SUDDENLY I FOUND MYSELF IN A DARK CROWD

June 10, 2014 in IO C'ERO, NEWS

 

Florence, May 24th, 2014, 2.00pm.

Paraphrasing Dante in his city of Florence, I suddenly found myself in a dark crowd. No! I was not lost. I had chosen to be there in the midst (or maybe at the edges) of a crazy crowd of about 3,000 people afflicted by different emotions and sentiments in via dé Calzaiuoli. And I was rolled up in a corner like a child on his first day at school, biting his nails to the quick. Such was his emotion of intimidation at what would shortly happen.

I was expecting 100kms of passion in which the mind would count much more than the legs and my mind was transmitting a mix of pure adrenalin and fear to the whole body. Fear of not finishing and of disappointing myself after the heavy load of all the months of preparation. A very high load of tension that had already made itself felt in the night when, in my way, I had dreamed how the whole race would go.

Ready, get set, go… it’s 3.00pm and at the start I cross the glances of many persons who are there for the same reason, to get to Faenza. To get there… yes, because there are still 100 kilometres to the appointment with history, my personal history. A clear sight was there beyond the mountains on the other side of the horizon where I saw the first ascent inclines (those that lead to the hills of Fiesole) from where others told me I would see the whole of Florence.

Shoe laces tied, goose bumps on the skin, legs trembling. Everything vanished at the start. And so we off towards Fiesole with the first slopes and a sun that made an unforgettable day even richer. Higher, ever higher. Everything going well as I maintain a steady pace because over there was something big, very big. I reach Borgo San Lorenzo easily and now comes the dread.

THE HILL/LA COLLA (in capital letters because it is worth my effort). It was there between the 40th and the 45th kilometre that I had the first and only true crisis. The sun gave way to semi darkness and together with the presence of streams the temperature became lower. Then I was cold and my legs felt the effects of the effort. I thought that I would not make it, but only for a moment. The crest was there, three kilometres away and I would have the time and opportunity to think. There was no time for thinking, it would be the heart that would take me to the 48km mark.

There, we’ve arrived. Half way point of the race and here I am. Now everything was downhill. Off again quickly, off again because Faenza was there only 52km away! Run lad, run! Run towards history, towards the most beautiful episode of your life. A tale to tell your friends. To dream during the summer nights.

Now it’s dark and we seem like so many cold fireflies inside a cold, humid forest that make room for themselves beyond the fatigue a kilometre at a time. One step more and we find ourselves at the 65km mark. Now we see the light at the end of the tunnel and it mixes with the light of our fluorescent patches and the incandescence of our hearts that warm us up in the shadow of a wonderful moon and a sky sprinkled with stars that watch us and accompany us along this interminable journey. But it was at Brisighella that I decide to make a significant change to my race.

There were still 12 kilometres to go and it was 3.30 in the morning. The dream was getting ever closer and many were only walking with the force of their minds. The determination to reach the finish line was palpable and it was here that I began my charge. After 88km another race began. It was my personal race and it would be run all the way in one stage, without a break, not even at the refreshment station at the 95km mark. Run, run, even against the blisters on my feet and the pain of the ankles that became more acute.

96km, 97km and there was the sign I was expecting, FAENZAAA I yelled to a thin crowd that was awake in the middle of the night, admiring our crazy accomplishment. 98km, 99km.

There was the piazza, the light after the dark. A fantastic dawn. A goal much suffered, desired, wanted, demanded. 13 hours 51 minutes.

There are shivers running down my wet spine. The bib with the numbers to be shown. Tears to save.

Domenico Baglivo, race number 792, a.k.a. mimmo UltraRunner