In a relatively young country such as Italy, the stereotypes attached to cities are still very powerful. One of the most enduring is that in Milan, everyone is in a hurry. That will certainly be the case on Sunday 15 April 2012, date of the Barclays Milano City Marathon.
Last year, the event attracted 10,203 athletes from 55 countries, of whom about half took part in the individual marathon, and half in the relay marathon. This year, the organizers, RCS Sport, publisher of one of Italy’s favourite newspapers, La Gazzetta dello Sport, and Rosa & Associati, will be maintaining the features that have proved so successful in previous years. The race starts at 9.20 a.m. from the Rho-Pero trade fair area, in the north-western outskirts of Milan, and it ends in Piazza Castello. En route, the athletes will pass some of the city’s most famous locations.
Milan’s course is – true to stereotype – one of the fastest in Italy, and this year it will also be one of the greenest. 15 April will in fact be an “environmental Sunday”, on which no vehicular traffic will be allowed. Chiara Bisconti, who heads the Sport department of Milan’s city council, has invited the people of Milan to live the marathon to the full, because, as she said, “this year it will be much more than the race alone. On that Sunday, without cars on the streets, everybody will be free to walk and cycle everywhere. In addition, we will organize dozens of events all over the city.”
The events will include free live music, in Piazza 24 Maggio, on Viale Gadio (alongside Parco Sempione), on Viale Elvezia near the Arena Civica, on Corso Venezia on the corner with Via Palestro, in Piazza San Babila, Piazzetta Reale (alongisde the Cathedral) and in Piazza Castello, near Via Beltrami. In all these locations, as well as in Viale Papiniano, on the Bastioni di Porta Venezia and in the San Siro area (where the baton-exchange points for the relay marathon are situated), there will be entertainment with artistes and cheerleaders.
At the marathon village, Via Melchiorre Gioia 37, there will be entertainment from 12 to 14 April (Thursday, 1 p.m.-8 p.m., Friday 10 a.m.-8 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m.-8 p.m.)
The marathon will also be an important fund-raising event. Last year, 76 charity organizations were supported by 2,998 runners, with a total sum of €203,116 collected. This year, there are already over 100 charities involved. Every athlete will be able to choose which charity to support, by means of sponsorship from friends and colleagues, just as happens in all the greatest city marathons in the world. One the of charities is Doppia Difesa, a foundation created by TV personality Michelle Hunziker and lawyer-politician Giulia Bongiorno to help women who have suffered physical or psychological violence. Hunziker, with other testimonials for the association, will be at Piazza Castello, at the finishing line of the marathon, to present the “Donne” bags, manufactured in cooperation with Italian brand Le Pandorine, and on sale at a minimum price of €10.
The “relay marathon” formula enables those who don’t have the energy to complete the whole course to take part nonetheless and enjoy the fantastic atmosphere of this sports event, running just a part of the distance which is subdivided into four sections which can then be shared by friends, or relatives. The legs are 13.5, 10, 10.7 and 8 km in length respectively. A maximum of 1,500 teams will be accepted, and the relay marathon will begin one hour later than the main marathon.
To take part or to find out more, the website is www.milanocitymarathon.it. If you’d like to take part, you’ll have to move fast: enrolment closes on 4 April 2012.
The marathon as a race has its origins in Ancient Greece and the feat of a messenger who ran from Marathon to Athens to announce the defeat of the Persons to the assembly, but it reached worldwide fame in 1908, at the London Olympics. The official distance of 26 miles 385 yards (42.195 kilometres) was based on the length of the course of this race, that saw one of the most dramatic finales in athletics history. Diminutive Italian athlete Dorando Pietri collapsed several times on his approach to the finishing line, and was helped over the line by officials (and, possibly, by writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as well) in first place. However he was later disqualified for having received help, and the American runner Johnny Hayes received the gold medal. Queen Alexandra was so struck by Pietri’s struggle that she awarded him a silver cup the day after. Conan Doyle (creator of Sherlock Holmes) wrote a report on the race for the Daily Mail, saying “The Italian’s great performance can never be effaced from our record of sport.” Irving Berlin wrote a song named simply “Dorando.” From then on, the marathon has been one of the highlights of the Olympics, and it has become an annual event in over 500 cities worldwide. Since the year 2000, these include Milan!