01 January 2016, 8am
Ravenna City of Art International Marathon
Sun 8 November 2015
Sport and culture merge into an exhibition that is one of a kind only available in the former capital of the Western Roman Empire: in Ravenna you can breathe the scent of history.
On a perfectly sunny day over 5500 people stood at the startline last November savouring the sights and emotions that assailed them before the river of runners started flowing inexorably along the route. It was a day of celebration for the whole town which, swarming with athletes during the run, also welcomed them as tourists coming to discover the beauties of Ravenna. The city became filled with colour and passion for a healthy sport full of genuine values.
6575 people registered for the two days of races promoted by the Ravenna Runners Club of which almost 3000 took part in the marathon and half marathon. The fast, flat course has an unchanging appeal: it is the only one in the world to thread its way past seven of the eight monuments in the city which have been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO: the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, the Baptistery of Neon, the Arian Baptistery, the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo, the Archbishop’s Chapel, the Mausoleum of Theodoric and the Basilica of San Vitale.
The racing bib acts as a passe-partout to the town, because you simply show it to the ticket office during the three days of the Marathon and you can visit three museums for free: the MAR (the Art Museum of Ravenna), the Domus of the stone carpets and the TAMO — all the adventure of the mosaic. An agreement has been signed with the Diocese which allows athletes and their relatives to access the diocesan monuments at a reduced price.
Along the course runners can experience Byzantine history through the art and the charm of a town that was the capital of the Western Roman Empire. Those who come for the first time are always amazed by the beauty and the magic you feel in this wonderful place. Even those who return continue to be astonished and become more and more appreciative of the race and the town which is liveable, people-oriented and open to the world.
The race has become increasingly international with 34 different nationalities taking part in the latest event representing all of the five continents. It is also becoming more prestigious and widely appealing. Two years ago the start and finish were moved to the Via di Roma — which fronts the Museum of Art in Ravenna and is one of the main roads in the historic centre. This was done to provide a more welcoming finish and allow spectators gathering along the finish straight line to applaud and cheer runners over the last kilometre of their quest.
Apart from the competitive marathon and half marathon races there are three fun events: the ‘Good Morning’ over 10.5km, the Family Run over 2km on Saturday and the Urban Walk over 5km. There is a place for everyone: not only for athletes and running enthusiasts but also for those who are not yet ready for long distance running or who simply prefer walking.
Running in Ravenna is made easy because of all the services included with registration: a shuttle bus is provided between car park areas and the start and finish area; locker rooms and a baggage drop is available only 50m from the start; and there is a Pasta Party where athletes can taste typical Italian dishes.
There were five music groups along the course enthusiastically setting the pace for the runners and encouraging them with the sound of their instruments. The 2015 race incorporated the Italian Championships which was a just reward for all the hard work and commitment of the Ravenna Runners Club over the years.
The marathon and half marathon offer a unique finisher’s medal — a hand-crafted mosaic by the Ravenna artist Annafietta. Since 2011 the medal has become a jewel you can wear around your neck and a prestigious collectible for participants. Each medal is unique, allowing runners to bring back home a piece of the history of Ravenna. Every year the artist chooses a different detail of one of the Byzantine mosaics of the town.
Of the 800 volunteers 300 of them were from local schools and thanks to their enthusiasm the event benefited from a touch of youthfulness. The Ravenna Marathon has supported two charities for the past several years: one euro per registration received in each race goes to Mowat Wilson disease (a rare and severe genetic affliction with no treatment at present and still little diagnosed, affecting young children with difficulties in walking and using their hands) and to Famiglie SMA (an association of relatives of those afflicted with spinal muscular atrophy).