Thursday, January 17, 2013

Marco Giovannini: Trail Orienteering with mind... and heart

Maybe he hasn't the projection or the media attention of the top athletes in the international Orienteering scene but he is, on his way, a distinct personality in the small world of Trail Orienteering. Dedicated athlete and passionate blogger, Marco Giovannini is one of the big names in the promotion of this as interesting as challenging discipline and he is our guest today.

I hesitate between you and your blog for the first question, but let's leave the 'creature' for later and take a look now on the 'creator'. Who is Marco Giovannini?

Marco Giovannini (M. G.) - Joaquim, the first words are for you: your guests are usually great orienteers or personalities of Orienteering’s World, whereas I’m one of the many people who lives orienteering like an entertainment. I was born 45 years ago in Trento (among the mountains) and I have been living in Milan since 1990 (among the buildings). I discovered orienteering 23 years ago and during this time I often travelled in Europe to take part in many competitions (O-Ringen, WMOC in Portugal, 5 Days of France,…).

How was your passion for Trail Orienteering born?

M. G. - In 2008, during a multidays of Orienteering in Asiago, I entered in a competition of Trail Orienteering (TrailO for friends); immediately I liked it because my brain often needs new challenges. TrailO was the perfect discipline because I walked alone in the forest with my thoughts, listening to the birds’ sound and the nature’s aroma. The result of my first competition was DISQ because I didn’t wait for my turn at time controls (I remembered a long queue of competitors in the middle of competition).

Have you ever organized or planned a competition?

M. G. - Yes, here ( you can find all the news. I remember that, one year before the competition, I went on terrain in the same week of the year to study vegetation and natural light and, I thought, the controls; I was the last one to use four different time control places! I have explained it in a separate document for competitors, how you could solve every control; this was not appreciated and after that experience I lost my passion due to not competent people. Sometimes I wouldn’t find the same diligence in other competitions and this has created discontent in the movement. In 2013 I’ll help my team to organize OOCup of TrailO (Slovenia); I can say the terrain is very suitable for my style of planning and my friends are waiting for this competition to solve my controls.

And what about your results?

M. G. - Only this season I begun to train my Trail Orienteering skills; in the past years, I used the competitions to improve my experience. Despite that, sometimes I have got on the podium; I had the bronze medal at ITOC 2010 (in 2012, I was 4th but I couldn’t win the title because my club is Slovenian), sometimes I won Italy cup rounds….. but the result is not all! After a competition and before to see the classification, I ask to myself: “Are you happy? Have you done your best?”. My personal philosophy is to enjoy myself after a week of work, to challenge the planner’s problems, to find new stimulus, to meet the TrailO friends. I hope that some of your readers, after this interview, will spend some time to taste Trail Orienteering.

What do you see that is so appealing in Trail Orienteering?

M. G. - I believe that you make a big mistake if you think that Foot Orienteers are attracted to TrailO; usually, a runner likes the fatigue, the strain, he trains his body to run faster and faster. TrailO is a discipline for people who want to use their brain, to overtake their mental limit, to win a match without physical skills; I compare it to chess, cards or puzzles. When I stay two hours in a park or in a forest, I come back very happy, relaxed, until I see the solutions: in that moment, my answers find the official decisions and sometimes I don't agree with them.

In March 2010 you've create the 'trail-O', a blog that appeared immediately as "a meeting point for all those who see themselves on this discipline." Can you tell me something about this adventure?

M. G. - In 2007 I created a blog ( where I wrote my adventures after every competition; I closed it when my dog Rusky died (Rusky is my nickname too). When I began to play with TrailO, I searched for news, rules, experiences but all material was scattered in internet’s world. So I thought to create a web site where I would have put all news. Unfortunately, like in a small family, somebody in Italy didn’t like it because they saw this site like a competitor and not like an useful vehicle to expand this discipline.

Do you want to make us a 'guided tour' through your blog?

M. G. - Before I explain how my site works, I want to tell you that my next task is to restyle some pages of Here, I want to thank two friends of mine: the webmaster and my teacher (Giuseppe Russo) and the interviewer (Stefano Galletti). The site was born to help the Italian newcomers in the TrailO world. After some years I have to admit that my readers are more foreigner than Italian people; so, since last year, I decided to write in English rather than in Italian. I have a “News” page where I write some news about competitions or other interesting events; “Rules” is a page dedicated to the rules about ISSOM, guidelines, ranking formula, symbols. “Competition” is a box where I put the results of Italian competitions (in 2012 I stopped this work because it’s not appreciated);”Ranking” is similar to previous page but the results are Italian ranking or Italy cup final classification. “Stories” explain, in Italian language, a typical competition of PreO for beginners; on the right side there are some interviews to great European athletes. The last page contains some links to others PreO blogs or websites. After the restyling, I think of inserting the “TempO Game” and a database of international competitions (World Champs, European Champs).

