Sometimes retiring is the right thing to do
Not all doughnuts come out with holes. You cannot always manage to finish all the races of the Passatore. Sometimes determination and resilience have to bow down to more prudent considerations. Do the right thing – is the motto that everything ultra marathon runner should accept. And the right thing in this case is not to strain beyond the limits and retire, with the conviction of doing better on the next occasion.
This is the first consideration of the short piece by Vincenzo Altamura from Siracusa in Sicily, certainly not a rookie to the 100km del Passatore in particular and 100km racing in general. On Saturday May 24th 2014 he began the 42nd edition of the 100kn del Passatore, but he retired from the race after barely 31km at Borgo San Lorenzo due to gastro-intestinal problems that had already made themselves felt before the start.
With one difference to the other times, however. This year Vincenzo had become a father to a wonderful son who now is only months old. And maybe the thought of the young Andrea, to whom be surely wanted to dedicate the completion of the race, led him to retire so justly accepting the message his body were giving him.
I can say I am in being perfectly in tune with him. In fact, I raced my first 1ookm del Passatore when my first son reached the finish line of his first six months and I dedicated my race to him, when in a state of blessed thoughtlessness I crossed the finishing line in Piazza del Popolo happy and satisfied.
But in some cases it is necessary to retire and because there are four arms waiting to give a warm hug when you get home and a toddler that needs his adored father.
Vincenzo Altamura’s piece continues.
Here I am. As I prepare for the make little Andrea’s dreams come true, it is my duty to write a few words about this brief racing (training) experience of the Passatore.
In the meantime I publicly thank my fellow runner in both training and adventure Emanuele Miceli for his stubbornness in challenging the race and bringing back to Syracuse the Passatore for the fourth consecutive year. I, on the other hand took no notice of the first warning signs from my stomach that would condition my race.
There were three of us at the start at Florence’s via dé Calzaiuoli, together with Emanuele and myself there was Ennio Grillo a 100km trail runner who gave us a big surprise by joining us at the last minute.
At the start of the race and after the first steps it was obvious that the others had a pace more than me and as a consequence I slowed down to be able to manage my race. As I left the outskirts of Florence and proceeding through the hills of Fiesole the sun became stronger and I quickly saw the others looking for water to quench their thirsts. I went on and I only started to stop from the third refreshment station, drinking only water.
Even today I cannot understand what happened. The water in some of the stations seemed good, whereas in others I thought it had little taste. Anyway, despite what I had seen, one thing was sure, I had to stop at an intersection at the 22km mark due to the strong stomach pains and although I tried to remedy this the same thing occurred at the 26km mark. The situation was not good for me and struggling I managed to reach Borgo San Lorenzo in a time of 03:44:42.
With an appearance that was anything but respectful and after having heard the advice my the dear fellow runner Inga Poidemani who was changing to face the Appenine Mountain section of the race between Tuscany and the Romagna I decided to retire. With a cold mind I can state that my decision was the right one as there were still 70kms to the end of the race and I with my bad stomach cramps who knows what would have happened to me. Yet despite this I was awarded with a bronze medal and diploma that I will take home for having completed a third of the race.
On the other hand, getting back to Faenza was made easy as I climbed on board the bus organized by the race organizers. But the return was complicated because when we reached the Passo della Colla where we were blocked in traffic due to the presence of vehicles that accompanied the runners. Often mountains are synonymous with fresh air, but this time it was only smog and the smell of burnt clutches.
This final aspect of the Colla is also a warning to a warning to all the inexperienced runners that I met in the climb who faced the climb without front and back warning lights.
As for Emanuele, his race was something else. Considering that he lost weight in the three months of training, he challenged the race with the strength of character that allowed him to complete the course in 12:54:49.
He told me that he was of the mistaken belief that the change of running gear at Borgo San Lorenzo would take place outside the township and therefore, having missed the station, he ran the mountain with just a plain singlet. In order to recover from this he was forced to undertake two sessions of sports massage, losing even more time. This can happen as we are only human, anyway I saw he overjoyed when he brought back a Passatore finish to Siracusa.
What can I say about Ennio Grillo? He’s a great runner! An excellent time and he was happy at the finishing line.
My best regards to all the Sicilians who I met in this brief experience and who did themselves honour.
It’s time to go back to our daily lives with the hope of getting ready for a new adventure.
What did we get from this experience? A runner’s experience of a lifetime to share with people who have the will to put themselves into play at least once in their lives and confront themselves with a long distance race.
It is beautiful to get back home and be embraced by two sets of arms.
By Vincenzo Altamura from Siracusa, Sicily.