Charity of the Week

Carmine De Grandis

Spreading Joy And Building Community

Carmine is lifting the spirits of fellow mountain runners through his music...

When we heard about the Italian mountain runner from Norfolk who runs in ultra-marathon mountain races while playing his accordion, we naturally had a few questions in mind. Foremost among those was...Why?

A typical accordion can weigh over 10kg and as far as we know no one has yet invented a lightweight version for musical mountain runners! Indeed, the classic image of an accordion player is seated and when standing the straps are essential to keep the instrument firmly in place.    

Carmine De Grandis was happy to share his passion for: "Spreading Joy And Building Community", as he states on his JustGiving fundraising page for Climbers Against Cancer and Mountain Rescue charities. But to answer the question of why, we have to go back 30 years to Carmine's native Italy where he used to run around 5K on the trails with a friend to escape from the stresses of studying. 

The love affair with the accordion had started in childhood when he took up the instrument his father played – Carmine really wanted to learn the piano but there was no teacher where he grew up. When his father became ill with cancer and eventually died, accordion playing became much more than fun and a way of earning some pocket money – it was a way of keeping happy memories of his father alive and close to him.  

Since moving to the UK and settling in Norfolk he discovered parkruns and has a best time of 18:49 at Blickling in 2014 and a couple of first finishes at Sheringham and North Walsham among his 52 runs to date. But as is so often the case he was bitten by the bug and moved on to run University cross-country races, the London Marathon, and eventually made his debut in the Swiss Alpine Mountain Marathon.  

Despite Norfolk not being the ideal place to train for mountain running, Carmine persevered and became a regular at classics like the UTMB and the Lakeland 100 without the accordion. The instrument first took its bow at the finish line of the five-day Montane Dragon's Back Race in Wales, when he crossed the line dressed as Super Mario while playing the Mexican folk song La Bamba!

On that occasion, the accordion had been brought to the finish by a friend but the reaction was so positive and uplifting – for Carmine, fellow competitors, and spectators – that the die was cast and the musical mountain man has since been seen in action with his beloved accordion, raising flagging spirits at many increasingly tough events, culminating in the latest Montane Dragon's Back Race while playing his favourite tunes  – check out this extraordinary video – for 200K and climbing more than 10,000m.....

You can also follow Carmine's astonishing running and many charity projects on Instagram: @outdoorspirit1; on Facebook: cdegrandis; or on Strava: Carmine Grandis

Photo and video courtesy @nolimitsphotography and @dragonsbackrace.

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