Italian Skyrunner Marco De Gasperi has been competing at the top of the sport for nearly two decades despite only being in his mid-30s. In the following interview he talks about his running background, the Vertical Kilometer, how trail racing differs around the world, his rivalry (and friendship) with Kilian Jornet, and where he’ll be racing this season, including at the Mount Washington Road Race this weekend and the Cranmore Hill Climb next weekend.
Marco De Gasperi Spring 2012 Interview Transcript
iRunFar: I’m on the island of La Palma in the Atlantic Ocean with the Italian runner, Marco De Gasperi, who runs for Scott as well as the Italian forests.
Marco De Gasperi: Hi to everyone.
iRF: Most of the Americans might not know who you are, so I’d love for you to tell us some of your accomplishments. You’ve held the vertical kilometer record in the past. What else have you run? What are your key races?
De Gasperi: I’m quite old because it’s 17 years since I’ve been running. I was in the mountain running before and now I start to do some longer races like Skyraces all over the world. I did many times the world championships in WMRA (World Mountain Running Association), the World Cup winning it six times in the championships, and the vertical kilometer was one of my best and one of my favorite races in the past and is still one of the races I like.
iRF: Do you think you’ll go after that vertical kilometer record again? Do you think you’ll try to break it?
De Gasperi: Yeah, you know it’s very difficult to do it. Also, it’s a kind of race that depends on the race itself because we have lot of vertical kilometers in Europe and maybe in America as well and I think you should do the right one. If you find the best vertical kilometer it would be good to try to do this below 30 minutes…
iRF: Do you think you could do that?
De Gasperi: I don’t know if I could do it, but I know a person could do it. So there are some races in Europe like in Switzerland and Italy. And I know it would be possible to do it.
iRF: Do you use sticks or (trekking) poles?
De Gasperi: Well, you know there are some schools about these situations. Some people are used to these sticks/poles in these races, but the athletics federation in Italy (the Federazione Italiana di Atletica Leggera) doesn’t allow people to use those and I think it’s more natural to do it without. So I hope in the future we’ll find a solution for this problem so the people who start running can finish it with running or walking but not using the sticks.
iRF: As you mentioned you’ve been racing forever. We saw your picture in the magazine at the Skyrunning Conference when you were very young (17 years ago or more). You’ve been racing all over Europe and the world, but within Europe, is trail racing very different in the different countries that you’ve been to? What are some of the differences?
De Gasperi: Definitely, yes. Skyrunning started in Italy probably 20 years ago. I was young but I was one of these people who started in this kind of sport. It developed and changed in a few years. We started with races on the glaciers and on the top of the mountain and back down, but now to get more people interested in joining these races they had to stop reaching summits and extreme races into other good races in nature but not as extreme. Now some countries such as Russia who are quite keen in this kind of sport, they still have races like what he had in the past in the Alps and they promote these races.
iRF: You just ran Mount Elbrus last weekend?
De Gasperi: Mount Elbrus, yeah, last weekend. We had really a good day. It was sunny and perfect on the summit. Everything went well and we were happy to reach the top of Europe. Probably not having many complaints on this race, it would be the right spot for our sport and then continuing to have growth in the situations for having more people in the Skyrunning races.
iRF: For yourself, what are your most important races this season?
De Gasperi: Well, I’m very glad to take part, for example, in my main goal, which is the World [Mountain Running] Distance Championships in Switzerland in the Jungfrau Marathon, which is a race I won two years ago. I’ll be back again to try to do my best because it’s the race I have in my heart. The finish line is under one of the best mountains, the Jungfrau and the North Face of the Eiger, so it’s quite legendary almost in a mystical situation. You finish this race and it’s a marathon that you can tell to anyone that you finished. So this is my big race this year. But I’m very glad to start in the U.S. this year at Mt. Washington. It’s a race I’ve known about since I was young, and I’ve always had a dream to take part in it before stopping with running. So this year this dream will come true and I’m very glad to do it.
iRF: As you get into longer races and you come to America, what races do you dream of doing? Are there any that you’ve not run before that you really want to race?
De Gasperi: Well, actually, I don’t know because I’m changing year-by-year and listening to what my body says. Probably I’ll change into more long distance in the future. Actually, I prefer to enjoy the shorter races up to 42 kilometers, so we’ll see about next year.
iRF: So maybe some ultramarathons? Maybe?
De Gasperi: Mmmmm, maybe not but maybe.
iRF: Are there any Americans you’re looking forward to racing either as more Americans come to Europe or as you go to the United States to race? Who are you looking forward to running against?
De Gasperi: Well, it will be great because I know may athletes from USA and I’m very proud to be here in La Palma with some of the very best American runners like Max King and Dakota Jones and the others. I look forward to getting together with them without races as it’s important to get friendships and this is great for us. But I’m very happy that they came to the Transvulcania and for winning because it’s very important for developing the sport because when the European media understand that the guys from USA are able to win trail races in Europe, it’s important as a sign that European athletes need to win again. This is great. I’m very happy to see Kilian Jornet traveling to the US again to compete against the best ultra trail racers in the USA and we’ll see very big events this year I think.
iRF: Speaking of Kilian, you two have competitively a very good rivalry with one another. You beat him last year, is that correct? [De Gasperi: Yes.] Can you tell us a little about that rivalry and your relationship with Kilian?
De Gasperi: Well, we’ve known each other since long time. We started probably in the same way for running because we both live in the mountains and we loved the mountains before we loved running. We were really young when we started our first steps in the mountains and glaciers. So looking to him that is 10 years younger than me, it’s great because sometimes I see myself 10 years younger. Well, of course, he’s a champion, a true champion, which is incredible because he’s won many races of different distances easily until now and he could show people that nothing was impossible. He’d be the best in sport for editors and not for Salomon. But I think Kilian is a guy who’s not invincible because he’s like all the athletes and we have our point at which we’re human, but I think he’s one of the athletes that is focused on his season in the right way. And firstly, he’s a very good person, and he’s a good athlete also, you know. And it’s meaningful that all the people, all the fans love him and it’s good for the sport, for developing the sport, it’s incredible.
iRF: I think that people promote the fact that you guys compete against each other and are rivals but yesterday you went out to run together. But you’re friends, right, friends first and competitors second.
De Gasperi: Yes, of course. I think we have fun with each other. It’s great and it’s strange sometimes but our friendship is very true, you know. We meet every year in Bormio (Italy); he comes to Bormio to see me at home. Sometimes we have dinner together then on the weekend we have to race and fight and battle with each other. But it’s amazing for me and sometimes it’s not too good. Last year I lost two races in Malaysia and it was funny because both races I was leading by 4 minutes and he reached me and passed me in the last part and I was collapsing to the finish. Anyway, he taught me last year that I have always to be careful with him because this year it could be better to reach the top with 10 minutes and not only 4.
iRF: Thank you for taking the time to speak with us and enjoy your trip to America.
De Gasperi: Yes, thank you for speaking with me.