An ultra-trail is of course good for working your body, but it is also good for research applications. And one particularly complex type of research application is the ITN type. The Initial Training Network. There are two things setting this type of application a little bit apart. The first thing is that it often includes some 5-10 PIs. It does not have to, three is enough as long as they are from three different countries. But often the amount grows. And here the trick is to get people involved who actually work on the application and are interested in the project if it gets granted. Getting 10 researchers to pull in the same direction at the same time is not always easy, but when they do, the result can be amazing.
The other part is that these projects are more about training then about research, at least in EUs eyes. It is true that an ITN usually is focused around one research topic, but the application is also heavily evaluated on how the students are trained. Actually, from EUs side, the ITNs are there to produce good researchers, not to produce good research (but one does not exclude the other). These applications are usually a lot of work, and superficially it may look as the return for all that work is not super-great. Usually something like 75% of a Ph.D. student for each PI. But the real value in these lies in the tight cooperation between the 5-10 participating PIs. If the application is successful they are to collaborate closely for three years, and meet and have seminars and workshops and other activities several times every year. If you set aside a few days to sit down and work with an application of this type, sooner or later you are going to feel that a few hours break for an ultra-trail is not a bad idea.
Mehmet Somel preparing to run