Maira Occitan Trail: a race of different times

By: Sara Mariotta

The MOT, Maira Occitan Trail, is “a race of different times,” as the event’s very claim indicates. An atypical trail through the Maira Valley, rich in unspoiled landscapes and fascinating traditions. An unconventional race in its very structure and and philosophy.

We interviewed one of its founders and organizers, Fabrizio Giai, delving together into the motivations, mission and curiosities surrounding this event.

Maira Occitan Trail

How and why was the MOT born?

The MOT was created with the intention of letting people discover the territory of the Maira Valley in all its facets, through a different mode than the one used by the usual tourist. A trail running race that allows those who live in the valley, producers and those who do tourism to be involved in a union of forces and visions. Therefore, not only sports and competition, but above all discovery of the area, to be experienced day by day, savoring it with due calm and attention.

Speaking of calm, the subtitle of the MOT is precisely “A Race of Different Times.” Explain more about your claim. In the fast-paced world in which we are immersed, an invitation to decelerate is definitely unique.

“A race of different times” is the motto that sums up the philosophy behind the Maira Occitan Trail. This is obviously a competition and therefore whoever comes first wins, but the invitation that comes from this claim is to run yes, but trying to look up and admire what is around by living the experience of self-presence in this fine territorial context. Yes, because the landscape is that of the Maira Valley, one of the wildest valleys in the Alps, where time seems to have stood still, where Nature reigns supreme. “It is a privilege to run here,” commented Jacopo, a runner who ran the MOT 2023 edition. The “different times” are first and foremost those of the queen race, the 3×50, which crosses the entire valley from one side to the other and is spread over three days. Running for several days is very different from doing it in a single day, when everything is used up in a few hours: the effort, the concentration and even the spectacle. Running a stage race definitely involves different training and also different emotions. It also allows you to get to know the place where you are, stopping each evening with your companions, sharing labors and achievements, and then starting again the next morning. “Different times” are also those of the 3 races that make up MOT as a whole: not only the long, 3×50, but also the Meja 42km and the Viol 19km, each with its own distinct identity.

Valle Maira

As you just told us, the races are more than one, and the MOT one is a traveling route, going through all the municipalities of the Maira Valley. It is a huge project that makes it its mission to enhance the area. Tell us about the motivations behind these choices and how you decided to decline them.

Exactly, the mission of the Maira Valley Tourist Consortium, which organizes the Maira Occitan Trail, is precisely to enhance the entire Maira Valley territory, in all its variety and complexity. That is why it was decided to develop a trail running race on the Occitan Paths route, the so-called Maira Valley path, which crosses it from one side to the other, touching all its municipalities. This is because each area of this territory has its own specificity, and for a runner to go from the chestnut forests of the lower Valley to the mid-altitude glades, to the hills above 2,000 meters, in the presence of iconic mountains such as Chersogno, Pelvo d’Elva and Rocca La Meja, is a journey, an experience that leaves its mark. In addition, the itinerant formula allows us to involve the different realities of the valley, such as producers, inns, all those who actively work to preserve this territory.

Here, about this traveling formula. Typical of this valley are the Occitan inns. Tell us what these alternative “guest houses” are and how you involved them in your trail, which bears the word “Occitan” in its very name.

Locanda Occitana is a definition that distinguishes the accommodations in the valley: they are not hotels, but mostly small establishments with no more than 30 beds, which are often located inside old buildings renovated with respect for the environment and the historical and cultural context, with quality food and wine. Places to feel welcomed, pampered, especially after busy days like the trail. Inns also provide us with food for intermediate and end-of-stage refreshments. We consider it a “feather in the cap” of the competition to offer quality food, local zero-mile products.

Certainly local food and wine enhancement is a great strength, especially now that tourists also seek out such experiences a lot. But beyond casual tourism, who is the MOT aimed at?

The MOT is aimed at all those who enjoy running in the mountains, in an authentic setting, away from the masses, at a time of year when nature is transformed, when one can appreciate the silences, colors and sounds of an environment that can still be described as “wild.” We also appeal to those who do not yet know these places and wish to discover them in this way, taking the time, in addition to the sheer competition, to experience them, get to know them, and feel part of them.


What is the long-term goal of the MOT? So can we say that one of your goals is to build a community that feels in some way a part of this valley?

Now in its third year, the MOT is growing and establishing itself as a valued race. Several runners who had participated in the 2022 edition came back, decided to do it again, to enjoy it even more. We sense that a real community is being created, which includes not only with runners, but also runners, organizers, volunteers, people who believe in this project and dedicate their time and energy so that it continues, grows and does not lose its philosophy, its soul. It is only with the help of all these people that such an event can be realized, which last year, on its central day, the day when the 3 races cross, brought more than 600 people inside Marmora village, confirming its gradually growing appreciation.

Different times then, and perhaps right times, to learn to enjoy the environment, the landscape and all that our surroundings can offer us, beyond mere competition. Territorial enhancement, nature, tradition and community: this is the MOT.