the environment and doesn’t like to be disturbed, so the big wooden barrels aren’t practical anymore.
About 1-2 kilometers of the course is outside, and only a small portion of that that was snowy and icy on the abnormally warm day we ran. I walked this icy part because, knowing myself, I’d slip and twist my ankle. The rest of it was inside the cellars!
The ground was smooth for the majority of the route. Some parts inside the cellar had bumps and holes, though. I misstepped in one of these holes once, but thankfully recovered quickly. You certainly have to be careful and watch your step for some of the race.
Things You Need
It’s dark inside the cellars, with some parts having no light except for your headlamp. Therefore, it is essential that you have a headlamp or a phone with flashlight capability. The race organizers won’t let you run without a light.
Sporter, the organizer of the event, distributes a mask inside the race packs. While it was a bit dusty from runners kicking up the dirt path at the beginning, when everyone was clumped together, I felt like the mask was unnecessary overall.
I was nervous when the race organizers mentioned the trail being dusty and having to run with a mask on, but I think they’re just being cautious. However, I hung my mask around my neck for the entirety of the race.
The temperature inside the cellar feels like it’s around 35 degrees Fahrenheit, or 1 degrees Celsius. I wore compression leggings, a long-sleeve turtleneck running shirt, and the Milestii Mici wine run shirt. This set-up was comfortable for me. I started running with a beanie and gloves, but quickly took them off and threw them to the side to pick-up later.
There are plenty of volunteers cheering on runners and ensuring they stay on course. About every kilometer was some sort of Moldovan group performing a traditional dance, song, or other fun part of their culture. The performances really kept my spirits high! The cheers I received was double the amount of cheer I sent them as I passed.
The Milestii Mici wine run felt like a crash course of Moldovan culture. I would definitely do it again!
Milestii Mici Wine Run Events
You can’t go to the biggest wine cellar in the world without drinking wine. Thankfully, you won’t have to look for wine at the Milestii Mici wine run.
Inside the race pack is a bottle of Milestii Mici red wine and wine glass, along with your time chip, bib number, shirt, and mask. I usually don’t like red wine, but my friend and I quickly drank this bottle Friday evening after packet pick-up.
Before the run, the runners gathered around bonfires with free mulled wine to stay warm.
After the run, there was more free mulled wine.
Then there was the optional winery tour, which included a wine tasting. Everyone grabbed a glass of wine on the banquet table. They could refill their glasses with the bottles on the table as they pleased.
There was plenty of food and water, too! Oranges, bananas, and a bottle of water was available at the 5K mark. Immediately after the race, water, fruit, and Plăcintă (a traditional Moldovan puff pastry, typically filled with either cheese or meat) were readily available. This was my first time eating Plăcintă and they certainly hit the spot.
There were also free shoulder massages after the run!
During the wine tasting, there were lots of trays filled with fruits, vegetables, breads, and–my new favorite–Plăcintă. Seriously, I ate at least 15 Plăcintă that day.
Good to Know…
There is an option to run only the race, but I highly recommend you pay extra for the wine tasting excursion. You might as well!
The check-list said an EKG was required for the race, but no one asked for proof that I had an EKG done. You can probably get away without having one.
Packet pick-up begins Friday and Saturday at noon. Otherwise, you can pick up your packet at the race. Be sure you have enough time to drink your wine before boarding your flight. For me, this meant picking up my packet first thing Friday.
While the run is advertised for professional and amateur athletes, you must finish the 10K within 90 minutes or you’ll be kicked off the course. Many walkers were kicked off.
There is bag storage available before and during the race. You should pick up your things before the wine tour, though. This was not clear to me and I was the only one to have left their things at the booth! It wasn’t an issue, but it was an inconvenience.
You will have time to visit the wine store after the tasting.
Sign up here for the race!