I woke up a few minutes after five. It's still dark, but a half moon draws a bright highway on the sea and withdraws, in perspective, as a vanishing point. Long waves, this morning, "old" sea, we say around here. The southerly wind that had caused the high waves is yielding to Mistral, the admiral wind of Provence.
I cross the French border. There's no need to show your passport anymore. The border police isn't even around, lately. Just campers, in the no-man's-land between Italy and France. I start running slowly, with the sea and the moon by my left. Behind me, behind the Red Cliffs, it is starting to dawn, but I'm on a westward course so I run into the night. The waves break on the rocks just a few feet away. After each wave I'm hit first by the sound, then by a light gust of sea wind, which I breathe in with my nose and mouth, and finally by the spray. I know every rock, I know where I'll likely get wet and I try, like a child, not to miss a single wave. It's just before dawn, it's rather cold, I'm just warming up and I'm soaked.
This area of Menton (France) is known as "Garavan". The old village, Menton proper, clings to a cliff like all ancient villages in Liguria and Provence. The homes are white and yellow and pale blue and pink, often with green shutters and intercommunicating roofs. They're packed very closely, as a fortress against the Saracens. The church tower is the mainmast, hinge and center of gravity. The whole village could pivot around it or, let's say, come about, and only a few careful observers would notice.
Fourteen minutes into my run I pass by the old port and feel I've reached my cruising speed. My monitor says 160, a level of effort I could keep until tomorrow morning if I were trained for 24-hour races. I fly past the fish market, beyond the round terrace, beyond the Casino.
What a strange old lady, walking her dog at the break of dawn in a formal dress from God knows how many decades ago. She's dressed in red, with a great white shawl that matches her shoes. Her hair is dyed blond and, from afar, she could look like a teen-ager except for her uncertain gait. I picture a cynical article on tomorrow's local newspaper: "From Sunset Boulevard to suicide at dawn. M.me L'Aiglette, age undisclosed but none too green, after losing in one night at the Menton Casino what little was left of a once considerable wealth, after removing her silk clothing and folding it neatly on the beach, took the final plunge of her life by the rocks of Cape Martin. So subtle was her sense of humor that if anyone had asked her to explain her deed she probably would have said that silk and water don't mix". Oh God, what if she's really doing it? No, I decide. She wouldn't have brought the dog. As long as there's a dog there is life.
You can cut through Cape Martin by running on the main road, as I do when it's too dark, or you can run all around it by way of a dirt path called "Le Corbusier". There's enough light now so I choose the scenic path. I'm heading South, now, toward the moon and the open sea. The last time I ran here at dawn, four months ago, I saw Corsica. I could see the tip of Corsica's "finger", and the mountains behind it. We see it rarely, maybe once or twice a year, never for more than an hour, either at dawn or at sunset. Anyway, Napoleon's birthplace is nowhere in sight right now and this is a false note in an otherwise impeccable morning symphony.
I reach the tip of the cape. I've been running for thirty-six minutes: time to speed up. Around the bend, quite suddenly, I see Montecarlo, all lit up. I see the ancient villas and the skyscrapers built by the Italians in the sixties and seventies. Grace Kelly's royal palace, the little port. Beaulieu can't be seen because it's hidden behind Monaco but I can see Saint Jean and Cape Ferrat, with the lighthouse still beaming away.
This is the fun part. An interminable set of stairways, up and down the rocky cape. I speed up, I reach 175 bpm, I sprint uphill but inevitably relax on the downward portions. My path is full of natural obstacles like surfacing roots, stones, tree trunks that didn't fight too hard against the force of gravity. but here comes one of my favorite spots in the world: I'm below the castle of Roquebrune, on a concrete gangway that's barely wide enough for one person and about fifty yards long. The waves splash on the reddish gray rocks forty feet below and raise great clouds of spray all the way to the sky. The sea is white with foam as far out as three hundred feet. It wouldn't be easy to swim back to shore today.
One more look at the horizon. I think of Antoine de Saint Exupery, the author of "the Little Prince". His airplane was shot down by the Germans here in front, or maybe just a little west of here. The sea returned his watch just a couple of years ago, after almost sixty years.
Now I'm behind a small promontory that marks the beginning of the tiny State of Monaco. Ten kilometers into my run. It's my turn-back point today. I'm going to jog for two minutes and then run hard for another twenty minutes or so. I see a magnificent boat out there, heading for Spain. It has three masts and a bowsprit, but only the foremast is fully dressed. How I would like to sail away. Maybe I could climb that bowsprit unseen and ride away bareback...
I'm running back as fast as I can but I can no longer keep my heart beyond 170. My legs are still beat from the half marathon I raced nine days ago? I go around the tip of the Cape again. Good-bye solitude, I'm back among my fellow human beings who, in the meantime, woke up and took possession of places that just an hour ago were mine. The air now smells like baguettes, pan bagnat, pain au chocolat. I meet the first "normal" runners, the ones who don't leave home at 5:30 am on a holiday.
Last two kilometers before the Italian border. I plan to run 100 meters hard, followed by 100 meters easy, ten times. I end up doing only six fast ones, with longer recoveries in between. It's seven twenty in the morning. People are having their coffee, but I've already had my own. People and things, as Saint Exupery would say, are as important as the time we devote to them. I've been important enough for today. It's somebody else's turn.
Giorgio Pogliano’s morning coffee doesn’t come in a cup, but he can still find it everywhere. Running each morning is his daily “coffee” – it gives him the surge of energy, something good to reflect upon during the day, and a reason to look forward to tomorrow. Just like the different types of coffee found around the world, Giorgio finds different surroundings as he runs.