Interview with Alessandra Nicoletti, president of VDA TRAILERS and creator of TOR®
It seems incredible but, in the not-so-distant past, it was a common opinion that women were not physically able to run a marathon and that running could be harmful to their health. In the Sixties, events such as the New York City Marathon were even forbidden for women.
Today, after many steps towards gender equality also in sports, there are still prejudices and discrimination to be overcome. Yet the presence of women in activities like trail running, considered one of the more “masculine” fields – bodes well for a more inclusive and equal future.
We talked about it with Alessandra Nicoletti, president of VDA TRAILERS, creator and race director of TOR®, the endurance trail that runs along the Alte Vie of Valle d’Aosta, in Italy.
How many women participate in TOR®? In general, who practices trail running?
According to the latest report from the ITRA (International Trail Running Association), there are 1.77 million runners in the world. Of these, only 23% are women, with an increase of 8% over the last 6 years. The average age of women participating in trail-running races is around 39 (39.2) years.
In the not-so-distant past, until the beginning of 1970s, it was a common opinion that women were not physically able to run a marathon.
What is the situation today? And, specifically, in Italy?
As mentioned, women are a minority compared to men. In Italy, I think the difference is even greater. Culture makes a big difference; in Italy, we are still very attached to a “male chauvinist” vision of roles, for which women tend to give up leisure, including sports.
However, it seems to me that, despite everything, a positive change is taking place and women are starting to dedicate a little more time to sports. However, this does not mean that they are dedicated to running or trail running.
Speaking today of women in sport, and of TOR® in particular, they play an important role. Starting with you, president of VDA TRAILERS, creator and race director of TOR®.
Because you’re a woman, did you have any kind of difficulty in making your way into this world?
Surely, the world of sports, especially trail, is much more masculine than feminine. As always, especially in top positions, men are much more present. Blazing a trail isn’t easy, but it’s not impossible. When a woman shows character, she is often branded as arrogant, unlike the man who is called determined.
It takes much more courage and determination, but the effort is fully rewarded by the satisfaction of having succeeded.
When and how did the idea of the Tor des Géants® come about?
The idea was born in 2008. We were a group that was already organizing international trail-running competitions. Looking at a map of the Aosta Valley, we realized that it would be the perfect place for a race.
It took us more than a year to finalize the project, establish where to put the refreshment points and the life bases, how to organize the safety and control system for the race, to understand the costs, and above all, convince our future partners to follow us in this adventure. We knew it was the right time to propose a 200-mile race. We launched the TOR® and won the bet.
Thanks to TOR, you have become one of the greatest exponents of Italian trail running. What responsibilities does this role entail?
To tell the truth, I don’t think about it. For me, it’s important to do my job well. The rest comes naturally.
What brought you the greatest satisfactions from participating in this event?
The greatest satisfaction is knowing that you can give those who participate in TOR® a great life experience. Seeing hundreds of people with tears in their eyes at the start and finding them exhausted but happy on arrival is priceless.
Another source of satisfaction is seeing our volunteers. Knowing that so many people make themselves available to the runners with enthusiasm and desire to participate is wonderful, especially finding them at the dinner that we dedicate to them every year, proudly wearing the t-shirt they received as their only thanks.