Eco Gozo Ultra 55k : A Mediterranean Trail

21 Jan 2013 19:18
Jean-Loup Fenaux
Focus on a race Interview

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Hello, on April 6 2013, you’ll be organizing the Eco Gozo Ultra 55k. Can you tell us where it is located?

The race runs the perimeter of Gozo, the sister island of Malta in the centre of the Mediterranean Sea. This is around 60 miles south of Sicily. Gozo is your typical Mediterranean isle of sea and sun, but with more greenery and ‘quaintness’ than the more touristic isle of Malta.

How old is the race and why was it created in the first place?

The race is in its second year and was created by a bunch of Maltese trail runners and triathlon race organisers who felt that we needed a local trail race to showcase our beautiful islands. It is the only race beyond marathon distance in the archipelago. We chose the date because it is already warm but still very green with the flowers in full bloom.

Credit : Eco Gozo Ultra 55k

What kind of route have you set up for the runners? How would you describe it?

The route is simply gorgeous. Mostly flat with a total elevation climb of 1,400m over 55k with a mix of pretty much every Mediterranean scenery you can get. Sea, sand, cliff edge trails, tiny villages, and single track paths that wind through countryside.

How many runners do you expect on Saturday morning? What type of runners do you plan to attract?

We expect to have around 50 with 20 coming from Italy that have already confirmed. The runners will be a total mix of experienced and fast ultra runners as well as first timers and those who aim to run/trek in the lovely scenery. In fact we have made the final cut off very generous to encourage everyone to take part.

Do you organize other races during the Weekend? If so, on what distances?

We organise a shorter 21k that finishes at the same place in the Nadur square. We also have a solo mountain bike race and a ‘team pairs’ where each team of two shares a MTB, they must finish at the same time but can swap the bike (or not) along the course as they wish.

Credit : Eco Gozo Ultra 55k

At that time of the year, what kind of weather can we expect?

Malta and Gozo are blessed with typical south Mediterranean weather, so we have made a request with the boss ‘up top’ to treat us with blue skies and a gentle breeze, and around 20 Celcius as is typical of that time of year. :)

Have you planned festivities around the marathon?

We always love an excuse for a party! After showers we gather at a local restaurant for beer and pasta. Our cuisine is very similar to Italian with a hint of Persian and the locals treat us very very well :)

The race finished, what advice would you give a runner who has never been to Gozo before? A good restaurant, a fancy sightseeing?

Gozo is very quiet and is like stepping through a time warp. You will find plenty of typical restaurants which serve goat cheese, fresh fish and vegetables grown in their own gardens. The diving (scuba) is excellent and you can organise a beginners dive or go for something more adventurous like a wreck dive with more experience. For an idea of how the locals and Knights of Malta lived 500 years ago, visit the old fortified city, or Citadella. If you have more time, Malta has some amazing temples and beaches and its warm enough to swim in April. But generally life in Gozo is about “chilling” and “thinking”….

In a single sentence, what would you tell the readers of ahotu Marathons to make them register for the Eco Gozo Ultra 55k?

Although I’m obviously biased, I must say that the Gozo ultra is the perfect combination of the things that make trail running special. The laid back life in Gozo, the lovely weather and scenery, where everywhere else in Europe is still cold, and the variety sights along the route make this race special. It’s low-key but well organised by a bunch of enthusiastic and dedicated people.

Credit : Eco Gozo Ultra 55k

Interview with Nathan Farrugia, Race Director. The race is organized by a non-profit organisation The Hellfire team made up of Nathan, his friend and business partner Antonello, their better halves (who take care of logistics) and the trail route ‘guru’ Ruben. Nello and Nathan both work full time for charity. They are supported by keen sponsors and the Gozo Ministry. He has done UTMB and a ‘few’ other races in order to learn what makes people want to run such races and try to make the experience the best possible in Gozo.