Boccaccio wrote in his Life of Dante (1374): “Everything that is acquired with toil has more sweetness in it.”
The marathon. Mark and I ran the Milan Marathon last Sunday, and we lived to tell the tale. Overall, I found it to be a very positive experience - look at me! I'm healthy enough to run this far! I'm lucky enough to be here, in Italy, on this day!
It was a thrill to be running - thanks to some sage advice from former roommates and Mark's sister, marathon experienced folk, we kept an easier pace through the first 2/3s and it made worlds of difference. The course is flat which made for easier running. A nice if unusual way to see the Milan sprawl, the course winds through a number of neighborhoods I had never visited and probably won’t again. The cold, mists, and fog added an ethereal quality to the day.
There were great provisions along the way - every 5 km the course organizers had tables manned with volunteers stocking cookies, orange slices, water, warm lemonade, warm tea... Slices of heaven. Staggered with those were stations dispensing sponges soaked in water - given the cool to cold temperature and periodic wind of the day, I avoided the sponges but I did like to run past the stations swinging my arm a la Eddie Van Halen - never failed to get a cheer out of the red-coated volunteers.
I enjoyed thanking as many of the volunteers and sparse fans as I could, including the police who stopped traffic - a thankless job as the Milanese seemed neither aware of nor enthused by the marathon snarling their already wicked snarled streets. It was quite unlike the marathons I have seen in Boston and New York: hilarious arm-gesture-accompanied invectives and horn honking abounded at intersections made dangerous by the collision of an immovable object (Milan traffic) with an unstoppable force (marathoners in the zone). In defense of the Milanese, the marathon is young (this was only the 5th running) and there are bound to be growing pains.
We met folks from across the United States (a West Point graduate from Houston living in Kiev; a woman from Seattle living in Turkey; a student from Connecticut who knows the Buckhorn Lodge, my favorite bar in Southern California). And of course Italians, many of whom spoke glowingly of running other marathons in Italy and the States.
I saw a man finish who ran the entire thing barefoot.
Mark and I finished together right around our goal time and received medals for participating: we did it! The space blankets that they give out at the end of the race are one of my new favorite inventions – without one, I may have lain down to freeze to death.
Soon to think about the next one... But not too soon.