Racing overseas is something that might seem a bit much for any runner, especially if it’s in the mountains. Ross Gollan gives a handy guide for any Scots (or others) considering it.
As someone who has been very lucky to spend time in Italy competing over a variety of race distances, from technical Skyraces such as Dolomyths to short lung busting mountain relays like Trofeo Vanoni, it’s time to share my experience.
This summer included some new races, Tre Rifugi and Trofeo Nasego (the latter part of the WMRA World Cup), both fantastic events that prove no other country does mountain running better than Italy!
Here’s my rough guide for those looking to experience Italian trail and mountain running races for the first time.
La dolce vita
1: Italian Language: Immerse yourself and make an effort to speak the language – even a ciao, per favore or grazie goes a long way. Italian’s are more than happy to make an effort if you give it a go. For conversation beyond your Duolingo capabilities, there are plenty of translation apps that will see you through most situations!
If in doubt, use your arms. Some say that 94.3% of Italian communication is via gesticulation. Embrace this to get your point across.
2: Italian Food: Try the amazing local food and do not stress about the language barrier. The carb heavy Italian diet is perfect for runners! A little bit of effort in trying new things and a hefty dose of google translate (especially if you’re vegetarian) will see you carb loading like a pro.
Italian meals usually consist of a primi (first course) of pasta and a secondi (second course) of meat although most eateries will be more than happy to find a vegetarian alternative. If an egg salad isn’t on the cards then just order two pasta dishes – perfetto!
Don’t rush, in racing and life
3: Italian Time: Things don’t tend to run to a tight schedule in Italy but do not fear! You will always reach your destination, just don’t rely on it being on time. When it comes to race day make sure you build in some contingency time especially if you have a set pre-race routine, take the earlier transport option or make sure you have access to your own transport.
4: Italian Racing: Nothing gets close to the passion Italians have for mountain, sky and trail running. There are hundreds of races over a variety of distances that take place every summer across the Italian Alps and Apennines, it can be very hard to choose between them! The support out on course can be deafening at times with a real party atmosphere created by enthusiastic locals in many of the communities that races pass through.
You will be treated to a race bag full of local produce with your number and most likely receive a race time bonus or spot prize regardless of your position. More importantly you will have great fun racing, no race in the UK comes close to achieving the same amount of passionate support on course or the pre and post race hospitality.
The race isn’t over at the finish line
5: The Prize Giving: These can be long drawn out affairs!
Take plenty of snacks and hydrate well, before, during and after. It’s definitely worth sticking around for as you never know which obscure prize you may have won, and there’s always spot or raffle prizes up for grabs.
6: The Party: Always hold back a bit of energy for the post race party! A mixture of euro-pop, local favourites and if you’re lucky a live jazz band will ensure a fun few hours of dancing. Like any race, always remember to pace yourself!
That concludes my brief guide to racing in Italy, A big thanks to the Tre Rifugi and Trofeo Nasego race organisers for giving me the opportunity to experience their amazing races. Grazie, ciao!