Lots of long time road runners are moving to trails in search for something different from usual tarmacs. Here’s why many new trail running races arose in the past few years. I’m sure that if you’re reading this, you already tried a mountain race or at least something similar. It’s all about going up and down big hills, typically in a wild environment. But a new trend is in the air, changing trail running in something more extreme: I am speaking of skyracing. A skyrace is a race where the ascent is no less than 1.140 meters: yes, it hurts.
I run a couple skyraces, but I recollect to superior effort a specific one. I am speaking of the Dolomites Skyrace, taking place in Canazei (Italy) in July. I think it made me both cry from pain and my jaw drop to the floor. In the past 2 editions it was a sold out in 1 day after the registration opened, in fact there are only 500 bibs available and an increasing number of people wanting the experience.
Dolomites Skyrace is 22km long comprising a 1.750 meters’ ascent. The race starts in Canazei’s Main square at 1.450mt altitude and immediately takes you to a very steep ascent on a ski course. Some people walks and some do it faster but only the top racers can run in that phase of the race. The course is always ascending until Passo Pordoi (about 2.400 mt high). At that point you feel like half the job is done, then you suddenly realize in terror why they call it Skyrace. In front of you emerge the massive blocks of red Dolomite stone and the absurdly steep “Forcella Pordoi”, a channel ascending 600mt in 2km length. And no, you can’t just go your pace: you have to reach the mountain top (Piz Boé, 3.152mt) within the 2 hours time limit. You have to manage that damn 1.750mt fast! At the Forcella Pordoi atmosphere gets hot, because many people come to support runners (there’s a cableway arriving there).
Once at the top, every body part hurts (I also cramped), but the amazing view it is worth every step.
The Forcella Pordoi is the challenge but where you can make the difference is in the downhill. The downhill is very technical, so it requires to be careful given the tiredness provoked by the ascent. If the days prior to the race had not been too hot you will face also some snow: I remember some real fun, literally butt-sledding for 100mt. The way back to Canazei is all about looking around in total and beautiful wilderness.
This race has been the field of epic battles between mountain running champions. The 2013 race was mythic: I got goose bumps when I look at Kilian Jornet and Marco De Gasperi fighting on the snowy trail. Take a look to the video and fall in love with Dolomites Skyrace:
If you think you can manage it, you can’t miss it.