Running in Italy has never been easy for me. I love the food, the language, the weather, the slower pace of life, the fact that my parents own a modest home here. And in theory the lush hills in the north-western Maritime Alps should offer a paradise for runners.
But the roads are dangerous, filled with manic and careless drivers, often lacking space on the side and sidewalks. The trails are ill-maintained, rocky, steep, often impassable. That leaves a hand full of small side roads, where scooters and cars will move around you with any luck. If not: jump onto the shoulder and pray.
It doesn’t help that I was recovering from foot surgery during a lovely visit in 2011, and that I’m battling Achilles pain as we speak. (Punishment for some intense long-distance trail adventures around Los Angeles, perhaps.) Despite the discomfort I do run during this visit. My sister Door and friend Eric are in town as well, and together we explore the unused Old Road, nearby, running through the canyon on the other side of ‘our’ mountain. To miss quality time on sneakers with Eric –one of the brothers I never had– I would have to break my foot or back again. No way.
During a first run we are joined with my sporty sister, a seasoned runner in her own right now. After she leaves it’s Eric and me as we push the pace, take off our sweaty shirts and enjoy the sun. We laugh and chat, stretch and start again, connecting as we move. Running hard in silence, we finish the 5.5 miler, happy and tired.
I realize then that running is often not easy. It has nothing to with the magnificent, slightly inhospitable landscape of Italy. The challenges are in my mind, and sometimes in my tired body. But during these 40 minutes with Eric, our pace steady, running in Italy was, in fact, easy for me. Easy and lovely.