Bergamo Urban trail is a 20 km race with 700 m height positive gain. Starting from Bergamo and arriving to Upper Bergamo with a maximum time of 4 hours.
The race is like a dope. You finish a race, making the utmost you can, and then you promise yourself sayibg “let me stop at least for two months to recover”. But later your eyes go to a poster or your friend ask you Hi, are you going to participate too.? And then the spark flashes out again.
It happened this time as well! I fly to Italy to participate to Cortina Sky Race, a very tough 20 km trail with more than 1000 metres of height positive gain; much more difficult compared to other longer related competitions (Cortina Trail and Lavaredo Ultra Trail) due to the steep slope. I did not believe until I participated. Just as I finished, with my legs stiff and tired and feeling disappointed to have arrived 5 minutes later than the allowed time (3h 30), I told myself: I should rest for at least two weeks, later I will start again with some light trainings without any schedule until September.
And as I was talking with a friend about my participation he asked me: Did you know that there is a very nice race in Val Seriana?
The spark flashed again. I contacted the organisers who invited me to participate as a journalist to follow the Press Tour of Orobie Ultra Rail, a 140 km race with 9500 m of height positive gain. Starting from Clusone and arriving in Upper Bergamo with 47 hours allowed maximum time. Later they asked me if I wanted to participate in one of the two races in the program: Orobie Gran Trail (70 km) or Bergamo Urban Trail (20km).
I accepted without hesitation! I took me a couple of days to decide whether to venture the 70km (being aware that the time was not enough to prepare it well) or to test the 20 km. In the end I decided not to overdo and risk injuries and I took part at the first edition of Bergamo Ultra Trail.
At 9:30 am of June 28th I was in Clusone square. I met Giovanni Milazzo and Raffaella Ferrari of GM Comunicazioni and other colleague journalists. We assisted in the starting of the 300 heroes of the long race and we visited the town. The visit was kindly organised by the mayor Mr. Paolo Olini. Rather than taking lunch, I preferred to have a rest to foresee the evening race; just because I also had some fever and a strong headache.
I arrived in Bergamo in the evening just few hours before the starting (scheduled at 8:30) to receive my race number. To my great pleasure I discovered that Manlio of Gazzetta dello Sport and Dario of Runners World Italia was also participating with me in the 20 km race. We spent together the last moments before the competition by taking coffee, sticking the numbers into our shirts, etc. I also discovered that Dario had published the online version of my interview in Runners World Italia few weeks earlier
We headed all together to destination, some cheering, hand shaking and snapshots as usual and then we entered in to the race. There was nobody else. Not a professional and not specialised in trail competitions, I did not even know the route of this race which would have been mostly in the dark of the forest (my first experience). I behaved as usual like a professional.
3..2..1.. go! The chronometer started and I began to run. I started from the first line, as I usually do, but I did not care about the step of the faster runners who overtook me and suddenly I tried to find my pace. I followed my pace. But I pushed a little bit harder than usual during the first kilometres (with no exaggeration) to exploit the first hour of light.
The first kilometres flew rapidly; although it was not required by the race rules I wore a Camel Bak with 1 litre of water, in order not to stop in the refreshment areas.
In fact, although the first climbs (unlike Cortina Sky Race with a very long and tough climb followed by a technical descent, here it is a continuous up and down, somehow like Florence Urban Trail) and the first steps were not paved, in short, more than an hour passed and I was still in the middle of the race. I tried to overcome the gate as soon as possible, in order not to be excluded from the race it was needed to reach the 13 km within the two hours, meanwhile the maximum allowed time was 4 hours.
I keep on running, slowing down my speed only in my passage through the darkness (just to recover also) and later continuing with the same pace in the open spaces. I thought also to have been able to manage to complete the race in 2 hours and a half; half an hour less than the foreseen time. It made me think tgat a race not granted (no race can be granted and you could claim victory only when you reach the finish line) but in all cases a race is to enjoy.
It is a race that can give you the chance to admire the panoramic views of Bergamo valleys.
But shortly before the end of the race I got to lots of steps to climb; they were irregular, long, low and they broke my legs.
Shortly after a while, which felt endless, the descent started and I kept on running. I looked at my chronometer: 2h 35. Little time was left to the end. I could have finished in less than 2h 45, in any case good.
Upon arriving in Upper Bergamo, I heard Go Nico!. he was a friend of mine a rescuer colleague [ Bergamo Scuba Angels] who came with his wife to watch the arrival to the finish line. This gave courage even if I felt my legs tired and gave me the final push. But this time cramps! Incredible. I never had cramps since long time during a race. I did drink regularly: I had sufficient potash intake. I told myself myself.
But cramps still were there and continuing with no break..
I had to slow down, about to stop in order to reduce the pains. But I kept on running. After a few hundred meters, the cramps reduced till they disappeared so that I started running again, but I and another competitor found ourselves in a split road with no visible signs and no volunteers showing us the right way. We asked to some boys with the race numbers which they looked they have completed the race ..and they gave us the wrong directions. We found ourselves to do the same trip twice and loosing approximately 5 minutes.
Yet we made it to the finish line. Upon arriving, we saw the finish line. As soon as we overcame it, we found ourselves to the stage of Piazza Vecchia in Bergamo, with the public welcoming us. My friend Massimo took a magnificent photo of me. Finally, I felt relaxed. Another 20 km and another race. I felt satisfied. I promised myself .. no race any more till August I will see if I am able to keep my promise……
Translation by V.S.Brunetti