THE HUNDRED

THE HUNDRED

Yes, La Cento as we call it in confidence in our 29 Martiri running group (the name is in memory of the 29 Partisans hanged by the Germans during the Second World War) in Figline di Prato, but with all due respect for this race which is the 100km of the Passatore.

Cento as far as racing is concerned is the event of the year at least for me. We are already talking about it six months before, even if between a story, an anecdote and all the sensations we had in the last and previous ones we talk about it all year round.

It all started in 2005 when I joined this group and only after a month they asked me if I wanted to be a Passatore. Do you think it was only a month and we were already in February, how much I could be trained, how many km in the legs, what would you have answered? I gave the most logical answer “no” maybe next year who knows. In the following months, my classmates asked me several times and I always answered no, but with less decision because by dint of talking about it, a gap was slowly opening. April came and the breach became an open door. In the end I asked myself: what do I have to lose? If I can’t do it, I’ll retire.

Thus came the fateful day, it was May 28, the first Passatore. Before continuing my story I want to thank Grassi Luigi, Magi Aurelio, Corsini Bruno and Cavini Roberto who with their stories and advice have dragged me into this fantastic adventure. We arrive in Florence for the bib collection, the excitement and tension are sky high and every year seems the first time. After withdrawing the bib, we prepare for the race and mix with the other participants talking about how we are, how prepared we are and what our expectations are in a crescendo of tension and emotion, until the time of departure that never seems to arrive.

Then finally at 15 the shot that announces the departure from via dei Calzaioli near Piazza della Signoria between two cheering crowd wings. The snake of about 1500 participants begins to stretch through the streets of the center and remains fairly compact until the foot of the first climb. The ascent is not difficult, but with a temperature of 25-30 degrees it is not really a walk. I arrive in Fiesole where I stop for time to drink a glass of water and eat fruit. I resume my race very confident, but the road is long and I was left alone because everyone has taken his step and with that he will try to get to the end. I arrive at the summit of Vetta le Croci and the strengths and good intentions begin to waver, if it were not for the refreshment point, the people who came there to encourage friends, relatives and all the runners, I think someone arrived at that point thought about retiring (the first time I thought about it).

The descent begins and I already see the first cars following some runners, instead with Chiara (my wife) and Claudio (friend and work colleague) we met at 18.30 after Borgo San Lorenzo. The road descends gently and sheltered from the sun which previously gave no respite. I pass various countries where near their homes adults and children are waiting for the runners to greet them, cheer them on, applaud and offer drinks and I like to think that in a few years some of these kids will have my same passion by participating in the Passatore. The descent is still over 3km and I arrive in Borgo San Lorenzo (a municipality in the heart of Mugello where the oldest Italian marathon takes place in September). I stop for 2-3 minutes at the refreshment as I did at the previous eating and drinking even if I didn’t feel like it (this is one of the basic tips to face this race to try to get to the bottom).

Allotment through the center and just outside the climb begins again continuing after a few km in a false plane where Chiara and Claudio are waiting for me. When they see me they greet raising their arms to get noticed and I return the greeting. I arrive at the car making an additional stop, with the usual greetings and Chiara is always very apprehensive and worried and asks if everything is okay, if I can do it, what I want to drink, what I want to eat, of what she prepared in the afternoon before leaving. I answer that everything is fine, I take a bottle of salts, we say goodbye and we meet at the beginning of the climb that leads to the Passo della Colla because after a few km I will leave the state road to cross the village of Ronta where vehicles cannot pass.

At the end of the town, the road starts to climb about 500m then descends, curving to the left and I arrive at the meeting point in the small village of Madonna dei Tre Fiumi (where there is a sanctuary and an ancient water mill). I arrive at the car and together with Chiara and Claudio there are Alessandro and Antonio to follow the race (by motorbike) to Faenza. Everyone asks how it goes, what I need (Chiara increasingly worried) I answer everything is fine (even if sometimes it is not so), meanwhile I start to change by putting dry and a little heavier clothes. The temperature has already dropped by a few degrees and I have to go up almost to 1000m. This too was an additional stop, but it took to cheer up. I take some fruit, a bottle of water and start walking up. After a few hundred meters I continue running for one km then walking for 200 meters, trying to keep this pace up to the top. Chiara and Claudio join me asking if everything is in order and continue until the next refreshment “Razzuolo”.

