Piergiorgio Scaramelli is one of those runners who other runners usually want to be. He was born in Chiusi, Italy, near Siena, but is currently living on the Boa Vista Island in Cape Verde. Cape Verde is found on the west coast of Africa, right in front of Senegal.
He is forty-eight years old and a few years ago, after participating again at the famous and tough "Marathon des Sables" in Marocco, he fell in love with the desert. He then dropped everything in Italy and moved to Cape Verde to open up an ice cream parlor on an island that is practically covered with desert.
Piergiorgio has been running since 1977. In Italy he was a member of the Polisportiva Castagnara Massa running club, but he is now the president of his own running club, the Boa Vista Marathon Club. The Boa Vista club has ten members, local and foreign, and Piergiorgio says that running in Boa Vista is not as accepted as it is in Italy.
Running is still considered something strange, even if Piergiorgio was able to promote running among the people living on the island. Running all together, different people, different backgrounds but "as one family" in Cape Verde has its roots in the local culture. The people of Cape Verde have a sense of shared unity, in fact, it is not uncommon to find other families taking care of kids that do not belong to their own blood-related relatives.
Cape Verde means "Green Cape", because the island was once completely full of forests. Then, just like the movie "Rapa Nui", a factory owned by a Portuguese family used up all the trees on the island and left it as a desert, which is how it is found today. On an island so far away and exotic like Cape Verde, life goes slow and running is seen as a different mentality. But the natives of Cape Verde are open to any new culture. Cape Verde was once on the way to circumnavigate Africa and it was the harbor for many vessels of different nationalities. This probably accounts for why today on Cape Verde there are many foreign residents.
Running in Boa Vista is difficult. The temperature, to begin with, is always hot, except for when the wind coming from Africa brings some refreshment (and more sand from the Sahara desert). More than this, running is hard because in Boa Vista there are no shoe retailers or running apparel stores. The island actually has almost no stores at all. Everything is ordered by phone in Praia, the capital on the main island of Cape Verde, and then shipped. The boat stops in Boa Vista on Wednesdays. Just on Wednesdays. "But running" continues Piergiorgio "needs nothing else than a pair of shoes, sometimes not even those, and just a lot of passion. It is the environment, the nature surrounding you, the beauty of the desert and the island of Boa Vista that give you all you need in order to run a great run every time. And if then you find yourself running with a lot of friends all from different nations, and with local kids that want to share the company of this group of weirdos, then you feel like you are in heaven".
Piergiorgio runs almost every day, usually 12 to 15 kilometers on desert ground, which includes dunes and soft sand. On the weekends he runs 30 to 35 kilometers. When he is finished with a run he jumps into the Ocean, completely dressed, and then rests on the beach before he opens up the ice cream parlor for business. While he lived in Italy he ran an average of 10,000 kilometers every year.
He usually runs with other people and they use the same running course, except on weekends. Before he runs Piergiorgio usually eats bread and honey, though eating spaghetti before a run is popular in his homeland, Italy.
Runners in Boa Vista train in all types of weather conditions. Piergiorgio's favorite weather to run in is the hot desert weather. He dresses appropriately by wearing training shoes (he owns three pair), shorts, a T-shirt and a bandana. For running long distances in the desert (ultra marathons) he usually carries an extra pair of shoes in a bigger size, due to the fact that one's feet tend to swell. When he ran in Mauritania, an over two hundred miles non-stop race in the desert, he and his running friend had to cut open the tops of their running shoes in order to keep going, because they were so tight.
Because of the hot desert Piergiorgio runs with a water bottle, and says that he does not listen to music but rather listens to "just the song of the desert". The "song of the desert" is made of little sounds but mostly of open silence. The same silence you can find in Boa Vista, when Piergiorgio runs from the town where he lives. "Two things are breathtaking when running in the desert" says Piergiorgio "the silence and the night full of stars". And he knows what he is talking about, having ran at nighttime in the desert many times during his desert-runner career.
Piergiorgio has participated and completed several times the "Marathon de Sables" (the "Sand Marathon" that is made up of stages to total over 80 miles) in the Moroccan desert. He also ran the "TransMauritienne" in the Mauritania desert (over 200 miles non-stop) and the "Lybia Desert Ultramarathon" (100 miles non-stop), officially opened for the first time to foreign visitors. Running in the desert, even during a daily run in Boa Vista, makes him feel free and this is why his nickname among his friends is "Selvaggio" (The Savage). He is even proud to look like one, he is constantly tan, wears a shark tooth around his neck, has long hair and bright eyes. But he is also one of the most social and nicest people to be found.
Piergiorgio has been invited to run the "Badwater", an American ultramarathon in the Death Valley desert in July. He will also organize in October the "Boa Vista Ultramarathon".
Run The Planet would like to thank Piergiorgio Scaramelli from Cape Verde for taking part in the Planeteer Spotlight.