Racing heartbeat, sore muscles, dripping sweat, heavy eyelids, the feeling of being on the edge of your capacities. All these are parts of the daily routine of professional athletes. But what happens when running becomes your way of living? The Italian Eye has the honour to introduce you to a spectacular man who has never been among the professionals, and yet his impressive achievements in the running world, together with his strong will, are a true inspiration: William Gargiullo.
Gargiullo, 61, comes from Switzerland, and between the years 1977 and 2015 has paved his running track for over 114000 kilometres. Moreover, 6850 km were spent in competitions and marathons in different countries all over the world. Morocco, China, North and South Poles, Australia, USA, Finland, Denmark, Turkey — you name it, he has run there.
Hello Mr Gargiullo. Thank you for finding time to share with the readers of The Italian Eye Magazine your running experiences and the incredible places you have traveled to in order to participate in numerous races. First of all, would you like to tell us how you started running and what are the most extreme locations that you’ve ran at?
I’ve always loved sports. Hockey was always my passion, but at the age of 24 I started being attracted to running, especially long distances. My first competition was the 100 kilometres (62 miles) of Bienne, in Switzerland. That was in 1978!
Concerning your question of the most extreme areas, I will cite the North Pole, South Pole, the Great Wall of China, Melbourne in Australia and we should not forget the Everest marathon (5400 meters of altitude). In 2017, I’ve already planned a marathon on the frozen Barkai Lake in Siberia (Russia) and the highest arid marathon in the world in the desert of Atacama in Chile.
Does running allow you to see a city or a location from a different angle? Please, tell us about a few of your favorite trips.
This is not easy to identify. Every international race has its own appeal. Of course, the highest marathon at 5400 meters of altitude in the Everest was an extraordinary experience, notably because of the Sherpas [Note: Sherpas are members of an ethnic group from the most mountainous region of Nepal, high in the Himalayas], who are amazing people. I also remember this race in stages on the Great Wall of China. This race made it possible for me to discover the culture and history of the place.
Apart from the hard physical training, what are the other challenges that you have to face and how do you overcome them?
In the endurance races, meaning the competitions between 42 km and 100 km, the physical aspect isn’t the only element of success. Mental strength is vital. I underline it all the time, the relation between the body and the brain, which is my control tower; the thoughts and mind are the main mental components.
Do you believe that running is more than just a physical exercise? If so, then how did it benefit your life?
Yes, without a doubt. The physical aspect of running is only the tip of the iceberg. The most important thing is that these races forge the muscle that we all have: the will. Thanks to this, I can overcome various challenges in my professional life as well as my personal life. During a race that can last hours, I have time to think about numerous existential questions.
Do you think that running can be used as an activity for bonding with friends and family or to travel to new destinations?
In my case, it is clear that running made it possible for me to see various unusual places, free of tourists. However, the eventual social links with other runners are just ephemeral. Each one of us follows our own sports path.
What advice would you give to those who consider to include running routine into their lifestyle?
I am not able to generalise my advice. However, sports can only be beneficial for our body and mind. The only important thing is to listen to our body and dose our efforts.
Was there a moment in your running career when you felt the proudest and realised that the efforts were worth it?
I can’t not talk about how proud I am when I finish a competition with a good ranking. I notably think about my seventh place at the North Pole marathon, and my fifth place at the race by stages on the Great Wall of China; and of course my second place at the South Pole 100 km race in 2016.
How does it feel to be a role model?
Please allow me to underline that I am in no way a role model. I run because it is my passion and I am an amateur. If my example can give ideas to people and they start running thanks to me, that’s good. The important thing is to have an ideal and to never give up.
Thank you once again for making this interview possible. We wish you good luck in all your future achievements.
To follow the inspiring path of William Gargiullo, you can check out his blog (operationmarathonsplanetaires.wordpress.com) held by his daughter Melissa, also passionate about running like her father.