The Ceremony of the Bora Winds

“Discovered traces of an ancient and sacred ritual, hailing from the late globalist era post-pandemic, that engaged groups of individuals in a wild race, guided by the ancient winds of Hellenic gods. This ritual, imbued with mysticism and passion, not only heralded the new year but seemed to infuse well-being, vitality, and symbolized the very essence of starting anew, a rite untouched by the inflation and frenzied price hikes of the early 21st century.”

Who knows, perhaps two or three centuries from now, this could be the headline our descendants stumble upon, if the tradition of the Corsa della Bora were ever to fade. Indeed, in recent years, the Bora has become for many athletes, especially from Northern Italy, Austria, Slovenia, and Germany, more than a race; it’s a rite of passage, a manifestation of strength and resolve to kick off the new year.

A sharp break. A grand outdoor spectacle in the heart of winter, a day filled with sport, adrenaline, nature, and camaraderie with thousands of fellow athletes. A respite from the cold in a more temperate haven, where the brisk air charges the spirit. After the holiday feasts, after the panettones, you run. You close one chapter and truly embark on the new year.

In these past eight years, a genuine ritual has taken shape. The ritual of beginning the year. A ritual that the people of Trieste have taken to an extreme, extending it beyond the race to include even dips in the sea. We don’t include those in the race itself, but the finish line on the beach, sometimes alongside sunbathing naturists, is a moment we always cherish.

“Every year, Helga travels from Stansstad, in the heart of Switzerland, leaving behind the snow-capped mountains and ski slopes, for an early taste of spring in Trieste. She shares with us her ritual of the Bora, bringing to life the emotions of the Corsa della Bora, an experience that goes beyond sport. It becomes a symbol of rebirth and a connection with the primal forces of nature.”

“The Corsa della Bora is an annual event, almost a ritual to kick off the new year. Just the journey to Trieste sends a thrill down your spine, filled with anticipation to run once more through this breathtaking landscape. The ever-changing weather conditions make each race unique, so no year can be compared to another. I began with the half marathon in 2019 and gradually increased the distance, finding the courses to be perfect stepping stones to longer runs, with generally pleasant temperatures (I prefer the cooler ones). My highlight so far has been the 82 km race, a flowing experience from start to finish.”

Helga, running a 57 or 82 km in the dead of winter is no small feat for many, but rather a significant challenge. Running these distances requires preparation, even though the generous times and even more generous gates of 2024 allow participation for those who want to savor a true trail experience rather than a competition. How do you approach the course and the shorter, colder days?

Running in the dark, moving from the hinterland to the sea, and seeing the first rays of sun on the horizon is always a moment I eagerly await. The view of the coast distracts me every time from the distance still ahead. As you continue to run towards Slovenia and pass near Grad Socerb, the adventure continues, as I find the history of the region fascinating, and running along castles and old railways is always a highlight. My absolute favorite, of course, is Val Rosandra – I can’t wait to get there every year and run in this spectacular landscape. And so you continue towards the goal, through a varied Karst landscape, sometimes technical but then also more runnable and requiring less concentration. I find the long distances to be technically well-balanced and interesting. The finish on the beach is obviously still challenging when the legs are already tired, and you just have to reach the goal, but at the finish line, all pain is forgotten. This pulsating atmosphere mobilizes the remaining energy to cross the finish line every time.

Have you thought about running the Ipertrail this year or combining a classic Bora course with a stage of the Ipertrail?

I laughed at this question because yes, I am thinking of participating in the Ipertrail in 2024. Taking on a new, different challenge.

In the Corsa della Bora, everyone finds a distance suitable for themselves. Trail beginners can try the shorter distances and get a feel for what it means to run on the Karst trails, and if you’re more ambitious, you can gradually increase the distances. Even for those who aren’t as strong, there are the EcoMarathon Trail and the Urban Marathon starting from Trieste, and they become an experience just for that – Trieste is a must-see!

When you’ve run the Corsa della Bora, what other race comes to mind that might compare to it?

I’ve often pondered this question, and it’s hard to pinpoint trails that are quite comparable. Technically speaking, and considering the elevation and distances, I might liken the Corsa della Bora to the Tenerife Bluetrail. But each race has its unique charm.

What advice would you give to someone looking to take part in this race?

My first piece of advice would be: absolutely sign up and give it a try. Perhaps not the longest distances if you’re not quite ready, but you must experience the atmosphere of the Corsa della Bora. It’s vital not to put pressure on yourself beforehand; many run the courses at a more leisurely pace to fully savor the routes and refreshment points. And I’ve heard that in 2024, there will be a renewed focus on regional products.

How do you prepare for the race?

I run a lot in my daily life, but starting from November, I begin to run longer distances more frequently. Naturally, this isn’t as easy as in summer since we often have snow. So I train for elevation and technical routes from spring to autumn. Another crucial aspect I’ve learned to consider is stabilization exercises for the joints and strengthening the core muscles. This part of the training is less fun than the trail, but it’s part of the game. I try to do these sessions at least 2-3 times a week. If I can incorporate alternative sports into my training, like climbing and ski mountaineering, all the better. They obviously also benefit endurance.

In the week leading up to the race, I cut back on sessions, do only light runs, yoga, and try to minimize stress in daily life and get enough sleep.

What are your sporting goals for 2024?

The Corsa della Bora will kick off 2024 for me. I’m also planning to participate in the Hengill Trail in Iceland, the Ultraks Bernina in Switzerland, and if I can secure a spot, the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc in Chamonix and the Wildstrubel Ultra in Switzerland. Many decisions are still spontaneous, like if I spot a beautiful trail somewhere and an opportunity presents itself. It’s all part of the adventure.

It sounds like you have another sporting goal in the works, something a bit more challenging involving a 4000-meter peak that’s not typically associated with trail running. Can you share more about that, and also tell us what you eat before a race and what you take with you during the run?

The 4000-meter peak challenge is still in the planning stages, and it’s indeed a bit more demanding, requiring a lot of preparation. But it’s an exciting prospect that I’m looking forward to tackling.

As for my pre-race meal, I almost always have Dr. Oetker’s Vitalis porridge (two packets for the longer distances) with a banana and some tea. This combination generally fuels me well for the first few hours, and I don’t experience any energy dips or hunger.

During the run, I drink Be the Change’s Endurance beverage powder. Since this drink also contains carbohydrates, I need less food, and it covers most of my needs. However, I still carry 1-2 energy bars or pick them up from the refreshment stations along the way. One thing I absolutely need during the run is gummy candies, preferably Katjes Grünohrbärchen, as they are very flavorful and not overly sweet. Sometimes I also have coffee-flavored gummy candies, but I limit myself to 2-3 pieces per run.

Helga, we look forward to seeing you in Trieste in January for the Ritual of the Bora. Perhaps you’ll take on the Ipertrail – 57k combo, and we’re eager to learn more about your upcoming 4000-meter endeavor!


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