We recently met up with Mary Jean Bujdos from Indiana, Pennsylvania – U.S.A. part of the Indiana Road Runners Club whilst she was here in sunny northern Italy. Mary Jean, an Italian Instructor with St. Francis University was here in Italy for the month of May, and as keen runner was tempted onto the trails…. And at the Trail del Salame, on a very hot day in the end of May, after having run a relentless, unforgiving 23km, we sat down and had a chat about trails, running and Italy.

Maria – Italy on Trail: Tell us a bit about yourself!

Mary Jean Bujdos: I am 54 years old and have 4 children. I have been teaching Italian for over 30 years.
I ran my first marathon in 1982, and in total have run 78 (July 2017) over the years. Our 2 oldest daughters have also run a few marathons…. Married for 25 years to another distance runner, my husband has run over 150.

Mary Jean Bujdos at the (very wet) 2016 Trail del Salame, Italy
Mary Jean Bujdos at the (very wet) 2016 Trail del Salame, Italy
Maria IOT: How did you come to be running at quite low-key local Italian Trail races?

Mary Jean: The Italian trail races were just destiny.

I was in Parma, Emilia Romagna – Italy with students 4 years ago and was looking for a road race. The trail race in Pellegrino Parmense, Parma “Trail Pan e Formai” was the only option in the area, and I called the race director, Claudio Barilli, who even gave me a ride to the race! We have remained great friends since then!

I rode back to Parma that day with another person who has become a great running friend, Giacomo Bacchi. It was Giacomo who told me about the Trail del Salame

Maria IOT: What’s are some of the differences between participating in a Trail race in the USA and in Italy – is there anything that you’d like to ‘take home’, and anything that you’d like to ‘bring’ to Italy… from a race organization/participation point of view?

Mary Jean: I love the abundance of food at the end of the races here, and the party atmosphere afterwards. In the US we just have cookies and drinks, and people just walk away at the end of the race. There is no gathering or celebration. I also like the competition among the clubs here. We do not keep statistics among running clubs. All competition is among individuals.

Mary Jean, and her 'running' family!
Mary Jean, and her ‘running’ family!
Maria IOT: You come from a ‘Running family’ – Can you tell us about that?

Mary Jean: My husband and I were engaged at a 20k race in West Virginia, and ran a marathon on our honeymoon in Florida. I ran my first marathon when I was 19 years old in 1982, and added 77 more to that total over the years. Our 2 oldest daughters have also run a few marathon, and our other children have run track and cross country.
Two of my four brothers began running distance after I did. I like to think that I influenced them!

Maria IOT:  What do you enjoy most about your trips to Italy?

Mary Jean: What I enjoy most about my trips to Italy is spending time with my Italian friendseating, drinking, running, taking trips together, and mostly, speaking Italian.

“I love the Italian language and culture, and love expressing myself in Italian.”

Maria IOT: If you could suggest several of the best/greatest trails/areas in the US, on where to walk or run, which would they be?

Mary Jean: Wow, the whole US? I am very provincial when it comes to trail races. I have one that I do each year nearby, called, Run with the Deer Flies. There is a Laurel Highlands Ultra trail run that I heard is beautiful here in western Pennsylvania, and the Rachel Carson Trail challenge is also well-loved.

Mary Jean with her husband and their oldest and youngest
Mary Jean with her husband and their oldest and youngest

 “It is our refugeour prayer, our source of strength, really”

Maria IOT: And finally… what has running taught you…

Mary Jean: Running has taught me so much: about life, love and the pursuit of dreams! I know that sounds a little exaggerated, but it’s true. I have been fortunate to be able to continue running for 37 years! Since that first marathon at 19 years of age, both the training and the competitions have made me a stronger person, both spiritually and physically. It is a gift I have been given – not any special talent, but the gift of the mind-body connection that makes running such a major part of who I am. It is the reason why I met my husband, and our 4 children have all embraced that same kind of lifestyle. It is our refuge, our prayer, our source of strength, really.

Now it has brought me full circle to running friends in Italy who inspire me on the trails even more than before. I still love to train on the roads as well, as it require less concentration – I tend to trip on roots and rocks if my mind wanders!

Thank you Mary Jean we look forward to seeing you in 2018, for more trails and Salame!

Maria E. BelliniMaria Elisabetta Bellini is Italyontrail.com’s founder, born in the U.K, she came to running whilst living in Italy, where she still lives and trains. Never ceasing to marvel at what’s at the summit of a hill, or around the bend along the trail, she loves using trail running as a means to explore nature, contemplation and Italy.

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