Interview by Maria E. Bellini
Currently living in the U.S., we first met half Peruvian half Irish, ultra runner Michael Scogings at the Laverdo Ultra Trail earlier this year. Scoggins is an accomplished ultra-runner with a wealth of running experience accumulated across the globe. With high altitudes and the wonders of the rain forest as your training ground – well, all sorts of magic can happen…
Italy On Trail: Michael, how did you get into running?
Michael Scogings: I used to play soccer, became injured and so started running. It didn’t take long before I started to become involved in the running scene, and after six months I ran my first 42k, and I quit playing soccer.
You’re now living in the U.S.A. – but being half Irish and half Peruvian must mean that you’ve run in some pretty amazing places. Michael, can you tell us about the trail running scene in Peru?
Peru is one of the few countries in the world that has 8 different natural regions, that includes jungle, rain forest, desert, and the highest mountains in South America, we have plenty of options to choose from, including altitude of 5000 mts above sea level. And the beauty is that most of these trails are still raw country which makes it even more appealing.
5 International Peruvian Trail Races
Trail running in Peru is still in development. We now have five races at international level; the Andes Race in Cusco, Ultra 69, the Sierra Andina, the Cordillera Blanca Ultra in the mountains of Huaraz, and Marcahuasi Ultra Trail, in the hills above Lima. All of them run above 2500m above sea level.
This year you were in Italy for the Lavaredo Ultra Trail, the UTMB and the World Trail Championships in Badia Prataglia for Team Peru, tell us a bit about your experiences of running in Italy?
Italy is a country full of history and the scenery is of course – breathtaking. And I really appreciate the simplicity of wholesome food, which is completely natural and so distinctive from region to region across the country.
For me, racing in Italy is a singular experience, which I find to be quite different to most of the races in which I’ve participated. Italian races tend to have several things in common; the runner’s well being, and impeccable safety procedures and logistics. I believe that this is due to the Italy’s legacy and experience with mountain sports, culture and tradition.
You’ve run in plenty of Ultra’s and 100 milers in the USA. Can you tell us about the main differences you’ve come across between trail races in Italy, the US and Peru?
They all have their unique style, I believe trail running in Peru is a combination of US and Italian races. As the sport is only starting out, race organizers mange to put on some really great races with very few resources. And since this is such new sport, there isn’t a lot of competition yet. Although we do have some naturally gifted runners with a lot of talent – if you consider that some of them have to run to school. And that could be for 10 kilometers at 3000 mts above sea level. Every day…
Having such a small community of runners, Peruvian trail races usually have no more than 350 entrants, and races tend to be quite technical and the high altitude is an added challenge.
I feel that in Italian races there is greater structure around the racing scene. The big, famous races that are known worldwide are on the bucket list of many an international trail runner – the Lavaredo Ultra Trail, Tor Des Geants, and the Sky Running Series, and of course the UTMB.
The impact towards the towns and villages where the races take place means that there is a lot of local and international tourism. They are well organized with the backing of sports federation, and trail running clubs. You can find races with 1500 runners and more, so the logistics required to take care of all these trail runners in the mountain must be flawless. Volunteers always make the difference, dedicating their time and energy specially if you consider that they are not necessarily people that are involved with the sport.
In the USA, trail running is popular, and well known and supported by local communities where races are held. We have over one hundred “100 mile races” across the USA. Several have limited spots available. This is because national and state parks care about the impact that trail runners make on their trails. Local communities are often involved, offering their support as crews or in Aid Stations. And pacers are also permitted. Safety is down to the individual runner. There might be a short list of mandatory equipment. Trails are way marked really well, not too technical and not too much elevation gain either. But they can be very fast, and of course can come with some with amazing scenery. I’d say that the Western States and Hard Rock, would be the most “European races” in the USA.
Do you follow a particular diet? What food do you use to fuel on the trails and in everyday life?
My diet will be more specific closer to the race, depending on the distance and my own ideal weight. In the longer periods between races I follow a protein based diet, with fish like tuna, sword fish, legumes, and quinoa, then I’ll add pasta for the long training runs, and for carb loading. Getting closer to the race, I’ll increase hydration and introduce a lighter diet, based around vegetables and legumes, to reach my ideal weight and also to permit my body to work better as needed.
During races I’ll only use Tailwind for distances shorter than 80k, and some fruit from the Aid Stations. For longer distances I’ll usually eat some rice and soup, both are really good fuel sources for the body that can be released as needed. Also coconut water is a excellent for hydration and a non alcoholic beer in the middle of the race helps to clean the after taste. Post race – keeping to really natural foods helps for a speedy recovery. Proper rest is also part of the diet and it will help our body to assimilate our food and nutrition.
And finally Michael, can you give us your top five trail races?
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.