Exclusive Interview with the Skyrunning Legend Marco De Gasperi!

Από 21 Φεβ 2014

Marco De Gasperi is a legendary athlete of mountain running and especially Skyrunning, and his is an elite member of the “Scott Sports” International team. He is only 37 years old, but he is competing in the top level for almost 20 years. We all admire his great “battles” for the first place at the podium with Kilian Jornet during Skyrunning races, but also his amazing athletic skills and impressive records, like his 31.38 min record in vertical kilometer.

Major highlights of his carreer so far, are the 6 first positions in the WMRA® championship (5 in senior and one in junior category in 1996), the 3 wins of the famous Sierre-Zinal mountain race, and his win at the Jungfrau marathon in 2010, among many others. As a member of the Italian National team he won 11 WMRA® championships as a senior and 2 (1995 & 1996) as a junior. He also won 3 silver medals and one bronze as a member of the Italian National team, totalling 23 medals in the WMRA® world championships! His latest victory was in “El Cruce Columbia” multistage race in Patagonia - just a few days ago – a race that we covered at Advendure.


In his interview Marco reveals some very interesting aspects of his long career in the mountains, and also some very useful tips regarding the required training and philosophy for mountain running. He recalls his most amazing “memory” of a race and talks about some very interesting things about the very rapidly growing “cult” of ultra-trail. What is the experience of competing with Kilian, and what mountain he likes to climb in Greece? The answers can be found in his exclusive interview to Advendure:


[Advendure]: Marco, you’re one of the best Skyrunners worldwide. You also come from Italy where the “Skyrunning type” of mountain running races has its origin, through the passion of people like Adriano Greco and Marino Giacometti (president of ISF®). When did you start competing in Skyrunning races, and what do you like most about them?

[Marco]: Thank you for the consideration you have demonstrated towards me with your statement…Honestly, I consider myself a normal athlete at the end of my career.  Although I have a huge amount of experience I would still like to learn more by traveling the world. My love for mountain running began at a very young age. Starting at 15 I was fortunate enough to meet some of the greatest motivators in the discipline.  Immediately approaching skyrunning “old style” it was love at first sight, but my coach convinced me to improve my speed for races better suiting my age.




[Advendure]: You’re an elite athlete of the “Scott Sports” International team. What is the philosophy of the company regarding Mountain Running?

[Marco]: I became an important part of this team at the end of 2010, and I believe that both parties have grown tremendously.  SCOTT, historical a bike brand, is anticipated by many to produce a major expansion in their trail running brand.  The philosophy characterized by SCOTT Running is one I can relate with my own running style. “Lightness and simplicity without losing the cushioning”.  Various feedbacks have produced to the Kinabalu T2, which I think reflects the philosophy of a company with global ambitions!


[Advendure]: You started from Skyrunning races, you had major results and success by running in the WMRA® championships and then you moved also to mountain running. Tell us a few things about your very successful career so far. Which race is your greatest memory and what can we expect to see from you in the future?

[Marco]: In the 90s, skyrunning and trail running were small, but possessed a high amount of expectation. At the time, mountain running was popularized through the recognition by the IAAD of the WMRA. With Italy traditionally being a world leader for over 20 years. Here I had the opportunity of turning my passion into a “real job”, involving military groups with top athletes of this discipline. My commitments have truly paid off with 2000 positioned as forest ranger. This has resulted in the promise of a salary from the state to manage the project once I’ve finished my athletic career. Hearing this gave me great motivation to improve myself, reaching what I believe was the peak of my career in 2007.  At 30 years of age I was able to win my 6th world championships in Ovronnaz (Sui). That race remains one of my greatest memories because of not only the difficulty of winning a word championship, but also my reconfirmation at the top after 10 years, it is a sign of maturity and of headstrong athlete. Now that speed is not one of my skills, I don’t think I can give a lot more to my national team other than these kind of competition, and only consider marathon distances now (not much farther)




[Advendure]: You’re running races up to the marathon distance – at least till now. On the other hand, we see that the world of Ultra-Trail is growing very fast, with several new and exciting ultra-trail races around the world, but also with ultra-trail championships from organizations like the Skyrunner® Ultra World Series of ISF® or the Ultra-Trail World Tour®. What exactly do you believe is needed for a career in ultra-trail, taking into consideration that the mind and soul of the athlete plays an important role, together or course with the physical condition in such races?   Is it something that you want to do in the future and up to what distance?

