En Plein Air

How long had we been looking forward to May 4th, the day of the lockdown ease in Italy? Two months. A long time indeed. What shall I remember most of this period? The singing on the balcony every evening at 6.00pm right after watching the daily bulletin of Covid-19 victims or the frightening number on my scale as the result the absurd amount of food I have swallowed in these months, mostly carbs – and I can distictly see them all deposited right here ūüėĪ- ? Now that I am thinking about it, I have to say that my time has been spent in the company of screens mostly, whether it was that for smart working/on line lessons or the tv screen. I have watched the 200 and more episodes of “How I¬† met your mother” (brilliant), four seasons of “How to get away with murder” (super), “Unorthodox”(great), 3 seasons of Versailles (legendary, oops this is the Barney in me speaking) and there must be something I am missing for sure. For the first time in my life I have showed no interest at all for clothes or shoes, as I have been wearing mostly the same stuff, actually, I look rather shabby, I dare say.

My husband Mr Run has suffered these lazy days much more than me. He is an active sort of man, who is used to running 70 km per week at least and driving 100 to go to work and back every day. His very last purchase the day right before the lockdown had been another shining pair of running shoes, the same pair he decided to wear the morning of May 4th. It was 6.30 a.m. . “I am off to run to the pinewood” he whispered to me, as I was was still slumbering. “Let’s hope he comes back with a good provision of endorphines” I thought, and I went back to sleep.

The latest ordinance had set runners free, but what about non-runners like me? Well, all the other people were left with a dilemma to solve before attempting to quit home: ¬†what does “congiunti” mean? We were allowed to go to the supermarket, like before, but now the exciting news was that we could also pay a visit to our “congiunti” . What a peculiar choice of word, we all thought!¬† “Congiunti”! The English word “relatives” could be the equivalent translation, but it not exactly so, as if they had actually meant “relatives”, they would have chosen a more clear word for the Italian speaking world as “parenti”. We instictively understood that they had employed the word “congiunti” as a limititation to the number of “parenti”/relatives one may have, as if they meant close relatives only. But how close? After having looked up into many dictionaries and followed learned debates, I haven’t actually understood what makes you downgrade from the status of “congiunto” to that of a simple “parente”, but all I needed to know was that in case somebody had stopped me, “congiunto” should have been the most advisable term to use.

Once “en plein air”, the world around me is not exactly as friendly as I expected. You feel the presence of the unseen enemy and like me anybody else. First of all I notice that we are all wearing far too heavy clothes for the season. It is full spring and quite warm, “we¬†have missed the best part of it” I think with a certain disappointment. Behind their masks I barely recognize the people I know. Everybody casts suspicious glances, all distanced, all distressed, watching their backs if someone gets too close and ready to “bark” in case they really do. With the majority of shops closed, even if we were allowed, strolling around is not that tempting. There is no sign of joy around me and I feel a kind of uncomfortable. I realize that my pace is getting faster than usual among the shelves of the supermarket. It is as if I felt the urge of doing quickly my errands and…..going home. ¬†It may sound strange, but this is what I truly wished that coveted 4th of May: going back home, where I feel at ease, where I feel protected.

Once safely on my couch, where I can confess to have spent half of this couple of months, I couldn’t help but wonder how this quarantine had turned me into something T.S. Eliot would call: a “dull root”. Our longed freedom has actually a bitter taste. It is more frightening rather than exciting and despite the call to life represented by this beautiful May ( April in the poem), most of us prefer to remain rooted at home. “Ain’t you going to run this morning, love ?” No” Mr Run grunts,” not today ” and turns his back. He doesn’t want to admit it, but he has become a “dull root” too.

Run, man! Run!

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Berlin, Chicago, Venice and now even New York marathon is just gone, and no trace of Mr Run in any of these competitions. The sad truth is that despite the hard work, a meticulous training programme, a super balanced diet – all seasoned with the infinite patience Mrs Run is naturally endowed with -, Mr Run has unexpectedly turned into Mr Couch. As soon as the endorphins with their beneficial effects have one by one abandoned the body of my husband, a melancholic expression has appeared on his face and an iPad in his hands. When I look at him, he reminds me of that knight of Keat’s ” La Belle Dame sans Merci” so much, that I would like to ask him: “What hail at thee, knight at arm/ so haggard and woe-begone“, but I already know that his hopeless answer would be: a damned plantar fasciitis. After more than two months of therapies, the finish line of the complete recovery is still far, therefore, all I can do s trying to support him posting this video, hoping that as soon as he sees it, some endorphins will show up ¬†and make him smile again. Run, man! Run! I’m sure, you will very soon ūüôā

Running in the night

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There is an unusual, evocative, romantic way to enjoy the breathtaking beauties of the “eternal city” : running through its most famous streets at night. Yes, at night , because “Corriroma“, the competition that somehow seals the end of the running season here, usually takes place at 10.00 p.m. The ten kilometer race starts at Piazza del Popolo, then the athletes pass on¬† Via del Corso, Via del Tritone, Via Sistina,¬† Piazza Trinit√† dei Monti till they go through the splendid Villa Borghese, lit by hundreds of torches,to reach Piazza Augusto Imperatore and again via del Corso and back to Piazza del Popolo. Amazing, isn’t it?

