How to Choose You First Italian Ultra

Just glancing through ItalyOnTrail.com’s Race calendar will bring up more than 300 races. As you browse through our race information pages, visit the race websites and look at photos and videos, you’ll come across plenty of amazing ultras, as Italy really does have some pretty beautiful and varied scenery.

It can be quite a challenge just considering which Italian ultra you’d like to run.

We’ve come up with several pointers that may be helpful when deciding which Italian ultra trail best fits you. So read on and keep an open mind.

Remember to aim for a balance between your head, heart and soul.

#1 Information Available

This can be a major factor. The more information that’s available on the race website, the better. It makes preparation so much easier.

All Italian ultras will have strict rules and regulations, you may find our bilingual mandatory kit article useful.  So many race website have up to date web pages in English and some in French and German, this can make the whole choice process much easier.

#2 Manageable Course Profile

Study the course profile. Take into consideration your own fitness levels.

That Alpine Ultra with those snow capped mountains and crystal blue skies might look tempting, but look closely at the race profile, change meters into feet, and ask yourself if and how you may need to adapt your training, and will you have the time and possibility of realistically being able to do it.

#3 Technical Terrain

For your first ultra in Italy - make sure you are fully prepared for technical routes
For your first ultra in Italy – make sure you are fully prepared for technical routes

Don’t be caught out by a really technical race route, if that’s not where your strengths lie!

Mountain running in Italy can pose rocky, technical terrain, exposure, scree and Via Ferrata.
Check out as many photograph and videos of the races you’re interest in. It’s important to study the terrain and decide if you are ready for it.

#4 Wilderness Vs Villages

Crossing through villages and hamlets can provide a welcomed respite in an ultra trail
Crossing through villages and hamlets can provide a welcomed respite in an ultra trail

Even though Italy is a relatively small and densely populated country that doesn’t have the wild spaces say of the USA and also in some cases, like those in the UK, there are still areas where a certain type of wilderness can be found, for example in Sardinia and parts of Southern Italy.

A notable area is the Val Grande in Piedmont, which we looked at here.

Decide if you can handle perhaps 80km without crossing even a tiny hamlet. Would you feel more comfortable passing through villages along the route? Study the course route in Google Maps, download the gpx tracks. Read up on the area.

#5 Running High – Altitude

Check out the highest point on route profile - and keep this consideration.
Check out the highest point on route profile – and keep this consideration.

Are you used to running at altitude? If you choose an ultra in the Alps or Dolomites there’s a possibility that you will be, at some point running over 2000m, and you will have to factor for a decrease in oxygen. How you react varies so much between individuals, and there’s no fast rule. So bear this in mind. It’s vital to check the race course profile and the highest points. If you’re not comfortable with the idea of altitude why not consider an ultra in the Apennines, or along one of the coastal regions, like Liguria or the Amalfi Coast.

#6 Get Your Moneys’ Worth!

Race registration prices can vary. Something which you’ll have to include into all travel costs. So try to make the most of it.

Read the race regulations to clearly find out what you will get for your hard earned cash. Is there a Pasta Party, a finisher’s gadget? Are there plenty of aid stations, volunteers and facilities?

#7 Cut Off Times

One of the biggest factors that can determine the outcome of a first ultra can be any cut off times along the race route, and the actual race time limit.

Here races can differ widely. Even just one hour, in an ultra can make a big difference. You don’t want to come all the way to Italy to participate in your dream ultra to find out that the max time limit was just that bit too tight. If speed is an issue play it safe and choose a race with wide cost off times.

#8  Weather

Bear in mind that it can get hot in Italy during the summer months, yes, even high up in the mountains. Although weather is as we know, unpredictable, do spend some time looking at past weather stats for the areas where you’re considering running your first ultra trail.

If you prefer running in cooler weather you may want to consider an ultra in late spring or early autumn.

#9 Go With Friends

Go with friends and share the fun!
Go with friends and share the fun!

Travel with friends, share the adventure, double the enjoyment and create memories. Loved ones can provide an added source of security and therefore take some of the stress away from practical issues, such as travel, and help ease pre-race tension and can be a big incentive throughout the race with the promise of big hugs and comfort at the finishing line.

#10 Tie in some Holiday Time

Tie in some holiday time and get the most from the experience
Tie in some holiday time and get the most from the experience

Do be sure to allow extra days to get the most form your trip, therefore enriching the running experience and enjoying other aspects of the country too. Try to organize yourself so that the ultra falls in the very first part of your holiday, that way you’ll have time to unwind, and have some fun off-trail too.
Check out our Italy festival guide – Each summer you can find plenty of events ranging from a small village affair to large international dates.

#11 Be Inspired

But most of all let yourself be inspired, and allow yourself to have an amazing experience. The best trail races are the ones where you somehow fall in love with the race beforehand. The ones which tug at the heartstrings and get you feeling super excited and positive. Those are the ones that should be your first Italian ultra contenders – then build your training and preparation onto that base.

Buon divertimento!

 


Maria E. BelliniMaria 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.