In some Italian cities, time appears to stand still; their whole demeanour is one of relaxed, serene tranquillity. One calls to mind cities like Florence or Verona, where locals glide calmly through the streets whilst daily life appears to pass by at a snail’s pace.
Milan on the other hand, is in a permanent state of sprint. Our city is characterised by its daily hustle and bustle, whether it’s commuters power walking from one means of transport to another, big groups of school kids marching through the streets or multiple gangs of tourists and shoppers vying for the best bargains. But the craziest period of the year starts in a real Milanese “Mad March”. Kicking off with the Stramilano at the beginning of spring, the same day as the Milano – San Remo cycle race, followed by the Milano City Marathon on 6th April, not to mention the numerous road races which take place in the city suburbs throughout the “bella stagione”, finishing up with the famous Milano – Torino cycle race at the beginning of October.
These sporting events epitomize much of the essence of a multicultural hub like Milan. Even when the weather is at its worst, the city is constantly on the run. As the 50,000 competitors lined up along the start line in front of the Duomo just a few weeks ago; with adrenaline pumping through their veins, they took their marks, get set, boom!
Milan’s diverse, international population was echoed on that starting line which included men, women and children of all ages and nationalities, from professional athletes to weekend runners, from famous sportspeople to tough soldiers. Over a thousand military personnel participated in the Stramilano half marathon with the highest number of competitors, including representatives from no less than fifteen different nations, hailing from the NRDC – ITA better known as NATO’s Rapid Deployable Corps (Italy) based in Solbiate Olona just outside Milan. Over 700 of them to be exact including family members joined the sweaty masses pounding the city streets. It’s no surprise that their emblem features the motto “Ubique Celere” which is Latin for “Everywhere Rapidly”.
Despite the presence of runners from all over the world, soldiers and civvies alike, the undisputed supremacy in marathons lies with the African runners. The winner of the competitive half marathon was the Kenyan Thomas Lokomwa (in the photo)
who completed the 21 and-a-bit kilometres in a muscle-aching time of 1 hour, 1 minute and 39 seconds.
Whilst Lucy Wambui Murigi (in the photo)
claimed the top spot on the women’s podium. An impressive physical display of stamina and speed.
You could almost say they ran so fast that they “flew”. In fact, the cannon which supplied the race’s starting “boom” was supplied by the Volòire Horse Artillery Regiment whose name and war cry actually means “flying” in Piedmont dialect.
The nickname was given to them by the local folk in their home town of Venaria Reale who back in the 1830’s said the new horseback troops seemed to fly as they rode swiftly through the town’s streets.
The 183 year old regiment, who have been stationed in Milan since 1887, are the highest military command present in the city. They were the first of their kind in the country and for anyone interested in witnessing this fascinating piece of history, they will open their doors to the public on 11th and 18th April to commemorate their 183rd anniversary. The ceremony will take place at their base in Milan at the Santa Barbara barracks in Piazza Perruchetti which will include a full military ceremony whilst on the Sunday, the annual national horse-riding event will take place in partnership with the National Cavalry Association (Associazione Nazionale Arma di Cavalleria).
All this said, the most important message in any competition is that whilst winning is definitely the ultimate goal, it’s only accessible for very few. It really is all about the taking part. This is best symbolised by the soft toy mascot awarded to the race winners. The “Guizzo” belongs to the army. He is a tortoise which might seem a strange choice of symbol for strong soldiers and marathon winners, but as we know, the tortoise is famous for its longevity, strength, wisdom and maturity to achieve its objectives as well as its desire to win. Even if it isn’t capable of speed, as they say, slow and steady wins the race. And what better way to demonstrate these ideals and unite people in our big, frantic city, spreading the spirit of festivity, friendship, collaboration and solidarity, ideals which only sport is capable of bringing together.