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Panama: The new adventure of the Italian marathon runners

Salvatore e MassimoLanding on the other side of the world, 13 hours and one layover later,  with a marathon coming up in a place whose history is beyond our understanding:  Panama.

After the New York and the Istanbul marathon, Salvatore Gorgone and Massimo Ciocchetti went to face much more heat and humidity than they’re used to in Europe, thanks to the sponsor of Italian company Pedrini SPA of Carobbio degli Angeli (Bergamo), that produces machines to cut and treat marble and granite. Departure from Amsterdam. You start feeling the ferocious heat of that exotic place when you’re still flying. If you’re lucky enough to meet another Italian on the plane, who in Panama has a beautiful top-floor condo with a pool and view on the city, 13 hours can literally fly by. The exotic fervor increases when landing you are surprised by a little band playing music in the small Panama airport.

20151129_175429The streaks of light in the sunset sky introduce the two men to the city. It is Salvatore’s 100th marathon, while Massimo will celebrate his 100th in Pisa on December 20th.  They walk around, checking out fish restaurants and bars. Panama City somehow resembles Manhattan, high skyscrapers overlooking the ocean. Unfortunately you can’t swim on this side of the coast because of the tides.

Christopher Columbus was the first one to set foot in Panama in 1502, while looking for a way connecting the Atlantic Ocean with the Pacific, thinking it was still the Indian Ocean. So as Columbus’s ego still despairs for mistaking the indigenous tribes for Indians, Massimo and Salvatore head on into their night in Panama, a hot place populated mainly by Jamaicans, Europeans, American and Asians. The night ends fast and the alarm rings at 5 am: there is no sleeping in on the day of the marathon.  A 42-km run and the fear is gone.  The first leg of the marathon is a road connecting old town with the new part of the city, along the ocean and a beautiful landscape. The second half goes through downtown and the many skyscrapers. A quick way to visit the sights! Though traffic is not restricted there are no problems and the organization is spot on.

20151128_153546Not an easy experience for Salvatore and Massimo, given the weather conditions that make the race much more fatiguing and stressful: there are rest stop areas every 2 kilometers, for water and energy drinks. In regular marathons rest stop areas are every 5 km. Panama may have been the most difficult marathon for them because of the weather, but such is the price to pay for the opportunity to visit the city in a totally unusual way. The finish line, at last! Quite an experience, the balloons, the warm, unique Caribbean music, making all the pain worth it.

FB_IMG_1449430606041While leaving the day after the race, Massimo and Salvatore still got to visit the city and all its landmarks, including the famous Panama Canal, 81,1 km in length, connecting the Atlantic Ocean with the Pacific.  Massimo and Salvatore watched the ships go by, two each way, and the perfectly synchronized opening and closing of the bulkheads regulating the water level. The sight of the ships going down in the afternoon coming from the Pacific and going up with the water in the morning coming from the Atlantic.

IMG-20151129-WA0069This impressive construction was first proposed in 1879 by the International Congress in Paris. Later on Ferdinand de Lesseps, architect of the famous Suez Canal, founded a company to raise funds and start the construction, but the project failed for technical and finance reasons. This failure was followed by another one of Gustave Eiffel, constructor of the famous tower. The canal was finally completed in the early 1900’s. What better way to conclude the experience in that far, exotic place than in the Panama Canal. The next day a flight takes them back to Milan, back to their life, waiting for a new Sunday to run across new cultures, places and lives around the world.

di Gabriele Scarfone

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