Weekend Warm-Up: Davide’s Way

Some athletes, such as Davide Magnini, used the pandemic as a creative platform. During the long void in competitive events, the sensational Italian mountain runner has tried to beat the fastest known times for the three iconic Italian courses: Ortles, Stelvio Pass, and Presanella.

He missed the Stelvio Pass record by a heartbreaking 1 minute 18 seconds. The agony was written all over his face when he realized that he had fallen just short.

Then a resurgence of confidence when he beat the Presanella record with a time of 2 hours 39 minutes 7 seconds. Now, in part three, he’s up against Marco De Gasperi’s 2015 Ortles record of 2 hours, 36 minutes, and 49 seconds.

De Gasperi is an Italian mountain running icon whom Magnini has long looked up to. He’s won six individual gold medals at the World Championships. But De Gasperi recognized his young rival’s exceptional ability and encouraged him to beat his time.

Magnini is a total gun. Just 23 years old, he followed his father for many years on ski touring trips before trying out ski mountaineering, downhill, and ski jumping. Eventually, he realized that ski mountaineering is where his natural ability (and joy) lay.

Since then, he’s since dabbled in the mountains on skis and on foot. In 2019, he made podium finishes in four events, including winning the Mont Blanc Marathon and the Dolomyths Run.

Davide Magnini made four podium finishes in 2019 before COVID put organized competitions on hold.


He’s fast at whatever he puts his mind to. In 2014, at just 16 years old, he was picked up by the Salomon Academy. “He will be an outdoor icon in the future, not just a running icon,” they predicted.

Let’s put this all into context: We’ve long known that a runner’s performance peaks with age, contrary to sports like soccer or swimming, for example. But in 2017, a Washington Post article backed that up with a new study. In it, 16 years of data on American-based runners showed that performance peaks between 35 and 50 years of age.

Now let’s readdress that Magnini is just 23 years old and trying to beat the record of one of the world’s greatest mountain running icons.

Ortles is the highest mountain in the South Tyrol of Italy, near the Swiss and Austrian borders. At 3,905m, it towers above all other Tyrolean peaks in the region and earns its nickname, King Ortles. Its North Face is considered to be the largest ice face in the eastern Alps. It typically takes climbers one to two days to ascend.

Josef Pichler first climbed Ortles in 1804, via its difficult northwest flank. Today, the ascent ranks as one of the most remarkable successes in alpinism in the opening of the eastern Alps.

The quick-footed Magnini is tackling a combination of scree and snow. The first sections are very runnable as he passes two refuges, Tabareta and Pajer. Then the terrain becomes a lot more technical as the mountaineering begins. The film shows him scrambling swiftly past climbers with ropes and helmets.

At the summit, Davide Magnini is 10 minutes ahead of the existing record. But there’s still the downhill. Photo: Spirito Trail


When he reaches the summit, Magnini is 10 minutes ahead of De Gasperi’s record. He knows now that he can’t afford to lose focus on the downhill. That can easily undo his solid uphill success.

But after 2 hours, 18 minutes, and 15 seconds, Magnini becomes the Ortles route’s new record holder. “Well, I’m really angry (just kidding),” De Gasperi says with a beaming smile. He knows that someone beating his record will serve as inspiration for more runners in the future, and that’s a good thing for the mountain running community.

As for Magnini, “I feel really alive when I do this kind of thing,” he says, rather lightheartedly, of something as brilliant as running mountains.