Home Sports The toughest road ultramarathons in the world: here are the “Italian” ones

The toughest road ultramarathons in the world: here are the “Italian” ones

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From Nove Colli to Ultra Milano-Sanremo: discovering the ultramarathons that are played in Italy

Eleonora Rachele Corradini

03 December 2021

An ultramarathon is defined as any running competition with a course to be tackled greater than the distance of the marathon, that is 42 kilometers and 195 meters. There are numerous opportunities around the world to run these races considered by most to be extreme. Among these, among the many that exist, there are seven truly ULTRA and truly extreme. These seven road races are considered the most difficult and demanding in the world and below we will discover two that are held in Italy.

Nove Colli Running (Cesenatico) –

The Nove Colli Running is inspired by the famous cycling granfondo that has been climbing the Romagna hills since 1971. This ultramarathon, apart from the first 25 km, totally resumes the cycling route and faces a total positive difference in height of about 3300 meters. To reach the finish line, you have to travel 200.30 kilometers, climbing nine hills, some very demanding, others less more viable. The whole route winds through Romagna (apart from a small stretch in the province of Pesaro-Urbino), amidst breathtaking landscapes (the locality of San Leo deserves an exclusive note, about 130-140 km) and continuous ups and downs. It runs at the end of May, starting at noon on the Saturday before the cycling granfondo. The time limit to complete the 200-kilometer race is 30 hours. The patron and creator Mario Castagnoli tells of how this race, now among the 7 hardest and most important in the world, was born: “I was stubborn about the project of a race, all from Romagna, which exceeded the 100 km of the Passatore in measure and difficulty. So I pulled an old dream out of the drawer, that of retracing all the routes on foot, before converting to running, which I had already faced on two wheels. And finally a light came on: the Nove Colli, a pedal endurance race that, translated into an ultramarathon, would become a real undertaking. So on May 25, 1998 five runners (one of which from the United States), assisted by the Endas Scarpaza Group for the organization, under an auspicious drizzle and accompanied for a stretch by about fifty incredulous marathon runners, the 1st edition got underway. As Castagnoli recalls: “There will be a lot of fatigue, even very heavy crises, but if the Cesenatico skyscraper does not move, we will get there. Sure.”

Ultra Milan-Sanremo –

Even this ultramarathon, born more recently (year 2014) than the Nove Colli running, was inspired by a cycling race: the super classic “Milan-Sanremo”. It is the longest ultramarathon in Italy; a journey that crosses it in three regions and in 54 municipalities. Its special feature, and its major common denominator, is water. This element distinguishes both the departure from Milan (Darsena dei Navigli) and the arrival, which is not placed under an arch or drawn with a line on the mainland, but on the sea that bathes Sanremo. The clock stops when the athlete touches the water.
The total distance to travel with your own legs, to reach the sea of ​​Sanremo, is 285 kilometers with a total height difference of 3822 meters (in the past editions the route was different and the total height difference was about half). This race is really beyond the human limit and even the organization, to respect everyone equally, remains at the side of every athlete, even if he exceeds the required time limit. This is because, the organizers explain, it is not a competitive event and the Ultra spirit that belongs to us rewards every finisher in the same way, from the first to the last. Every finisher is a champion.

To anyone who wants to face a great challenge against themselves and to anyone who wants to experience a long and adventurous journey, these two races could really be the foothold to make your sporting dreams come true.

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