You've mentioned 'TempO Game'. What is it, precisely?

M. G. - During these years, my passion about my site has decreased because my efforts weren’t appreciated; The “TempO Game” is a new idea for my free time: to study computer language and to create a game for my friends. I remembered Libor’s site ( the problem was to find real tasks, maps, competitions. I have decided to create new games: if I find a good place, I use it to build a new task… I draw a map using the photo; I don’t use the real scale because the picture is too small for a scaled map. TempO is a discipline where the mental speed is the primary skill; for this reason I'd rather highlight the objects visible in the photo. The tasks are a mixture of TrailO situations: I don’t want to create too difficult tasks because the stress of the clock (near the image) is enough to make a mistake. When I begin the game’s creation, I didn’t suppose how many people would have played and their level of tempO’s knowledge. The first step was to create only four games to test this idea; now my passion has grown and I put on 20 games. I invite everybody to try the game – at - and to send me their opinions; after this “beta test” version, I work on the final game. My idea is to organize some competitions on line. You have asked me “what is it?”: to solve some tasks as fast as possible without mistakes….and then to compare your score to the best elite Trail Orienteers! I’m very happy because the Norwegian Federation has linked the game on its site: more than 300 Norwegian people have played in the first week of the year!

I must ask you, based on your personal experience: TempO or TrailO?

M. G. - I compare these disciplines with Foot Orienteering: TempO is like the Sprint, TrailO is like Long Distance. I like TrailO because, after a week of my job (in office), I need to walk and to relax in the nature; TrailO is a myriad of thoughts, solutions, hypothesis: your brain has to choose the right answers using the sight, geometry. I like tempO because it’s intuition, adrenaline, mental training to decide fast; it’s just the reverse of TrailO! TempO is the real discipline where everybody (elite, paralympic) plays starting on the same level. In my opinion, younger Trail Orienteers like the TempO discipline because they love exciting games and their brain seems to help them. The limit of TrailO is the leveling of competitors: often, the final result is decided after time controls!

How do you see the current moment of the Trail Orienteering all over the world?

M. G. - I believe that Trail Orienteering is a young discipline and it’ll continue to change every year; it was born for Paralympic people but year after year the Open Class became larger; some years ago, the Trail Orienteering movement was only a large family. Now, new countries have discovered this discipline and the old rules are obsolete because terrains, local rules, different type of planning have created new situations. I hope the new generation of Trail Orienteers (Marit, Lauri, Antii, Martin, etc…) is able to bring new ideas to attract other young athletes. I know that a Commission is working on technical rules: this work is very important because old rules are not clear for the same situations (for example: I have never understood why single contour line excludes some kites in the real reentrance or spur). Otherwise, it’s not easy to involve new paralympic people: in Italy we only have three paralympic people: I have spoken with some disabled people but the equation “Disable = TrailO” is wrong! These people think like the common people and it’s difficult to find somebody who wants to travel for a TrailO competition…

Italy, Croatia and Slovenia formed a very interesting and dynamic regional block. Is this an attempt in order to create an alternative to the Nordic hegemony?

M. G. - I think this cooperation was born spontaneously because North-East Italy’s Regions, Slovenia and Croatia are close on the map: instead of creating three micro TrailO’s schedules, these Countries have organized an interesting Trophy. In the last period, I have often travelled to Slovenia and now my Club is Ok Trzin (Slovenia). Be careful: behind the words “Slovenia” and “Croatia” there isn’t a large movement, but some small clubs. The number of competitions is not yet adequate to create an interesting activity. I wait for the multidays competitions: in the past summer, I stayed in Czech Republic for 5 days and then a week later in Slovenia, for 3 days! After these competitions my feeling about TrailO’s practice has improved.

Italy will receive, in 2014, the World Trail Orienteering Championships but, before that, in Portugal, we'll have the European Championships. To finish this Interview, I ask you a preview of the two events.

M. G. - The approval of competitors is often the key of success; for this reason is very important to choose the right planners and to draw good maps. In 2008 I stayed in Portugal to run WMOC; it has been a good experience to run in beautiful forests and to visit the Country. I think you and your Federation could show your quality. In Italy I don't have news about planners or terrains where the competition will be. I believe that the Italian movement has good individuality to manage the WTOC but often political interest ruins these opportunities. My favorite planner is Guido Michelotti but I don’t know if he’s the planner of PreO; I call some of his controls “Upper level” because nobody is able to teach this type of controls.

[Photo by Marco Giovannini]

Joaquim Margarido

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