Mr Run and I couldn’t certainly miss such a happening as it was also an occasion to have a walk and go shopping in the centre. When we arrived at Piazza del Popolo, it was crowded as usual and peopled mostly by tourists and tourist attractions.

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But at dusk the magic started. corri9

The tourists were slowly replaced by thousands of colorful runners who started their warming-up running around the square in a never-ending joyous carousel.Immagine 085

Some of them even staged a Maori dance, traditional war cry included.

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Lights, happy faces, the atmosphere was merry and warm and at 10:00 about 3 thousand runners gathered at the start line.

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In less than half an hour the fastest had reached Villa Borghese.

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Here is the winner Jaouad Zain from Morocco (31:35).

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Many others were still far from the finish line but they were enjoying the beautiful race.

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And when everything was over, the magic disappeared. The lights went off and little by little the sweated and tired athletes left the square with their supportive friends and families, maybe in search of something to drink or a place where to get some warm croissants and reach the Pincio Terrace to wait for the dawn.pincio1

 

 

Metamorphosis

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In Rome there is a very long ring road called Raccordo Anulare¬†that divides the city in two parts: in and out. I want to try to make myself clear: the area which¬†is inside the ring road¬†is considered the centre, while outside there are the outskirts. However, for my husband Mr Run, Raccordo Anulare¬†means much more that this. It represents the “limes” that divides the true-born Romans from the barbarian¬†immigrants from nearby regions and towns, it¬†is like the Pillars of Hercules which mark off the world we¬†known from the unknown. Once you cross that line you are out. Ipse dixit.

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So you can guess, how Mr Run must have felt, when, few years ago, he had to take off his ancient¬†Roman helmet and armour to¬†move to Ostia Lido, a district in the South of Rome, “only”¬†30 km far from the centre.¬†A shock. We had not finished to move our stuff yet that¬†he professed¬†himself¬†determined¬†to quit as soon as possible. Now, in case you don’t know already,¬†I have to inform you that Ostia is a charming place beautifully situated¬†by the sea, surrounded by a vast pinewood and close the ancient Roman ruins of¬†“Ostia Antica”. It is¬†the paradise for bikers, surfers and naturally runners.

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However, my husband could not see the beautiful surroundings¬†as¬†an opportunity for outdoor activities,¬†as for him sport¬†had¬†always been a huge¬†waste of time.¬†At those times¬†I used to call him¬†Mr Iron, in fact. I know that¬†it is a nickname that¬†may evoke the image of a stubborn,¬†all of a¬†piece man, but actually it has to be¬†interpreted literally: my husband¬†was¬†in charge with the¬†ironing¬†(well, still is) and firmly believed that ironing¬†was¬†as tiring as practicing any other sport, so he didn’t need to go to¬†the gym. Ipse dixit.¬†The hero of every housewife.

The cold winter months passed by and with them¬†Mr Run’s¬†continuous mutters and grumbles. The spring with its warmth and colours seemed to have slightly¬†improved on¬†his disposition, in fact¬†one day unexpectedly,¬†he¬†came up with the idea of buying a bike¬†to do something different as the place we lived bored him¬†to death. I took it as a good sign.

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So this is how all started: he began cycling, then he was intrigued by the great number people he met jogging in the pinewood or down the 7km promenade in Ostia.  When my husband put on his first professional running shoes, it was first sight love. Just like a Forrest Gump he started to run 30 km per week at first to reach the 60 of present-time. Then he wanted to know how good he was, therefore he started to compete in the 10 km runs, half-marathons and marathons. After a year of hard training my husband had lost 12 kg and turned into Mr Run.

However, even Forrest Gump enjoyed some company while running, therefore¬†as next step¬†my husband¬†felt it was high¬†time¬†to look for other (crazy) Mr Runs to share his passion with. While he was doing the hard selection among the¬†potential teams, he came across the web page of the¬†running team¬†of¬† Amatori Castelfusano on which there were the following words: “A¬†society¬† (in latin “societas” which originates from the word “socius” that is a¬†friend, a mate, an¬†ally) is a group of people with different degrees of autonomy, relationship and organization skill,¬†who once together interact to reach one or more common goals. If you find yourself in these simple words, come and join us”. That’s what he did.

After all, “happiness is real, only when shared“. (Christopher McCandless)

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Run!!!!

This post is dedicated to my husband, who will run the marathon in Latina next December 2nd. Although he is fully in the world of “experience” he has lately been able to find another ¬†“happy thought”¬†(besides his wife, certainly)¬† in the practice of this sport. The marathon is the greatest¬†metaphor¬†for effort, suffering, determination, but¬† also overwhelming joy when you reach the end. You have¬†certainly understood that the theme of this post is consistent to the previous ones. Once again, it is absolutely important to set a goal in your life and¬†even if the road is tiring¬†or there is a hitch, when your¬†cross the line¬†you’ll find happiness. Best of Luck!!!

Watch this video, it is quite evocative:

This video was shot by the team of Radio Deejay on the occasion of the cancelled New York marathon 2012: