Sport has fascinated me since I was a child. I practiced every type of sport and ended by focusing my strengths and devotion on one discipline: running, where I found my ideal dimension of freedom and where my instinct for motion is fully unveiled. With time, my desire to run has increasingly become a true passion. I began widening my goals and took part in smaller competitions, then half marathons. At the time, I lived in Rome, where I moved from far-off Finland. Although running had become my greatest passion, it took years before I expanded my horizons. In my vision, a marathon was the queen of competitions and I never imagined that my great love would have taken me so far away.
I had to wait until 2000 to cross the finish line for the first time in Helsinki, where I was born. It was one of the most incredible experiences in my life. Then I moved to Elba. In the beginning, I used to run along the main roads, where I encountered quite a few difficulties, though, because of the steep roads, the many turns and passing vehicles. So, motivated by my desire to find my natural dimension here, too, I began practicing trail running amidst the wild nature of the island. The routes were even steeper but the scenario surrounding me was an immense reward. When you run plunged into nature, the world around you seems on the move as well; everything seems to grow before your eyes, even rocks. You cannot look at a blade of grass or the ground you are treading on without deeply perceiving its life, or the flowers, the trees, and every other living element. The same applies to a mountain, or to a coastline, or an old piece of wood carried by the sea currents. I literally fell in love with this land, and immediately appreciated its flourishing nature, so wild, tender and variegated, where in a moment from the top of a mountain you are swept away into the profoundness and immensity of the sea. Trail running makes you feel free. Later, I even involved my two dogs, they play an important role in my life and I taught them to run with me when they were just puppies. Elba and its trails have no secrets from my “little gang”. We often run in the area of Mount Perone and Mount Capanne. Reaching a peak means to experience a complete symbiosis with nature; enjoying breathtaking views from a hilltop. To quote Charles Darwin, the atmosphere is “resplendently clear; the sky an intense blue; the profound valleys; the wild broken forms; the heaps of ruins, piled up during the lapse of ages; the bright-colors rocks, contrasted with the quiet mountain”. I often look for new routes. There are many well signposted trails on the Island, but even when signposts are lacking, the possibility of getting lost is truly minimal. There are trails for every type of runner: easy with gentle uphill routes for beginners, and technical and challenging trails for experts. Unlike paved roads, when you run on soft surfaces, like countryside trails, lawns or sand, impact with the ground is remarkably reduced. So, stress to your ankles, knees, hips and back is largely absorbed by the ground, protecting your joints. The areas rich with vegetation are less polluted and favor the oxygenation of tissues; shade can be a good shelter on hot summer days or windy winter days, allowing you to run quite easily in any time of the year. The sensation of absolute freedom and wellbeing spreads through you, transforming each run into an experience able to let you forget the stress of daily life.
Running all year round, you come to feel a sort of magic: when you train you are aware of the signals announcing the changing seasons. They are the little messages that nature sends us that, otherwise, we would not grasp in all of their nuances. It’s marvelous to run early in the morning and see the sun rise, every day a bit later. Or to run at dusk and feel that it does not get dark as early as the week before; breathing in the perfume of rosemary blended with salty sea air on the coastlines, or the scent of Mediterranean chaparral mixed with Scotch broom, and lilting colorful butterflies. It did not take long before caressing the dream of ultramarathons. So, I took part in Elbatrail, an annual island rendezvous that changes itinerary and altimetry every year and that, at each edition, attracts an increasingly higher number of enthusiasts.
Elba is my favorite open air gym.
Minna Kaarni was born in Helsinki, Finland. She graduated in Humanities and Foreign Languages from the University La Sapienza in Rome. She is an instructor of step, aerobics, functional training, water gym, urban rebounding, TRX, Pilates and stretching.