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Run Into The DMs: Alberto Ferretto

Alberto Ferretto is a trail runner and Field Experience Representative for Hoka: a true insider of the Italian trail running community. We talked with him about his relationship with training and the state of trail running in Italy.
Credits: Denis Piccolo (The Pill Outdoor Journal)

Alberto Ferretto has been active in the trail running community for decades, both as a runner and a race director himself. He is now a Field Experience Representative in Italy for one of the big players in trail running: Hoka. His corporate career is combined with strong results on the trails: 3rd place at Duerocche Trail 50k 2022, 2nd place at Trans d'Havet Marathon 2018 and an amazing top 50 finish at UTMB last year, just to name a few.

Let's start from the basics, how is your training going?

Today, March 22, 2023, I am injured. I am a supinator with both feet with pinky varus and, basically, after over 30 years of sports, they have started to hurt. We'll fix it, but they'll keep me busy for a while, and that restores goals and ambitions in both daily training and competitions. I just missed Maremontana where I would have loved to compete with the best athletes in Italy. Whatever.

When you uploaded your first activity, what did you learn during the process and what would you say to your old self?

I have little to complain to "old" Alberto, who in 2012 dressed as a half runner and half footballer tried his first mountain running race of 10 km with 1,500 D+, the Superpippo Sorapache in Posina (VI). It was and still is a fantastic run peppered with many mistakes. Here I am, today, with hindsight clearly, although I have always listened to many people about running, injuries, life balance, etc. If I could go back I would try to devote more hours to training and consistency, which I have only found in the past 2 years, despite having been running for over a decade. Not so much to conquer the world but simply to see where I could get to by devoting precisely more time to training, rest, etc. Sacrificing, of course, many emotional, work, and project aspects that today make me very proud. Ouch, that's a tough question!

What is your favorite Strava activity or segment?

Val Scarabozza Strava

I have been around a lot, running in many parts of the world. The Alps, the Apennines, the Andes, Kenya. I am connected to Laghi, in the province of Vicenza, and its mountains, its vast trails, and territories. I find places that fill my every worry, my every stress. I feel at home. This segment takes me precisely to my magical place, Strava marks 31 repeats but it is many more - never run attempting a personal best and that says a lot.

Who are the people that inspire you when you open the feed or go out for a run?

My Strava and my IG feeds are made of people, groups, and companies that inspire me. In the first case, when I post a workout, no matter how long or high-performance it may have been, Strava brings me back to earth. In the second case, on IG, the stimuli, being more visual, are tied to experiences and places that foster my curiosity. There is no reference to people - yes, some, but they are not PROs - they live a different life than mine, they are ordinary people, sometimes very close. I follow the PROs for other aspects. Performances excite me a lot but it ends there, I am interested up to a certain point. I am inspired by the people behind the word PRO, like their side projects.

Alberto Ferretto Mont Blanc
Alberto on Mont Blanc summit

What is next for you? Next challenge, race, adventure?

I will recover from the injury as soon as possible and hope to dive into training around May/June when I will run Snowdonia 55 km and then Mozart 105 km. While in late August, it will be time for TDS, in Chamonix.

Bonus: Now that you've joined a global company like Hoka, how do you see the state of the Italian trail running compared to other European countries and the United States?

This is a complex topic and not easy to address in a few lines. Let's try.

First, Europe and the United States have two very different histories, cultures, and natural environments. In Europe, the Spanish, the French, and the Swiss, compared to us Italians, have proven to be bigger fans in recent years, thanks also to renowned races such as Zegama, UTMB, and Sierre Zinal. In Italy, there are events like Dolomyths and LUT that come close to that fan base, while everything else I think is trying to be like that. In the US, the music changes. Recently, a friend ran Javelina 100 Mile and I think I haven't seen anything like that in Europe. I could mention other stories and other races but it wouldn't make much sense. Ultratrail is rooted in the ages of the ages there. And you can feel it there.

Alberto running in Brenta. Credits: Denis Piccolo (The Pill Outdoor Journal)

For it to spread in Italy, I think the sport needs events organized by pioneers, and, of course, money, as always, but pioneers above all, people who have a vision and are willing to sacrifice a lot until the event becomes their job, or at least a part of it during certain times of the year. Instead, the average Italian, or rather the average trail runner, I think, must stop thinking that the role of the race director can't be or become a full-time job, and as such can't earn money from an event. We need to stop the jealousy.

[...] I think the sport needs events organized by pioneers, and, of course, money, as always, but pioneers above all...

Let me give you a personal example. I remember in 2014 when Marco and I started with the Skylakes. We were 25 years old, most likely the youngest organizers in Italy (I didn't know any others our age at the time) and we managed to bring over 2,400 people from all over the country and parts of Europe to Laghi, the smallest town in Veneto, in 4 editions, with some of the best athletes in the country. Then you grow up, and honestly, venally, the mortgage has to be paid. Perhaps we will return, for the thrills of seeing a packed square. Perhaps, because today the stakes are higher: family, work, and personal commitments. The message here shouldn't be that it is all about the money, but things have to be done right if we want to aspire to align ourselves as much as possible with events like those mentioned above. And to get things done right, the ecosystem and professionalism need to be nurtured.

What do you think is needed to make the sport even more popular?

The big chunk of Italian trail runners is made up of people of a now adult age, who approach the sport with a variety of motivations after having tried many others. The belly of the group - I can assure you - is already well fed by personal ego and social networks, and the growth of the sport in recent years proves that. I am not saying it is wrong, but in addition to events, Italian trail running, I believe, needs to invest in young people.

Brands, both from the sport and outsiders, should invest in this segment, thus raising the expectations and professionalism of athletes, leading them to compete at the world level.

Brands, both from the sport and outsiders, should invest in this segment, thus raising the expectations and professionalism of athletes encouraging and enabling them to compete at the world level. They should also nurture amateurs whose unconditional cheer eventually becomes viral among ordinary people who do not participate in the sport and get them passionate. See cycling, see athletics. And we could go on and on.

This interview has been edited.


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