The Vibram brand has long been a leader in creating high-performance rubber soles for all sorts of adventurous pursuits – including trail running. Over the next five months, the company is expanding its support and development of the trail running community with the My Road to Ultra project to help a select group of trail runners train for and run their first ultramarathon.
Read on to learn about how you can apply to be a part of this project.
Introducing the My Road to Ultra Project by Vibram
Vibram is an Italian company, and while it most certainly has global reach, the brand is looking to connect further with the North American trail running community. If you are a trail runner between the ages of 21 and 35, not sponsored by a footwear or apparel brand, and haven’t run an ultramarathon just yet, this coaching program may be for you!
Vibram will select a number of athletes to participate based upon their running journey, current and future goals, as well as their communication skills and presence on social media. These selected runners will partner with Vibram athlete, premier ultrarunner, and coach Stefano Ruzza to train for their first ultra, the Behind the Rocks Ultra 50k or 50 Mile in Moab, Utah, on the weekend of March 26, 2022.
Runners will receive four months of virtual coaching from Ruzza in preparation for the race, as well as Vibram-soled shoes and apparel. Along the way, participants will document their training journey via photos, videos, and first-person narratives. After the race, Vibram will produce a short documentary film showcasing the process.
The ideal candidate is a runner of any capability, who is a good verbal and visual communicator, and who is excited about community and the prospect of sharing the ups and downs of what training for their first ultramarathon entails.
Who and What Is Vibram?
Founded in 1937, Vibram began producing footwear for the mountaineering community. While the brand leads in the minimalist footwear market with its FiveFingers shoe launched in 2002, Vibram also works with other brands like Hoka One One, New Balance, Arc’teryx, and more — many of the major trail running shoe brands — to develop outsoles for all kinds of trail running shoes. As Vibram produces over 40 million soles per year sold in 120 countries with at least 1,000 partnerships, more likely than not, you’ve worn a shoe with a Vibram sole.
In the past eight years, Vibram has expanded and specified its outsoles, creating the Megagrip, Arcticgrip, and Litebase soles so you can run your best on slick, icy, and technical terrain.
Environmental responsibility is also of utmost importance to Vibram. The brand has long encouraged its athletes to “repair if you care” instead of purchasing new products. Vibram has long measured and worked to reduce its impact, and its Six Pillars of Sustainability (Stakeholders, No Waste, Energy, Supply Chain, Organization and Procedures, and Product Innovation) contribute to the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
In the My Road to Ultra program, Vibram is looking for athletes who hold these same values and commitment to excellence.
Meet Coach Stefano Ruzza
One such athlete already on the Vibram team is Stefano Ruzza, coach of the My Road to Ultra project.
Ruzza was born in Italy and grew up with an active outdoor lifestyle that eventually led him to the mountains. While he now resides in Baltimore, Maryland, with his wife, he frequently travels back to Italy (when travel allows) to train and keep his mountain running skills sharp in the mountains there.
Ruzza began his trail running career in 2004, balancing a “rocker life” with a successful career running over other kinds of rocks. He ran his first ultra in 2010, and after steadily climbing in the ultra rankings, he joined the Vibram athlete team in 2013. Since then, Ruzza has performed well at high-profile ultras around the globe.
Some of his top accomplishments over the years have included finishing seventh at the 2014 Diagonale des Fous and seventh at the 2018 UTMB. While Ruzza has run in races up to 100 miles, his favorite distances are between 50 and 120 kilometers, making him the perfect coach to guide runners in the journey to their first 50k.
Ruzza has written two books, the more recent of which was written during the pandemic. Ultranormale talks about his life and vision for the sport of ultrarunning. Training a new generation of ultrarunners seems like the natural next step.
What Is the Behind the Rocks Ultra Like?
The Behind the Rocks Ultra 50k and 50 Mile is a gem of an event taking place just outside Moab, Utah, in and around the namesake Behind the Rocks Wilderness Study Area. Participants are treated to views of remote desert scenery, including sandstone domes and fins, as they run along both red slickrock as well as hardpack and sandy trails. The race takes place in the shadow of the La Sal Mountains, which rise some 8,000 vertical feet above the desert floor.
The 50k course offers 3,500 feet of elevation gain and there’s 7,000 feet of uphill in the 50 mile, creating challenging enough courses for experienced racers, but with just the right amount of vert for new ultrarunners so as not to overwhelm.
Run by Mad Moose Events, an event company whose races are known for their family-like feel, the Behind the Rocks Ultra welcomes runners, friends, and family to stay the weekend! There is free camping near the start, both before and after the finish, so participants can feel at ease before the race — and they can celebrate and relax afterward. Four different races take place over the weekend, so participants can mingle with runners of every ability.
How to Apply for the My Road to Ultra Project by Vibram
Applications for the My Road to Ultra project by Vibram are open from November 1 to 22, 2021.
The chosen athletes will be announced on December 1, 2021, and virtual coaching will begin immediately.
If you’re an athlete hoping to run your first ultra next spring and fit the above qualifications, you should apply! Click on over to the My Road to Ultra application website to get started.
[Editor’s Note: This article is sponsored by Vibram. Thank you to Vibram for its sponsorship of iRunFar, which helps to make iRunFar happen and free for all to enjoy. Learn more about our sponsored articles.]