[Marco]: The work I’m doing with my brands is changing the world of Ultra Trail for professional athletes. I am sure that in a few years there will be runners that get enough funding to devote themselves exclusively to these kinds of races.  I am more concerned with how these athletes will recover after many competitions during a season. The physical and mental components are both determinants (in equal measure).  Finishing a marathon can require a long time to recover; I wonder what it takes after 100miles! Let’s remember that this phenomenon is still relatively young and it will take a few years for us to understand the effects of the wear and tear experienced by the athletes currently participating.  Training will become more exasperating as the athletic level rises.  This being said, I do not want to be over critical of my talented Ultra Trail colleagues. Although I am fascinated by their performances, I do not find myself partaking in their philosophy of “more miles, more fun”…


[Advendure]: Tell us a few things regarding your training philosophy. Is it all about running up and down in the mountains, or you are also using traditional training methods like intervals and tempo runs? Do you believe that core, stability and strength training are essential for mountain running? Is there any resting period without running at all during your training cycles?

[Marco]: I've always trained with the methods of a marathon runner, with many sessions on the road and cross country races during the winter time. This is especially useful for focusing on resistance and endurance development. This is achieved by, a series of 14 - 20km on asphalt road alternating between 2000m or 1000m of fast pace with 1000m recovery of medium pace, eventually reducing the difference between fast pace and medium pace over time. In the winter some long climbs on asphalt road for 9-12km and even uphill sprints for 100-200m are suitable. In the spring I begin with workouts specific for the mountain running, with a lot of off road, while I continue the reps on flat road! They are useful without straining the muscles too much with many ascents and descents. Obviously there is time for long runs, ranging from 20 to 40km, with elevations from 1500m to 3000m. Core and stability are very important! I found these exercises a few years ago and can tell you that they are very useful for us athletes who do long distances, especially with so many crazy downhills! You can easily find most of them on the web, and after a few sessions they become easy and fun. In recent seasons I haven’t been able to rest for a few weeks between one season and the next ... This is simply because there were more months in which I had been sidelined by an injury than those in which I competed ... However, I normally always rested 2-3 weeks in November before starting with the next season.





[Advendure]: Running uphill requires great physical condition, but running downhill requires also great technical skills. What about you Marco? Running downhill or uphill is your major strength? Any special training tips?

[Marco]: My father was a good runner; although he was always told that he accumulate big advantages running uphill just to lose more than he had gained in the next downhill ... So from a young age I trained myself on both easy downhills and on steep slopes off the trails to develop my proprioception. Early in the season it is important the legs get used to the slopes, starting with sessions of slow downhill running. Later you can increase the speed and duration. It is better if those repetitions are developed on a loop circuit for repetition. It is important to get used to running uphills after having already ran a downhill ! The climb is still important and should be trained with consistency every week. To improve, I do reps of uphill runs at a pace 2-3 min  faster than my normal race pace for an uphill 6- 10 km and rest by walking back downhill.  Eventually learning how to manage the reps and be able to run 7-10 series.


[Advendure]: Together with Kilian Jornet, you are currently the dominant athletes in Skyrunning competition. We’ve seen and enjoyed some great “battles” between you and Kilian during the last years, so we would like to hear about the emotions and feelings that an athlete experiences when running and competing in such a top level and against such a great runner as Kilian!

[Marco]: In 2008 we ran a great race in the Basque Country (Spa), called Balmaseda - Kolitza - Balmaseda . It was a challenge of two athletes against the timer. The organizer had seen Kilian and I as an interesting duel, even though Kilian was at the beginning of its career, and I was a semi unknown mountain runner. It was beautiful. Despite my victory, (the short course clearly favored me, and at that time I was at the top of my performance) I realized that Kilian had margins of monstrous growth, even on shorter races. Later we met in the skyrunning classic races. For me I had the urge to give the best of myself has always been bigger than in other events. It’s clear that for both sides, the pressure to win is great , but personally I've always managed to turn them into positive energy. Even at the risk of making mistakes in some amazing competitions , like the frustration of seeing me overtake by him two kilometers to the finish line of the Mt Kinabalu Clibathon in 2011, when I was been able to accumulate nearly 4 ' lead uphill. All in all though, even if the age and freshness play in his favor, I have always tried to never give up during the races. In the competitions when he's present, the moods are always much more amplified, because with Kilian everything takes more interest, and consequently also the athletes who take part with him. In the end I learned that you should never think that I've win, even when he looks out of the game, it would be a mistake that could cost very much ..



