We won’t lie… this is a tough 42km trail race. With a couple of notoriously steep climbs, the Ventasso Ecomarathon – named after Mount Ventasso – the 1727 meter mountain that runners summit, is demanding.
Each July, for the past 15 years the Ventasso Ecomarathon, that takes place in the Reggio-Emilia Apennines in Emilia-Romagna, has welcomed runners from Australia, Usa, Denmark, Switzerland, Hong Hong, Taiwan, Holland and more… I asked Race Director – Michele Bucci, why this low-profile, event has a discreet but strong following amongst foreign athletes?
“It’s a bit of a mystery, actually!” Exclaims Michele. ”Perhaps it’s a case of runners on holiday in Italy that decide to spend the weekend here in our tiny village of Busana and participate. Maybe they appreciate our mountains more so than we do!”
”We’ve had a Canadian enter, who ‘deserted’ his family on the beach over 300km away, a Brazilian guy that arrived by bike, having cycled more than 70km in a thunderstorm, who even ended up helping us set up all the logistics! A Finnish guy who’s run the Ecomarathon three years running. A Norwegian husband and wife, who both made the podium in our shorter distance Cadoniche Trail.”
“They all seem to appreciate the food and the wild scenery that we’ve got here…” Adds Michele seemingly bemused.
So it’s not only Italy on Trail that appreciate the food…!
We give you our Top 5 reasons why we think the Ecomaratona del Ventasso is a great Trail Race to run whilst on holiday in Italy!
#1 Your Very Own Italian Family Has Put on a Race!
Running the Ecomaratona del Ventasso, is akin to running in a race put on by your family. An Italian Family. Imagine you had hordes of Italian aunts, uncles and cousins (several quite good looking too). Throw in a few competent granny like figures, and plenty of amiable granddad’s and Bob’s your uncle. In this case Roberto is your uncle.
The 42 km right from start to finish is dotted with your very own hypothetical Italian family members, making sure that you, the runner-cousin from abroad, are properly taken care of throughout the race. The climbs, the heat, and your own niggles will be appeased by the genuine cheeriness of these people.
And with a whopping 9 aid stations along race route, a warm welcome is always around the corner.
#2 Permanently Marked Trail With Big-Easy-To-See Signs
The Ecomaratona del Ventasso, is permanently marked with clear, simple signs. Meaning that you can literally arrive in Busana and recce the race beforehand, or get back onto the course post race, take pics, have a relaxing trot and really get the feel for the place.
#3 Carry on Camping and Cerwood Adventure Park
The race route passes twice through the busy Camp Site “Le Fonti” at km’s 6 and 38. Here you’ll encounter the refreshment point (twice) run some very lovely ladies – who fall into the “Favourite Italian Aunts” category. Extremely welcoming at km 38, when every part of your body and possibly mind, might holler at you to just stop and spend some time with these dear ladies and let yourself be fed cake. And more cake.
You also get the bizzarre experience of running past some quite intimate moments of campers, hanging out washing, playing ping-pong, having a quiet read, grilling a sausage or two…
Surreal and fun is the part that goes through “Cerwood Adventure Park” (pronounced Sherwood). Attracting what seems to be like all the families in a 100 mile radius, in search of activities, ice-cream, and ‘adventure’. It’s quite a task to actually reach the refreshment point. Which is good, because all this works as a fantastic mood uplifter whilst the Sunday day-trippers cheer you on!
#4 Intrepid Surroundings: Crests, Hills, Lakes and Forest
The Ecomaratona Ventasso race-route has a lot of woodland, which is great for shade. To compensate for the Little Red Riding Hood effect there’s some poetic running to be had along the shores of Lake Calamone, where there’s yet another aid station (this time run by the category: sensible male cousins the ones that you were slightly in awe of as a kid).
The almost vertical grassy climb that brings you to the summit of Mount Ventasso is epic, with a real feeling of conquering a mountain to be enjoyed!
If you’ve never run along a crest, then Mount Ventasso’s gentle crest makes a good ‘first timer’. Ample, grassy, with some kind views, you’ll be in the company of walkers and hikers, which can bring things back to ‘a normal perspective’ if you feel in danger of having a: ”Oh my God I’m running on a crest!” moment.
Around km 33, when things risk sliding into that grey zone of confused trail-refusal comes a long stretch of raspberry bushes. Yes, with real live raspberries. Small but effective. You know the saying… it’s not the size…
#5 A Racepack Like Mama Would Have Made
A big pack of chocolate wafers, pasta, vouchers, a Ventasso Buff and fab t-shirt, energy bar…. With a racepack like this, there’s no-excuse to underperform. You kind of owe it to the contents. It does help, whilst at bib collection to be handed a plump bag of goodies, to delve in, rummage around, and feel as if you’ve been given a generous present (that’s your Italian family again). You could risk feeling like it’s your birthday, and that this is in fact one big party.
In a way it is. But it also comes with a hefty elevation gain of 2300m!
Maria Elisabetta Bellini is Italyontrail.com’s founder, born in the U.K, she came to running whilst living in Italy, where she still lives and trains. Never ceasing to marvel at what’s at the summit of a hill, or around the bend along the trail, she loves using trail running as a means to explore nature, contemplation and Italy.