Steve's Journal Excerpts

07 September 2007    Florence, Italy    Piazza della Signoria

     I'm sitting at a sidewalk cafe in a piazza surrounded by marble sculptures.  If I was able to hand pick the weather I would have chosen tonight's.  The sky could not be more blue or more clear and the sun is setting as I write these words.  A clock tower looms high above the piazza and is painted gold by the setting sun's rays.  Lights around the cafes that line the piazza's perimeter are beginning to illuminate.  I just finished eating a delicious Margarita pizza and now relax with a glass full of local red wine.   Every table is taken with a line of people waiting for the next one to clear.  I asked the waiter for my check and he said with an Italian accent, "No rush- Enjoy your wine- Check later."  I obeyed.  A perfect attitude for a perfect setting.  I love Italy.

Saturday 16 June 2007    Durban, South Africa

The Comrades Marathon

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” – Helen Keller

     Friday was Comrades tour day.  At 8 am first time runners, which included me, were driven in three large coach buses from Durban to Pietermaritzburg.  There we were welcomed into the Comrades home, a pretty little refurbished house that had been turned into a museum.  Inside we were served tea, orange juice, cake, and pastries.  The rooms were filled with photos and memorabilia dating back to the original race in the 1920’s.

     Vic Clapham started this race after returning from World War I.  He ran the fifty-six mile course with the surviving members of his military unit in remembrance of their fallen comrades, hence the race's name.  It's old Vic's fault that I am here today and he will be the guy I’m cursing when I'm in pain with 20 miles to go.

     My visit to the Comrades house told me I was a part of something special.  The race organizer's go above and beyond in hosting this tour every year proving this is a first class event.  Even more special, however, was the love every past finisher seemed to have for this race and the enormous pride they had for being a part of the race's history.  I hoped I was worthy enough for this race's tradition.  I wanted to be a proud Comrades finisher as well in a couple of days.     

     The return trip to Durban was a tour of the race course.  The route was a little bit intimidating and it may have been better had I not seen it.  The courses five famous hills are big to say the least.  One would be no problem, even fun, but five?  I don’t know what to expect from my body.  During the course tour I sat next to another American from San Francisco.  He had the same worried feelings I had.  I tried to push positive thoughts through my mind.  I imagined the excitement of each challenging hill one by one rather than all together.  The motto of the Comrades is “It will define you.”  I wondered, “How will I be defined?” 

03 April 2006    Krakow, Poland

     I have traveled to more than thirty countries and Krakow has become my favorite city in the world. That is a huge statement and I have not made it without serious thought. Krakow is extraordinary because it has never lost its old world charm. There are no reminders of the west and a “new” town of Krakow does not exist. From castles to cafes there is something for everyone. Beautiful and friendly, Krakow is a gem.