Q&A with Mountain Running Champion Marco De Gasperi
Written By: Ben Mounsey
A five-time World Champion, Italian superstar Marco De Gasperi is one of the greatest athletes to ever grace the sport of mountain running. In a career spanning over 25 years at the highest level, very few people of earth can rival his achievements.
We interviewed the Scarpa athlete and brand manager about his illustrious running career and asked him what we can expect to see from the exciting new range of Scarpa footwear and apparel about to hit the global trail running market in 2021.
Ciao Marco! Firstly, it’s a great honour for me to interview such an inspirational icon of our sport – congratulations on a truly remarkable career to date.
As a former National, European and multiple World champion, with countless records to your name, what do you consider to be your greatest achievement and why?
Ciao Ben! Honestly, I feel embarrassed when someone says to me that I have done incredible things in this sport. Maybe this is a part of my character, but I never gave too much relevance to my results and I never thought I had great achievements at all! What makes me feel proud, if I’m looking back to the beginning, is I went through 2 or 3 generations of mountain runners, adapting my running and motivation to stay as much competitive as I could, in all the different disciplines of the sport.
You have set some outstanding records over the years as both an individual and as part of a team. Of these records, which do you think is the most impressive and hardest to break?
After some years there are a few race records I’ve done that still remain there to beat, but sometimes the mountain running races have had a few changes, so it’s never easy or straight-forward to compare over the years! I think our team record in 2007 at the 3 Rifugi (classic relay mountain race in north-east of Italy) is a remarkable one because the organisation has always kept the same course, and the skills of the three participants at that time were incredible on these 3 different legs (Jonathan Wyatt on the uphill, technical mixed up-down for myself, and steep downhill for the local hero Gino Caneva).
What is your favourite race of all-time and why?
Sierre Zinal. The course, the ambience, the level of participants and because they accepted the challenge to switch from the old organisation concepts to a new vision of this sport! This is not easy for an organisation that is already established at the top, because it is a step in a new direction, plus a huge commitment and not everyone agrees with change!
Marco De Gasperi in action for Italy. Photo Credit to @joaomfaria
Where is your favourite place or country to run in the world?
I would say central and South America, because you can lose yourself in incredible running adventures in countries like Argentina, Peru, Chile or Mexico. But after many travels, I have returned to Bormio, in Northern Italy and I feel Monte Reit, a step outside my home, remains my favourite place.
Have you ever raced in the UK? Are there any races you would like to do over here?
I had very few experiences in races in the UK unfortunately, but there I remember with great enthusiasm my first “blue jersey” in a World Mountain Running Cup back in 1995, in Edinburgh. What a hard battle on those hills that surrounded the city! Or again, an edition of the prestigious Snowdon International Race in the heat. The race I always heard about as one to add to my bucket list is the Ben Nevis Race, so hopefully I can do it, one day!
You are a hero to many (including me!), but who is your biggest running influence and inspiration?
It’s a real pleasure to know that others are inspired by my racing and way of life. Honestly, I have been influenced by many inspirational athletes in the past, people like Jono Wyatt or Ricardo Mejia. Now I look at many other strong athletes, all setting their own incredible performances over different distances and I ask myself if, when I was young, could I have done better!?
And the big question…who do you consider to be the greatest mountain runner of all-time?
Jonathan Wyatt for the uphills, and Kilian Jornet for...all the rest!
There are some exciting things happening with Scarpa at the moment in terms of new running shoes and apparel. What new products can we expect to see from the brand in 2021 and just when will they hit the UK market?
We had to work in the worst year ever probably, and my arrival in spring 2020 has not been without challenge. Time was so tight, with no chance to fly to Asia where our trail running production is, but only with the greatest effort from all of our team, have we been able to present a brand-new collection of 4 trail shoe models!
This is just the start and I think we have made amazing progress so far! The Spin Infinity for the longer distances and the Spin 2.0 with the midsole in Pebax will join the Spin Ultra which remains in the collection. The Golden Gate ATR is totally a new concept for SCARPA, because it’s dedicated to the beginners and not only to those who run on mountain terrain, but even on paved roads. The last but not the least, is the Ribelle Run, that represents the imagination and soul of the brand. A trail running shoe for the most technical trails, that descends from our most recognised mountain boot! These products will be available to buy from March and April 2021!
Photo credit to SCARPA
As a hugely successful and experienced athlete, what impact, influence and involvement have you had on the design, specification and build of the new Scarpa trail shoe ranges and apparel?
When I got the call from SCARPA last year, I immediately felt an immense sense of gratitude, but I had no doubt that it would require a lot of commitment and huge responsibility. I had to learn a lot very quickly, especially about the materials and the construction of a shoe, but I have vast experience in mountain running and used my 25 years in the sport to help identify what I believe people want to see in a trail running shoe. So, I gave my brief to the designers and they showed me their talent in representing what I asked for. The first thing was to design something for the masses and not just a shoe designed for me. I know this sounds normal for a brand, but it’s important and necessary to understand that we are the technicians of the mountains for everyone!
What next for Marco De Gasperi? Do you have any goals/races or projects for the future?
My mission now is to create a new international Scarpa Team that could perform in the most important races, showing great sport values and enjoying their activity. To do that, I am a kind of coach on the field. Not competitive as before, due to many reasons, but full of new enthusiasm! I’d like to perform well at the CCC next August, but we’ll see if COVID allows the race to take place.
Finally, as one of the sport’s greatest-ever athletes, do you have any top-tips for other trail runners?
Well, I am probably the worst athlete to give tips, because I always defined myself as being “born tired”. However, I think at least 5 minutes of strength and conditioning exercises (core stability of technical drills) a day, in addition to running, will pay off in the long term and help to keep the injuries away!
You can follow Marco and all his mountain running adventures here.