Saturday, April 6, 2013

Everyone a winner in this marathon

Sunday, January 20, 2002
One of the nice features of the Bertram Russell Language School in Padova was the after-hours activities, and one of the most memorable was a Sunday half-marathon near Montefortiana and Soave. We had to be at the school at 6:30 a.m. We weren’t told where we were going or why—just that we would be gone all day, to wear comfortable shoes and clothes and to dress warmly but in layers. Suzye didn’t make it out of bed, but Lucy and Lindsey and I were ready to go. For us and all but a handful of people, it was just a hike in the hills—though we all registered and were given numbers to put on our shirts as if we were really racing. We also got fed after signing up: fruit, cake, cookies, bread and boiled eggs, along with wine and tea. A little farther along, we stopped for sausage and more wine and tea. I never knew marathons could be so rewarding!

Some people pause for needed refreshments to help them continue on our "torturous" marathon.
Once out of the city, we hiked the dirt trail in small groups through gorgeous undulating hills covered with grape vines and olive trees. Our escorts from the school spoke Italian with us as we walked. At a certain point, the trail branched in two directions. To the right was the 9-kilometer course, the left trail took a 14-kilomoter route. We chose the lesser—we being me, Lucy and the rest of the language classes. Lindsey had gone on ahead, but we thought she would choose the shorter route. But Lindsey had what I can only describe as a Lindsey moment and didn’t even notice the trail had divided. Thus she took the long route and we didn’t see her again until the end.

More prizes awaited us after the marathon: tortellini and a box with wine, oil, juice and a beach towel. I had an embarrassing moment when the language school group went off to buy gelato while I stood watching everyone’s boxes. A group of smiling Italian men passed by and made some comments about how many prizes I had won. I smiled back, not knowing exactly what they said but getting the general concept. Then one man picked up a couple of the boxes and started walking away, looking over his shoulder and smiling at me. I knew this was the place when I was supposed to say something clever, like . . . well, I couldn’t even think of something clever to say in English, let alone Italian, so I just stood there like an idiot, grinning foolishly. He kept getting farther away, waiting for me to say something, but my brain utterly failed me. All I could think of is how I would explain to the other language students why two boxes were missing. Fortunately, the man returned with the boxes, probably feeling bad for trying to steal from a feeble-minded deaf-mute man.

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