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Michele Graglia, former model, today successful ultrarunner and athlete of the La Sportiva team, triumphs in the United States at the iconic Moab240, running non-stop for over 61 hours.
Michel Graglia, has amazed us once again. The former Ligurian model now based in the United States and famous for his challenges in extreme conditions over long distances, has reached another incredible milestone.
After the conquests in the Yukon ice and in the torrid Death Valley, where in 2017 he won the famous Bad Water Ultra Marathon, and after the record crossings of the Atacama (Chile, 2018) and Gobi (Mongolia, 2019) deserts, on Sunday 11th October 2020, Michele arrived with his arms raised in the town of Maob. A former mining settlement, this has now become a tourist pole nestled between the canyons of the desert lands of Southern Utah (USA), the logistical and organizational seat of the exhausting Moab 240 miles, a race that, translated into km, reaches 390 with almost 9 thousand meters of difference in height gain.
But let's take a step back, to Friday 9th October early in the morning, with the sun that has yet to illuminate the wide canyon where the beautiful town that hosts the start and finish of this race rises. As per national directives in time of Covid 19, departures are staggered, with the obligation to wear a mask for at least a mile, and then everyone is left free to "enjoy" the boundless wonders of the canyons of Utah: an arid and rocky land, torrid by day and freezing at night, able to give difficulty and additional suffering to all the 200 participants who each year undertake the enterprise. This race, still little known outside the US borders, undoubtedly has its main feature in its length, which together with the vast temperature changes and the terrain, a bit earthy and a bit gravel, contributes to making it one of the toughest competitions in the country. Then there is the altimetry, a jagged profile that rises and falls from 1227 meters at the start, in a succession of changes of direction that leave little space for the flat line that we are perhaps used to associate with these places. The climbs lead to reach 3000 meters of altitude on a couple of occasions, and then descend again towards the dynamic Moab, a real point of reference for enthusiasts of outdoor activities.
Michele starts off strong, with the awareness of being in his first race of a similar length and knowing that he has not had time to prepare himself better, but full of his experience in the deserts and beyond. He knows that the most important muscle in these situations is the brain. Right from the start, closely followed by David Goggins, former Navy SEAL and now an excellent ultra-runner and very popular mental-coach, Michele keeps a high pace, and around the 100 mile even the eclectic American coach, considered a winner at the start, is forced to step back leaving the La Sportiva ambassador to his long solitary ride that saw him take miles upon miles both on his direct opponent and on all the other athletes in the race.
The choice to never sleep, a slippery descent between sharp rocks, sore legs and the conditions for inflammation of the Achilles tendon made the last 40 miles an unexpected suffering. Having abandoned the idea of beating the 60-hour record, after a particularly treacherous and terribly hard third day, Michele Graglia arrives in Moab with the night, victoriously crossing the finish line with his arms outstretched to the sky and with the same splendid smile with which he marked all his feats. Total time: 61h43’15 "of uninterrupted running, just short of the race record still at 57:55:13 by Courtney Dauwalter. This conquest, however, gave Michele the title of the only athlete to have won both the BadWater135 and the Moab240.
Michele Graglia: Moab240 First Impression
It is said that every race is unique, and this is no exception: it is a race like no other! Much more than a competition, it was like living an entire life of emotions compressed into just over 2 extremely intense days.
The distance is astounding - almost 400 km - and that's what intrigued me right away, when I first heard about it in 2017. Pushing beyond certain boundaries, both physical and mental, is first of all a journey of self-discovery: being able to do this while completely immersing yourself in the beautiful setting of southern Utah is a blessing!
I must admit that this Moab240 was, by far, the most intense experience of my life. All those hours of emotion spent kicking red sand and rocks while watching the sun rise and set over the horizon for 3 days straight. Without sleeping. Without resting. Just running, for as long as I've never done before. The other ultra-marathons I had run were half as long, while during the desert crossings I was supported by my team, who waited for me at regular intervals and told me how much to rest, what to eat. In this vortex of ups and downs that was the Moab240, the pace was dictated by the torrid heat of the day and the freezing cold of the night.
Honestly, I still have to work off the adrenaline, process all the euphoria followed by moments of complete exhaustion and despair that I experienced out there. However, I feel I have reached what the first 100-mile ultra-marathoners were chasing a decade ago or more: a new limit. A proof of our potential. And now that 100s competitions are becoming so popular, a new type of ultrarunner is looking for the next goal to reach, and the rise of the 200 is emerging as a true testament to the ultra-spirit. Find out for yourself how far we can go. In one shot. This is the very essence of an ultra. This is a real adventure!
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