This month, there were 3 separate trail run events with shorter and longer routes offering as many as 3,400 runners from 64 nations an opportunity to race along the Dolomite trails around Cortina d’Ampezzo. The trails have significant elevation changes for outdoor enthusiasts at all skill levels of ability and experience; the Dolomites’ mountain range is located in north-eastern Italy in the regions of Trentino Alto Adige and Veneto.
Participants came from all over the world for this incredible race that embrace the most spectacular places of the Alps and offers challenging high-altitude treks with interlinked paths and a quiet and peaceful atmosphere for safe hikes/treks in the wild.
The most challenging race was the The North Face® Lavaredo Ultra Trail (LUT) with about 119 km and a variation in altitude of 5,850 meters. The LUT is part of the “Ultra-Trail World Tour”, the international network that gathers the 12 most famous races in the world, selected according to 5 criteria:
– Long distance trail running races of at least 100km
– Emblematic venues
– Popular races (around 500 runners minimum)
– International events (a minimum of 20 countries represented)
– Minimum 2 realized editions.
The Cortina SkyRace was at its 2nd edition; a running race which took place along paths in the Dolomite Mountains for about 20 km and with a variation in altitude of 1.000 meters. The route takes you to discover from a high altitude the entire Ampezzo valley with a fantastic view of Cortina and the mountains that surround it; the race is for expert excursionists.
I decided to take part into the Cortina Trail: 47 km with a variation in altitude of 2.650 meters. This is extreme trail running that allow participants to run longer than a classic marathon in a charming mountain setting. I confirmed my presence only 4 weeks before the event, when training for that should already be at the peak. Beside that, living in Dubai it makes it difficult to find the mountains where to train. But the goal was enjoy a new challenge, so that was okay. I spent 4 weeks training on the rocks in JBR to simulate the trail ride on the steep terrain of the Dolomites and training on the stairs to simulate variation of altitude. In any case I decided not to have too much intense workout, cause of the few time left before the race.
The morning of the race begins with a fantastic surprise: one of the organizers of the race, as well as event speaker, is my friend Antonio Colli, with whom I had the pleasure to try for the first time cross-country skiing, always in Cortina. Shortly before departure Antonio asks me the expectations on this race.
3, 2, 1 .. the race starts. I run very slow for the first kilometers: it’s going to be a long run and I don’t want to force my pace. I enjoy the view while running. On the climbs and the “technical” slopes I feel my lack of training; unexpectedly I found several streams to wade: luckily I had spare socks and insoles.
Suddenly an unpleasant unexpected: one of the competitors fell down, suffering a nasty gash to her forehead. Being a rescuer I supported her together with other people up to the arrival of the medical personnel. I was stopped for 30/45 minutes.
After refreshment I continued the race with one of the boys, Daniel, who initially rescued the girl. During long races it’s not unusual you get new friends. After several kilometers we reflect on the need to pass a check point within 3.30 pm, under penalty of exclusion from the race. Then I decided to force the pace and I left Daniele behind. At one of the refreshments they tell me that I have 20 minutes of walking before the check point and only 23 minutes available, so I do not care even to stop or refill the water and I resume running. But while running on a technical slope I got a (slight) sprained ankle! Daniel re-takes me shortly thereafter and escorts me for the next 2 km, up to the refreshment point. There, I ask the medical staff to get me a tight bandage. I want to try to finish the race despite the still difficult path and 16km separating me from the finish. With difficulty I reach the last refuge. 9 km missing on arrival (all downhill and very technical) and only 90 minutes before the cut-off time. I don’t know what to do. A few minutes later one of the volunteers, Gianluca Bocciol, pushed me to go on and offered to escort me to safety.
So ok, let’s finish it! The first 4/5 kms are quite slow because of the terrain, but suddenly the ground becomes a less technical dirt and then something happened in my mind: I start running again despite the pain in my ankle. I pass several competitors from both CortinaTrail and LavaredoUltraTrail (the two paths overlap in the final stage). At about 2 km from the arrival I slow down, but one of the competitors of the LUT gives me a pat on my shoulder and screams “Do not give up! Run with me! ”
I accept the invitation. About 1 km to go he detaches me about a hundred meters. But in the last 500 meters, while I was already in the Cortina downtown, my brain gives me the command
I start running like never before. It seems I had not run all those kilometers. At about 50 meters from the finish line I reach the guy who gave me a pat but I didn’t overcome him: I took him by the arm and scream “Let’s speed up! Fast! Come on! ”
We pass the finish line together. An emotional embrace with him, then with Antonio Colli who asks me the feelings and hands me the microphone. After a few minutes Gianluca comes; seeing me at the finish line, he realized I covered the last 5 km running. Another hug. I am among the last ones, but I feel the same thrill of the winner.
After that … my body reminds me I spent 12 hrs working out, that 18 km with a sprained ankle are not an easy thing, and maybe I need a medical check.
Just one thought in my mind: I did it!
Before ending this article I would like to thanks: the Cortina Trail organization for this fantastic experience and impeccable organization, Cortina Marketing SE.AM, Hotel Ambra and Restaurant Il Passetto for the hospitality, my water sponsor Monviso for the support and all those friends who made this experience unforgettable.