[Advendure]: You have some great records and performances in both Vertical Kilometer® races and climbing stairs in skyscrapers during the ISF® Vertical World Circuit. What attracts you in such short but very demanding and hard races? What special kind of preparation is needed for an athlete focusing in this type of running effort, compared to the traditional mountain running?

[Marco]: Curiosity has always been a feature of my character; this is what drew me to the competition held in the cities, in the tallest buildings. The first time I heard of these races was in 2001. What attracted me was the chance to running uphill in the largest cities of the world, such as London, New York, Singapore, Taipei, Sydney, Bogotà, Sao Paulo ... without having a real mountain. Let's say that we could compare indoor track to the track and field... A year later, I took part at the KL Tower in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia; I had never run more than 4 consecutive floors before. I didn’t have any experience. I started very fast, but I remember those 10' as the longest of my life. After that I began training on some steps that run beside hydroelectric plants in the Alps, where I live. It is running the lactic reps from 1 'to 5 ', with long recoveries (up to 10 ' ) that builds up strength . Cycling is also suitable, and even some training at a tall building in Milan.


[Advendure]: Congratulations for winning the “El Cruce Columbia” multistage race, just a few days ago. We were covering your efforts at Advendure.com with articles and reports from Argyrios Papathanasopoulos, a Greek athlete that also completed successfully the race (12th position). Tell us a few things about your experience from this race in Patagonia and what are your racing plans for the 2014 mountain running season?

[Marco]: El Cruce Columbia has been a fantastic experience and something I always wanted to do! I think Argyrios would agree. On one hand, I was afraid of pushing the recovery time of the bad injury I had in early August and on the other the desire to be back racing again.  Although there wasn’t a high technical level, the difficulties of weather conditions, mud, and three days racing, made everything very though. The organization was incredible. I've never seen a positioning of workers and volunteers like this. Nothing was underestimated, even though I'm sure that this year something did not worked because of the inclement weather, which forced the volunteers, as well as the athletes, to contribute incredible effort. Living in a tent for two days alongside over 1000 athletes, sharing everything in the camp, is constructive for everyone. With this experience I am happy to have won, but also to have regained my health. I don’t have a real racing plan for this year, but I will definitely run in the Skyrunner World Series.




[Advendure]: Mountain Running is growing very fast in Greece with 85 mountain races in 2013, including some very interesting Skyrunning races. Are you familiar with mountain running in our country and what do you think about the increase of interest for the sport in Greece? Are you considering of racing here in the future? You’re very popular in our country and we hope to see you racing in our mountains.

[Marco]: I know the growth that the trail running and skyrunning have had in Greece. I'm flattered to have been requested several times in major races such as the Ziria Skyrace or for training camps about mountain running. Unfortunately, due to other duty or injuries, I was never able to take part in any of them, but it's one of my goals, along with climbing Mount Olympus, the mountain symbol, especially for ‘us’ mountain runners. I hope some of these races can be a part of the future SWS calendar, giving importance to this country and allowing greater race developments.



Many thanks to NIKOS MANIATOPOULOS S.A and SCOTT Sports for their help in realizing this interview with Marco de Gasperi.


Dimitris Troupis
Photo ©: Samshul Adzrin, Ian Corless, droz-photo.com, SCOTT Sports, Richardbolt.blogspot.com

Δημήτρης Τρουπής

Κατάγεται από το Ξυλόκαστρο Κορινθίας και ζει μόνιμα στην Πάτρα. Συμμετείχε στην συντακτική ομάδα του Adventure Zone από το 2009, ενώ μαζί με τον Τάκη Τσογκαράκη ίδρυσαν και "τρέχουν" το Advendure.  Το τρέξιμο στα μονοπάτια των βουνών και η μεταφορά εικόνων και συναισθημάτων μέσα από τα άρθρα του αποτελεί αναπόσπαστο κομμάτι της ζωής του. Παθιάζεται με τους αγώνες ορεινού τρεξίματος, υπεραντοχής και  περιπέτειας. Έχει πολλές συμμετοχές και διακρίσεις σε αγώνες ορεινού τρεξίματος όλων των αποστάσεων, με έμφαση στους αγώνες ultra trail.  Θεωρεί ότι το τρέξιμο και η πεζοπορία στη φύση είναι μια εσωτερική ανάγκη του ανθρώπου, μας φέρνει πιο κοντά σε αυτήν και μας κάνει να αγαπήσουμε περισσότερο το περιβάλλον.

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