Finally, I enter Central Park. I’ve been running for 5 hours and now I’m starting to feel tiredness and fatigue. Then, I saw them! Right on the curve, I caught a glimpse of my supporters, and nothing else matters anymore. I just wanted to stop, hug my family and relax a little bit, but this can’t happen right now. I made myself a promise and I had to honor it. My body had betrayed me and now was the chance to take my personal revenge. Just one year ago, on a normal day in late October 2007, I discovered my cancer.
It was a thunderbolt that suddenly hit me and my family. I still remember the scared faces of my children Pietro & Corrado. No one ever expected it to happen to me. I always loved any kind of sport, but my body decided to betray me, the same body that since I was a child gave me great satisfaction playing soccer, skiing, running, diving, or climbing, nothing could stop me.
The news shocked and scared me but I and my family were about to leave for our first trip to the USA, the trip that my wife Silvia always dreamt of. On November 22nd, 2007 I had the surgery, then I had to start the chemotherapy. We decided to fly to the States anyway. And so it was, on December 30th, 2007 we flew from Pisa to San Francisco. The trip lasted 15 days, during which I had the chance to live some memorable moments. It almost seemed that all the bad news of the last few months had been wiped out by magic, but we knew in our hearts that the path to my full recovery was still long.
We visited San Francisco, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and New York. While in New York I was on the subway and a man approached me (he realized that I was Italian) and started to tell me about his Italian origins and about the NYC Marathon, what it means for runners and NYC citizens. Just when I was starting to ask for more information about the Marathon, the subway stopped, it was time to get off. I had a lot of questions to ask but also a new idea was emerging in my mind. In the next few days, while wandering in Central Park, I started to convince myself of one thing:
I WILL RUN THE NYC MARATHON!
We flew back to Italy with a lot of beautiful memories, with the fear of what would happen once home but with a new promise, to be back in November 2008 to run the most beautiful and evocative Marathon in the world, the one that takes place in NYC.
Back home I immediately started my training, also carrying on my personal fight against the disease that had hit me. When I had the chemo it was hard to train well, but I was trying my best anyway. My spirit and mood were often not the best but luckily, I have a fantastic wife who was still keeping our livelihood going and at the same time explaining to our boys what was happening. Thanks to her, Pietro and Corrado were always able to make me smile, even during my worst moments. Finally, in April I finished my chemotherapy and I started to concentrate all my strength in the hard training for the marathon and on my job.
Luigi’s Team…and that’s just the beginning
July 2008. A dear friend of ours from Holland arrived in our Agriturismo. She had already run several marathons, so I decided to tell her my story. She was touched and so decided to help me with my training.So, during her stay, I got up every morning at 6 o’clock and ran with her. She left me, before going back home, with a personalized training program that will accompany me until the day of the marathon and the promise to have weekly updates.
Here we are! November 2nd, 2008 the moment I had been waiting and craving for so long has arrived. I’m on the Verrazzano Bridge, Manhattan skyline is so beautiful at 6:00 o’clock in the morning, but I’m not here to admire it or take pictures, I’m here to redeem myself.
The race finally starts.I just think about all the efforts that I and my family did. Step by step, supported by the crowd’s energy, I run that 27 miles that separate me from the finish line. Obviously, in some moments I thought of giving up and stopping, but my motivations have always managed to make me take those ten extra steps to not give up. I stayed in contact with my supporters all the time, using my mobile phone or GPS.
When I speak about supporters I mean my family. My wife Silvia, my children Pietro & Corrado, and my sister Cecilia with her family. The people that during that difficult year helped and supported me.
Finally Central Park. My supporters were on the curve cheering me up, I stop for a few seconds so that they can take some pictures and then I start to run again. Now I am much more relieved, I finally saw them again. I don’t even feel the fatigue anymore, I’m not stopping, not now.
And it was! Finally, I had the chance to shout out loud “ I’M A FINISHER “! Pass the long-dreamed finish line, the one that has tormented me in the last five hours and that I have so desired. As soon as I exit I meet my whole family and we hug each other tightly. I see happiness and pride in the eyes of Pietro and Corrado.
In the following days, I thought a thousand times over those seconds in which I crossed the finish line; I had crossed it a thousand times in the previous days, imagining how it could be. Even today I cannot describe the joy and satisfaction of having lived it.
My body had betrayed me,
but I had won,
I had redeemed myself.
I was myself again.