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The University of Sky Running: Trofeo Kima

trofeo kima
Immagine: Francesco Bergamaschi

If you can't talk about Sky Running without mentioning Trofeo Kima: THE Sky Race. In almost twenty years of history, Ilde Marchetti, the race director, was able to build an iconic event known around the world. While running on trails changed a lot since 1995, Kima has not changed much. Safety and runners' experiencing Sentiero Roma at its best are still top of the list for the organizers. We interviewed Ilde while she was getting ready to host the 2024 edition this summer.

How did the first edition of Trofeo Kima was born?

I wanted to make my brother’s Pierangelo dream a reality. His dream was running on the mountains in Val Masino and not just climbing. Everyone thought he was crazy. He tragically died and I wanted to commemorate him. Together with Fabio Meraldi and Adriano Greco, alpine guides and runners, I defined the course. Trofeo Kima is staged on Sentiero Roma backward to run the most exposed sections uphill and ensure the runner’s safety.

The race's first edition was in 1995, almost 30 years ago. Looking back to those years, how did the Kima change?

Kima stayed the same. Kima is an old, but innovative race when it comes to safety. From the beginning, Kima had an alpine guide as race director. Nowadays, Skyraces must have an alpine guide who completed a course about sky running among the organizing team. It is a race for everyone but not for all. It is technical and vertical, so runners are required to respect some parameters to prove they can run the Kima. The fact that the race has not changed since 1995 allows runners to compare themselves with the old champions and appreciate how fast they were.

Where does the Kima fit into Sky and Trail Running?

Kima is the race of the races. It is the top of the Sky Running pyramid.

trofeo kima runner chain
Immagine: Maurizio Torri

Sky Running seemed to be limited to a niche compared to the bigger races in trail running. How do you feel about this dynamic?

Sky running will never be trail running. They are different as they should be. Sky running is technical and staged at high altitudes. For these reasons, it is better if fewer people do it.

The Kima event seems to be in constant evolution in terms of formats and qualification process. How will the race evolve in the next years?

The race became a full event over the years, allowing everyone to experience it. We have 4 races: Mini Kima (for kids and disabled people), Kima Trail (15k), Kima Extreme Skyrace, and Trofeo Kima. At full capacity, the races can accommodate 1,000 athletes. 

A key moment for the event was UTMB 2010. The race suffered some severe weather conditions and runners were stopped during the race. Kilian Jornet was there and felt unsatisfied by the race. He chose Kima as his next race. He came and fell in love with the race. He became an unofficial ambassador of Kima. This brought huge popularity to the race. 

runner trofeo kima

Then, we decided to hold the event every other year. In this way, we were able to provide a better and safer race to runners. From their point of view, Kima became something to mark on their calendars and to train for in the long term. Kima was something different. The race acquired a magic aura and the top athletes of the sport consider it as a world championship.

The qualification system was introduced recently with two qualifying races, Livigno and Grigne, and a minimum ITRA score for the open registrations. On this topic, you stated that this system wants to preserve Sky Running. How is Sky Running in danger?

It is a race for everyone but not for all. The new system wants to improve safety. Franco Colle, runner, and engineer, studied the ITRA score requirement by analyzing the scores from all the Kima finishers around 10 hours - the average finishing time. This way, we minimize the time runners and the safety team stays in the mountains. Despite this barrier, we had 2,000 runners who met the criteria and signed up this year.

We consider Kima the master thesis of Sky Running. When you study at a university, you take exams before defending your thesis. So, before Kima, you have to run other races. We opted for Livigno Skymarathon and Grigne Skymarathon as entry races. In 2023, for the first time, the two races were sold out thanks to the affiliation with Kima. We want to keep Sky Running alive with this initiative and races affiliated to Kima increase their popularity. So, it is a positive thing for the sport.

runner trofeo kima
Immagine: Francesco Bergamaschi

Do you think Kima can act as a growth driver for Sky Running?

Kima can keep other races alive and raise the bar on the whole movement. In a calendar with so many races, you need to be different. Runners choose what they touch them.

What does Sky Running need to do to catch the rising popularity of running on trails?

Sky Running needs to be communicated well. You need pictures and videos to promote the race. Kima is highly scenic and its pictures touch the viewers. We need to focus on the visuals.

The connection with the alpine territory and, more broadly, Lombardia is strong. How does Kima impact the local community in Val Masinio?

The Lombardia region invested as the main sponsor to preserve and promote the local territory. Race organizers maintain the trails. The region invests in the area and helps promote the event in the world. 

Kima brings 10 thousand people to Valmasino every year. These tourists are conscious of the environment because they embrace Kima’s value of sustainability. People come here during the summer to check the course before the race, while others walk on Sentiero Roma, even though they don’t run Kima.


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