Halfway from the summit I am a little uneasy because the effort begins to be felt and the climb seems to never end. In the short stop I reconcile myself and calmly step by step, km after km, encouraged by Chiara and Claudio I arrive at the Passo della Colla (when in 2006 with great regret I retired, but after a few days the sense of defeat turned into teaching in order not to repeat in the future the mistakes made, with presumption, thinking that this time it was a walk because the previous year I had made the first hit), where a large audience of friends and relatives awaits the arrival of loved ones. Half of the work is done and I start to go down. The first 3km are quite steep, then it descends gently and I can run more easily (so to speak with 50km in the legs).

After the descent, the day is about to give way to night and in this space of time I arrive in Marradi. The refreshment is set up in the center of the country and while I eat something I see the scoreboard that marks the race hours and I think of the first ones who have already arrived or are about to do it, while Chiara and Claudio join me. As always they ask if everything is fine and I answer yes so as not to make them worry. I start walking to get out of the center and resume the highway, passing in front of where they do the massages, my legs would stop very willingly. I resume running (silencing the protests of my lower limbs) arriving at the end of the country where street lighting ends, I am swallowed up by the darkness that will accompany me almost at the end of the race, interrupted only by the refreshment points located in the countries that I will meet on my way, making them look like oases in the desert.

During this journey Chiara and Claudio increase the frequency of the stops to wait and assist me. Chiara worried always asks me the same questions (now become a ritual) and I answer that everything is fine, even if you get to that point of the race, you who know me well, know when I am telling the truth or at the moment I am in crisis and would like tell me to stop, to let it go, who makes you do it. The street lamps begin to illuminate the road, making me come out of the dark like a train from the tunnel, going towards the next station. “Brisighella” (When in 2005 I was on the verge of retiring almost hating this race. Then I calmed down a bit encouraged by Chiara and Claudio who at that point believed it more than me, I went to the bottom, repeating that after that time I would never do it again).

The refreshment point and the last checkpoint are in the center of the village and to get there there is a 300m climb that I take step to catch some breath. When I was about to restart the protests if they were only legs before, now everything else was also rebelling, asking for a truce. I stifle the revolt and start again by saying that only the Sunday race is missing, alternating stretches of running with short stretches of walking. Chiara and Claudio follow me more and more constantly (they too very tired) inciting me. Traveling the last few kilometers I think about where my friends will be leaving with me, hoping that everyone will arrive at the finish line and everyone at home, I say THANK YOU for the praise and words of encouragement to never give up. THANKS to my family and all relatives, who cheer and indulge my passion for them a little crazy. I arrive at the last refreshment station in Errano, stopping just enough time to catch something on the fly and allotment, aware that the destination is close. Chiara and Claudio still follow me for a mile and a half, ask if everything is fine, if I want something, I answer yes to the first and no to the second, so they greet me saying that we will see each other on arrival, convinced that nothing and nobody will stop me.

I pass the Faenza sign and the road lights up again under the light of the lampposts and here is the crossroads (where before there was a traffic light now there is a roundabout) turned right onto the long avenue that will take me to the finish. At that moment the tiredness seems to disappear and I start to run faster, drawing on the last remaining forces. I arrive at the end of the avenue, through the intersection and enter the center, when in front of me it is finally. “Piazza del Popolo” Traveling those 50m that separate me from the finish line, the emotion is so much and indescribable, not knowing whether to laugh or cry for happiness. Finally cutting the long-awaited goal, with a fair number of spectators, who applauded the competitors, I see Chiara and Claudio waiting for me. The tiredness that seemed vanished returns to be felt, but I am happy and I go to meet him to share this moment with them. Before concluding I want to say THANK YOU to Claudio for being always available to participate in this event and last, but always first in my thoughts, SHE who looks after me and endures me every day, not only on this occasion. Without his support all this would not be possible. THANK YOU CLEAR When in the following days fatigue and tiredness are only a distant memory, I already start thinking about the next hundred, to say once again “I WAS THERE”.

Gianni Poli

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