In our fifth instalment of ‘Inspirational Trails’, we’re joined by international fell runner Karl Gray, the 2015 World Masters Mountain Running Champion (V45).
Here, he talks about his experience of competing in the Dolomyths Run Skyrace, formerly known as the Dolomites Skyrace and now part of the Salomon Golden Trail Series.
“Back in 2015 we embarked on our first European camping trip to Italy. During the planning stage it was suggested that we visit the Dolomites and take on the famous Dolomyths Run Skyrace. Having been fortunate enough to snowboard twice before in this region, I didn’t require much persuasion.
The race starts and finishes in Canazei (1450m) and takes in the highest peak of the Gruppo del Sella massif, Piz Boe, standing at an impressive 3152m. The climb to the summit is relentless, initially climbing through the meadows, home of the red and blue runs of the ski resort, before crossing the Passo Pordoi, where the route rises high above the tree line, eventually meeting the huge expanse of limestone rock and then into the massif itself.
As the trail zig-zags steeply up to a col, you could almost be forgiven for thinking that you’d reached the top (you haven’t!). It’s here that you enter a snow tunnel and upon exiting, the sheer expanse of the plateau is fully revealed, with the imposing summit of Piz Boe standing proudly up ahead. The cable car station also meets the route and this provides hundreds of spectators with the opportunity to come up to watch the race and support the runners, helping to create a fantastic atmosphere. It was definitely a goose pimple moment for me...although perhaps that was just the significant drop in temperature?!
The final push to the summit is extremely tough, but well worth the mammoth effort for the rewarding views and stunning panorama. However, you can’t stand and stare for too long during the race, as the descent is almost as epic as the climb. Dare to take your eyes off the trail for even a second and it will almost certainly end in tears. As you begin to descend, the route is fast but very technical, taking its toll on your already screaming quads. The only moment of light relief arrives as you exit the limestone section via an exhilarating 500ft scree run. But this is oh so brief, as then you quickly pass through the trees and back onto the open pasture, before joining the main path back to Canazei at lightning pace. Upon entering the town you are greeted by a wave of mass hysteria, deafening cheers, blaring music and the carnival atmosphere that is synonymous with this famous race. With heavy legs and burning lungs, the finish can’t come soon enough. It’s finally time to celebrate with a drink.
Make no mistake, the Dolomyths Run Skyrace is quite simply one of the greatest races in the world, set in a truly stunning location. This inspiring and unforgettable experience has since paved the way for many more of my annual alpine adventures and I can’t recommend it enough.”
📸 The Dolomyths Run Skyrace
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