THE ITALIAN GRAND TOUR
North to South of Italy
100 Days, 100 Marathons
What started off as a jolly to see Italy and bank some training miles got harder with every day, every step and with every set back, not to mention the hailstorms, the van being broken into repeatedly, the tiny factor of the pandemic, oh and of course the occasional car driving into me.
Our mission was to run north to south of Italy zigzagging the countries best bits. From the very north to the absolute south. We gave ourselves 100 days. Nikki, Poppy and I would live every day in the van. My girls (Nikki, my better half and Poppy our 1 year old Vizsla puppy) would act as my ‘on the road support’. In principle it was nice and simple – get to the most northerly point of Italy, hop out of the van (which is also our permanent home even when we’re not on a challenge), and run a marathon in a general southerly direction meeting the van (which we named Christopher after my brother who built it for us), 26.2 miles later I’d hop back in, have some food, sleep, and then hop out the next day, run south for another 26.2 miles and so on and so on. I’d repeat that every day for 100 days culminating with my final day reaching the southernmost point of Italy on Christmas Eve. That was the plan anyway. Once we’d finished we’d then turn around and drive back north to spend some time in the French Alps before beginning planning for the next adventure early in January.
Needless to say, we did just that, and we did indeed complete our challenge. Nikki drove every mile from north to south, weaving through the unruly Italian madmen drivers. Meanwhile I completed just over 2620 miles from north to south of Italy entirely on foot, never travelling south in the van whilst it was moving. We even managed to reach the southerly tip of Sicily too, which was a bonus. There were however setbacks and countless hurdles to overcome.
Having now finished I can proudly say I’m rather chuffed with our efforts – it made us stronger, and I learnt a lot about running and endurance which I thought I already knew. For a couple with a young but massive puppy, living in a converted van (even if it is luxurious), while I ran for 4 hours a day without the chance of a day off, all during a pandemic (safely and legally but not without its restrictions), I think we did pretty well. It was however occasionally very tough to manage the juggling act between being a partner, a puppy parent and sorting my head space out to keep getting up every day to run when frequently I didn’t have the energy to do so.
Nikki also faced her own battles – living together in a small space, while I became more and more tired and therefore unreasonable and demanding, did take its toll – but we got there in the end – and we both have fond memories with just a little smattering of stress and frustration thrown in for good measure. The views were beautiful, and we can say with no hesitation we saw Italy. Not just a bit, and not just the touristy bits, and actually in a fuller way than if you lived there. We covered the whole lot.
Our expectations were like many trips, adventures or challenges. We knew the stuff that could potentially get in our way or cause us physical or mental discomfort, and of course we glossed over the ‘maybe bad bits’, and focused on the views we’d be seeing or the sweeping drone shots we get with us standing on the roof on a mountain side somewhere. It’s very easy to forget the faff or the time that goes into even finding a nice, safe and view friendly spot to park, let alone setting up a little fold out table, and doing the obligatory tidying and sorting before we could rest for the eventual much shorter evening.
On the whole though our expectations of the Dolomites, the beautiful lakes, and the landscape of the mountainous of northern Italy were pretty close to what we’d hoped, and in many places even better. Prasger Wildsee lake, and the various stunning night stops in the Dolomites region along with the Stelvio pass and wine region days were glorious and with great weather most of the time.