Running, A Life Changing Choice for Ita
The leading female participant in the first half of the race is one of the international racers, Ita Emanuela Marzotto from Tuscany, Italy.
I chatted to her tonight and she told me the remarkable story of how she came to be here and to be running so well.
“This is only my 4th Ultra,” she said, “and until a few years ago I was never a runner. I’d never thought about such a thing – I was busy working too hard and leading a very unhealthy lifestyle, including smoking. Then I made a lifestyle change, sold my business and someone suggested I try running.”
“I really didn’t think I could do that, but I live in the countryside and I did at least walk my dogs, then run a little. Then I thought maybe I can run a marathon before I am 50 so I entered the New York Marathon ... and won a lottery place! So I became a runner by luck really. I trained for 8 months but in New York the race was cancelled, it was the year of the big storm, so my daughter entered me next week in the Florence Marathon.”
“There I saw a poster for a 100km race in the Sahara, which I did, and from then on I discovered trail running and have never run on roads again. I love nature and the country and the places trail running takes me to.
“I’ve run in Australia, and this year in a race in Vietnam and the Marathon des Sables. Those were both in the last two months so I am a little tired! I don’t know why I try such hard things, but now I no longer work and my children are grown up I still need to be active. I’m not a person to sit still.
“My son, Ettore, who is 19, came with me to Vietnam and he is also a volunteer here and enjoying all the new experiences. It is strange. I was very successful in business but I think my children feel I am more successful now – as a runner. Ettore has said he felt I came back to him as a mother when I changed my lifestyle.”
The change was soon followed by a cancer diagnosis and her doctors had wanted to carry out major and risky surgery, but she refused and asked if they could wait to see how she progressed with regular exercise. She also changed her diet to vegetarian.
“I was finding running on trails made my mind clearer and I was happier. I felt the trails gave me energy, that nature gives you energy and somehow my cancer has now gone, I am clear.”
So far at this race she has been the quickest female and she said, “I feel at home here – I do have some distant Scottish ancestry, but it is more that I feel comfortable in the landscape. It is so much more than I expected, it’s breathtaking, and although the hills are not really very high they seem bigger and more imposing.
“We are well looked after, the camp sites are incredible and the map is great, although for me navigation is new – I’ve always done marked trail races before. But I like the challenge and the way the race puts the responsibility on us to look after ourselves and make our own decisions. In so many races runners expect everything to be done for them and it takes some of the magic away.”
It’s been an incredible experience so far and I don’t know really if I can do another 4 days. I will try and just hope to finish. Where I come in the rank doesn’t matter, being here is what matters.”
Words by Rob Howard @ Sleepmonsters