It is a question we heard a lot from friends and colleagues who, with the same puzzled look and the same bewildered high pitch voice, ask “Why? Why running a marathon?”
My answer is usually a simple “Because I can,” which by no means is a passive aggression towards friends or colleagues, rather it is the understanding of accepting a challenge and the need to know one’s limits; each and one of us has dreamed to fly to the moon, but only a few took the test upon themselves. In JFK’s words:
We choose to go to the moon […], not because [it is] easy, but because [it is] hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept.
John F. Kennedy – Houston, TX – Moon Speech
I believe that it is in this light that the great effort by Stefano Ruzza becomes understandable without diminishing his accomplishment.
100km of Namib Desert – by Stefano Ruzza
A week has passed since I came back and it’s the time for questions: what has Namibia left on me? For sure a nice tan, though it won’t last… And a long list of memories, and those will last: the interminable space, the cruel sun who was hitting without fear of hurting, like saying that those spaces were his and the grace of life was left only for a lifeless creature like the sand, a breathing beast of those realms.
And the blue sky, so colorful it hurts. And the animals fighting for survival where water and food is always scarce; animals able to adapt in the effort to stay alive. And the places, unthinkable and hard to imagine by a human being, no matter how open minded and enlightened one is. Places that only millions of years were able to mold into something so cruel and so beautiful at the same time.
Since I decided to run this race, I knew that an important component of the 100km of Sahara would have been missed: sleeping in tents, in the cold night of the Sahara, was a rare opportunity to live more closely to the Tunisian desert. In Namibia this was not possible because of logistics, and sleeping in comfy beds, in clean rooms with A/C, in clean clothes without the sand getting everywhere, detached us from the extreme nature left outside the door. All the time not spent in racing was dedicated to unbend. This contrasts a bit with my own being, but it allowed to run with more enthusiasm and will in the Namib desert.
I also missed the camaraderie with the other runners that only a tent can create, although still I found wonderful friends through the same passion and the same hard work.
It’s impossible to say one race (or experience) is better than the other: each has its own merit and its own beauty.
Every day everybody was praising me; although this made me proud, it was also the reason for much of the humbling and difficulty in finding the right answer to the many wonderful comments from people whose effort was much greater and who were deserving those praises much more than me.
But now, what is to attend me? This year I discovered the desert and trail-running; it was truly rewarding, with results that were getting better the more experienced I was becoming; and experience is essential in this kind of races. I learned so much about my body and about my mind, a greater awareness of the world around us. And I had so much fun in running in nature. I’m now ready to enjoy fully the next season to achieve other good results, but also and more importantly out of sheer joy I have found while running.
The main goal will be the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc, though I have to wait till January to know if I will have the opportunity to face those paths in August. But before this, another great trail-race between Italy and France in late June, the Cro-Magnon; and how can I forget races like the Ultrabericus, Colli Euganei, Fenera, Porte di Pietra, Malandrino, Lago di Como and many others?
The cherry on the cake: next year, in November I’ll be running a race in Nepal: 250km (~155mi) in 6 legs in total food self-sufficiency. But there’s still time before it … and it’s better not to rush things.
… also if I’ll find money to spare, there is still a little race in Oman … or in Mongolia …