I spent the night at a small family hotel up on the hills behind Stratford-on-Avon (England). Before bed I was warmly invited by the owners to have an after-dinner drink by the fire. I had a cup of chamomile tea, and a conversation ranging from the weather to the persecution of the Huguenots in the XVI century. We steered clear of rugby and soccer, which are far more controversial subjects nowadays. There is something very charming, understated and very English about the hotel and its owners. I could say the same for just about everything in this famous town, including the theater where I watched "Twelfth Night" and the cozy restaurant by the river where I had dinner.
I'm jogging my way down to the city center on a grey and drizzly English dawn, slightly aware of a feeling of... anticipation. I know what I'm hoping to find while running on Shakespeare's path: a few Muses, no less, and inspiration to write a small poem, a very simple and beautiful poem. Not one that will bring me fame and glory. Just pride in what I wrote will be enough...
I pick up my pace a bit and try to remove the thought that this is a famous meeting place for the Muses and that I'm hoping to catch a glimpse of them. If I let my expectations climb too high I'll be let down. Good feelings come unsought and uninvited. Look for them and they flee.
I'm still warming up. My movements are clumsy, my breathing pattern irregular, my muscles tight. Depending on the days, it takes me fifteen to twenty minutes to loosen up and half an hour to really enjoy it. That I ever developed the healthy habit of running never ceases to amaze me, considering that every workout, during my first six months of running, was a clumsy warmup! I always laugh sympathetically when people tell me they could never run because it leaves them breathless and sore and besides it bores them to tears. They're absolutely right: they just never reached the turning point where breathlessness and soreness and boredom disappear and their souls no longer feel forced within a clumsy body they didn't choose.
Clio, the Muse of history, is always with me, inspiring me to explore all all the historical places where I run. In Stratford it's a very easy task because it's such a small town and everything is within reach, except for Mary Arden's House, which is a few miles out of town. I will see that some other time. Right now I'm standing in front of Shakespeare's birthplace. I won't be able to actually go inside, because my business day starts too early and after today I will be gone. That's a life pattern for the runner traveling on business: get a taste of the outside and leave with a craving for depth...
Now I'm running by the Avon, in the middle of the city but so far away from the world. It's a quality workout, segmented by minutes since the miles are not measured. My timer tells me when it's time to go a little faster or a little slower. That's all. "Fast" means no thinking. Just coordination between arms and legs and breathing. My only preoccupation is to skirt the ducks. "Slow" means the mind comes into play. Some faraway corner of it plays back the first two stanzas of a sonnet I memorized for English class when my English was not even up to conversational level:
"No longer mourn for me when I am dead Than you shall hear the surly sullen bell Give warning to the world that I am fled From this vile world, with vilest worms to dwell:
Nay, if you read this line, remember not The hand that writ it; for I love you so, That I in your sweet thoughts would be forgot, If thinking on me then should make you woe..."
That was my first encounter with Shakespeare, and now I'm running by his river, in pursuit of happiness, body and soul. Now I could meet Erato, the Muse of love poetry, and maybe she wouldn't turn away. But it's seven o'clock, and in less than an hour I'll be talking logic in a dark business suit.
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.