They always say “three’s the charm” and that’s how I felt this year at the Running Festival. For those new to Up & Running, I organise a women’s race in Bologna, Italy. Yep, it actually has my name on it!
The first two years were difficult, mostly because we were a new event and everybody was watching to see what would happen. I used to get super nervous in the lead up, but this year I had a mental shift. I decided I couldn’t worry about how many women turned up, I could only focus on making sure that whoever came had an awesome time, no matter what. I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to apply this to the rest of my life!
Last year Kathrine Switzer emailed both myself and Edith Zuschmann and wrote, “You two have to meet”. Kathrine is a very wise woman and a mentor to us both, so we did. Edith is the director and coach of Club 261 and organizes a women’s race in Klagenfurt, Austria in August.
We clicked right away. I love when that happens! Edith wanted an idea for her girls to come to Running Festival and mingle with the other runners rather than run and leave. She came up with what we called “Cross Culture Exchange”. Each person brought a gift with a value of no more than €3/$4 and names were drawn from opposite groups so you’d meet a runner from another country and exchange your gift.
It turned out really well! The Austrian group all brought what was dubbed “Atomic Mushrooms”, sweet mini breads with swirls of cinnamon and brown sugar throughout. Very yummy, but I’m sure you’d have to do our 10K course a few times over to burn one of those babies off.
This year we added a Kids Festival on Saturday afternoon. The city of Bologna had closed Via Indipendenza, the main drag, to traffic for the weekend. What better place to have a children’s race! Children were divided according to age and the younger they were, the closer they started to the finish line. About 200 kids raced = success.
On Saturday night I organised an evening called “Inspiration”. I wanted women to be inspired by other runners and three excellent athletes agreed to attend. Ivana Di Martino had just run a half marathon every day for twenty-one consecutive days. Luisa Balsamo is an ultramarathoner who has run the Marathon des Sables seven times and placed in the top three each time. Valeria Straneo holds the women’s Italian marathon record and placed seventh at the London 2012 Olympics. It was a great evening and yes, they did inspire!
This year the city of Bologna gifted us a start from Piazza Maggiore. We changed all three race routes and everyone seemed to love them. I ran the 6km so that I could be back at the finish area sooner, but still enjoy and be part of the race.
It was no surprise that Valeria won the Half Half Marathon race. I want to mention that she’d called me a few weeks before the race and asked me if she could come and run. After the race she had people standing in line to take photos with her and she stayed until the very last picture was taken. Such a lovely, giving person and a gifted athlete.
I’m brimming with new ideas and projects for JJRF 2014. Can I talk you into coming to Italy to run it?