“Running improves my daily life.”

Manfredi – a typical Italian at heart – has been a member of the same running club since he was 18 years old. He spent 10 years coaching young runners and recently, at the age of 40, completed a 100 km race. So you might have thought that running was his main passion, but it turns out it’s not …

What is your training routine like?

I’m a track and field runner and mainly run middle and long distances. But right now I only run for 30-60 minutes, and do some stretching and drills. In the past, when I was more serious with my workouts, my training schedule also included interval training, fartlek, uphill running and some moderate weightlifting.

Favourite training route or place?

Definitely Ridolfi Stadium (or “Asics Firenze Marathon Stadium”, as it’s now called) in my home town of Florence.

How did you get into sport and your specific routine?

I’ve always done sport, ever since I was a kid. My parents thought it would be good for my development and they were actually right. I started with swimming, but then later switched to football, like most Italian kids. At the age of 18, I gave up football and used to run around the park a couple of times a week instead. I remember one day, there was a guy training on the athletics field for some school competition. I wanted to ask him if I could join his club as I liked running too, but I was very shy at the time. Eventually, when he was just about to leave, I plucked up the courage to approach him. He simply replied “Sure, come back tomorrow at 3 pm”, so I did and I’m still running for that club today!

(c) Alessandro Parcossi

What makes you do sports?

Being active is good for my body and my mind, and it’s also a lot of fun. 

How do you motivate yourself to keep going with your training and not give up?

It’s important to set reasonable goals and to establish a flexible training plan to achieve these. When I was 20, for instance, my aim was to improve my personal best in different track distances (mostly the 800m, 1500m and 3000m steeplechase). After an injury, the goal was to get back to an acceptable level. Or one year, I set out to win a certain number of points for my team in the cross-country league. When I started working and had to cut back on my training routine, my goal was to complete a long distance race (half marathon, marathon, 50 km, 100 km…) in a specific time. Now my goal is to do 50 ‘park runs’ (non-competitive 5-km races held every Saturday morning in city parks around the world) a year. Maybe in the future I’ll set myself more ambitious targets again…

Thoughts before, during and after a training session?

Before: “I need to hurry, I’m running late.”

During: “Why am I still doing this? I’m too old.”

After: “Yes! I can’t wait for the next session.”

How does sport influence your daily life?

Sport improves my daily life, though it can sometimes be difficult to fit in a workout. Without some physical exercise, my body would definitely lack something. And my mood tends to be darker if I can’t train for a long time…

Would you say you are competitive, particularly when it comes to sport, but also in general?

Yes. When I set myself a goal, I work hard to achieve it. What I mean is that I’m only competitive when it comes to my personal limits in sports and general life. I don’t focus on being better than other people, though if that happens as a consequence – why not?

What was your most memorable moment?

It’s very difficult to select just one… Maybe when I was able to improve my personal best in the 1500m by 6 seconds after loads of failed attempts.

Why did you decide to work as a coach?

Because sport has had such a positive influence on my life, I wanted to help other people to experience the same thing. I coached young athletes aged between 10 and 16 for about ten years, but unfortunately don’t have enough time to do that any more. Being a good coach definitely requires spending a lot of time on the field and studying training methods. But I’m still an active member of my club’s committee.

Tell us about your experience in the 100 km race. How did you prepare for that?

My goal was simply to finish the race, so I didn’t devise a very ambitious workout plan. I trained only twice a week – a long steady run on the weekends at the pace I wanted to keep during the race and one session of uphill interval training. I also added some strengthening exercises in the middle of the week. My long runs started at 10 km and I gradually increased them up to 70 km three weeks before the race. I completed the race in 16 hours, which is not particularly fast – it’s not that much quicker than walking pace. But I was so pleased to cross the finishing line still running and not in any particular pain – not crying about blisters or even collapsing afterwards. A race like that might seem extreme, but in my opinion it’s ok to push your body to the limit on a special occasion. A clever athlete should be able to judge for himself when it’s the right time to stop in order to avoid injury or serious consequences for his health.

If you weren’t into sports what would you be doing instead?

I’d just like to make it clear that sport is not my main passion, though it takes up a lot of my free time. I think I would have probably found something else to put my energy into, but it’s difficult to imagine what that could have been.

In five key words, what are the best things about your training that you want to share with our readers?

Passion, dedication, well-being, satisfaction, friendship.

Your favourite motivational quote?

It’s a quote by the Italian dramatist Vittorio Alfieri: “Volli, sempre volli, fortissimamente volli”. I doubt that the English translation expresses the exact meaning of the original, but it means something like: “I wanted, I always wanted, I wanted so intensely”. Basically, it means that a strong will is the foundation for achievement.

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