In the presence of the Himalayas with Esplora

The virtuous journey backed by Briko goes onward (and upward)! Let's check out the first Nepalese adventures from Team Esplora

We met the Team and its project, supported by Briko, in the intro chapter of this 1200km-long epic journey dedicated to the experience of bikepacking and its artistic-social nuances. Marco Ricci and Davide Ciarletta shared the thoughts and feelings they had matured along the ancient roads of Nepal, combining them with an evocative visual gallery. Enjoy their journey, together with Team Esplora.

“Crossing Nepal from south to north and traversing remote valleys is the essence of our trips. A childlike ecstasy pervades as we experience profoundly different realities from our own, leading us to admire every surrounding action and dynamic. Every day, the sun rises to greet us, creating the contours of our days punctuated by rugged roads and impervious ascents.

The climbs are getting longer; we’ve become aware of this and accept it . But altitude is the truly defining characteristic of this place, and each summit we pass brings us closer to the highest point. One climb in particular, which leads over the summit to Baglung, promised to be an extraordinary experience. After an intense four-hour ride, the majesty of the Himalayas unfolds before us. Annapurna, Daulaghiri and Machhapuchare stand in all their grandeur. The thrill of embarking on a bicycle journey amongst these mountains is overwhelming, leaving us breathless in the face of such magnificence.

Upon arrival in Pokhara, we take a three-day break to reorganize our set-up in preparation for a more agile crossing. We are about to embark on the Annapurna circuit, to reach Thorung La Pass at 5416 meters. The feeling of knowing that we will soon be among the world’s highest peaks, pushing our bikes forward pedal after pedal, in the shadow of the Himalayas, is beyond explanation.”

Photo credits:


Text by Gianmarco Pacione

A unique NFL weekend in Frankfurt

In honor of its origins and iconic Baselayer, Under Armour treated us to the Patriots vs Colts game in Europe.

Frankfurt is trending upwards. Economically, architecturally, and also when it comes to sports. It’s no coincidence that this city, bereft of tangible tradition but replete with skyscrapers and financial hubs, has become something of a second home for the best of the NFL. Thanks to Under Armour, we got to experience the USA in the heart of Germany, enjoying the matchup between the New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts within the futuristic Deutsche Bank Park. At the same time, we immersed ourselves in the evocative history of a brand born with and in service to American football.

“It all started on the field.” UA Founder Kevin Plank speaks as a testament to his passion, to the essence of a vision that came of age between the yards and locker rooms back in 1996, when he held the position of fullback and Special Teams captain in the famed University of Maryland program. “We were forced to wear hefty materials underneath our uniforms, and they got even heavier with sweat,” he recalls during a special event dedicated to the evolution of the iconic Baselayer product, during an event celebrating its latest ColdGear evolution. While telling stories of his experiences as an entrepreneur, Plank lingers for a moment on a vintage portrait of himself wearing a flannel shirt during a youth game, “I wanted to create a product that would enhance the performance and comfort level of each and every one of my teammates.” In retrospect, his story takes on the contours of a Dickensian fable, “So, I sold flowers to scrape together some money, and then I poured it all into the Under Armour project. I started by shipping products to college teams and teammates who, in the meantime, had ended up in the NFL.”

In front of a giant picture of Eric ‘Big E’ Ogbogu, legendary defensive end of the Dallas Cowboys and face of the equally legendary ‘Protect This House’ campaign, launched by Under Armour in 2003 and remaining, to this day, a manifesto of the brand, Plank’s words pivot between sports and business, giving us both a celebration of the NFL  and an outline of the foundational wish to create products capable of transcending reality. Armour. Capable of transforming into magical objects arrayed on the lines of scrimmage and propelled towards touchdowns, then catapulted into the entire sports universe. Lindsey Vonn, guest of honor and historical representative of the Baltimore-born company put it this way: “Wearing the Baselayer for me was tantamount to having superpowers.”

Speaking of superpowers, watching today’s NFL players live can’t help but evoke reflection and incredulity at the level of physicality likely unmatched in any other sporting context. The helmets and pads seem to conceal superhumans: kinetic machines capable of sweeping, taking off and soaring through the Frankfurt sky, crowded with planes from every corner of the world. In front of the more than 50,000 in attendance, split between Old World fanatics and overseas vacationers, Dayo Odeyingbo’s three sacks and Gardner Minshaw’s no-nonsense passes delivered a 10-6 upset to Indianapolis, silencing the many Patriots fans who had flocked to the banks of the Main.

But the significance of that Sunday afternoon in Germany cannot be limited to mere statistical data; it is the confirmation of a sport that, year after year, sinks its root deeper and deeper into European soil, gathering newcomers and virtuosos alike, all drawn by the wild fascination of, let’s face it, truly extraordinary athletes.

Photo credits:

Under Armour

IMAGO / Schüler / Rene Schulz / Inpho Photography

Text by Gianmarco Pacione

Running means family at Tuscany Camp

Thanks to On, we’ve discovered a center of athletic and social excellence in the heart of Tuscany

The bestselling wordsmith Haruki Murakami once wrote about running into the void, or rather, running to reach the void. Evidently, his pen and legs weren’t lucky enough to stumble across the Val di Merse and the Tuscany Camp. These Tuscan hills tell the tale of a diametrically opposed kind of running: an all-embracing run overflowing with color, nature, history, art, culture, and human relationships. Just a stone’s throw away from the ancient village of San Rocco a Pili, we find the utopian running microcosm created by Giuseppe Giambrone, Director and Head Coach of the Camp, and supported by the revolutionary vision of On.

Mohamed Amin Jhinaoui
Giuseppe Giambrone

“It’s the best place in the world for training,” 26-year-old Tunisian Mohamed Amin Jhinaoui confides. And he should know, having recently broken two national records in the 3000 meters flat and steeplechase. It’s hard to contradict him, especially when observing the frescoed 18th-century villa that since 2014 has become a hub for international medalists and talents of different origins, statuses, and ages. “I’ve been here for two years, and I am happy,” continues the North African middle-distance runner, currently in search of an Olympic podium, “Coach Giambrone is always with us. We talk a lot. He discovered me during a meet in Italy and brought me to Tuscany. I’ve found serenity here. We’re a big family from all over the world, and we share everything…. Starting with our different languages, which we’re picking up day after day. The constant support of both the coach and On ensures we’ve got shoes and clothes and that we can grow and work serenely. This has created a unique context for our improvement.”

A papal bull. A swimming pool with a treadmill. A Napoleonic statue. A cryotherapy pool. A state-of-the-art gymnasium surrounded by ancient vaults. The Tuscany Camp reveals itself like an athletic treasure chest: it appears to be the functional fusion of distant eras made similar by Giuseppe Giambrone’s intuition. A talent scout and creator, Giambrone easily fits the role of wise pater familias, as demonstrated by the sincere attachment of the 25 runners who currently live under his roof. “My idea has always been to combine service of the highest level, made up of excellent facilities and healthcare, with a family atmosphere, all in a context of tranquility: a place where everyone helps each other, collectively experiencing joys and difficulties. I’ve always thought that this combination could be the key to success. To achieve results, you need balance, and you also need to keep your feet on the ground….”

In the shadow of Monte Amiata, a training area that majestically complements the Sienese countryside, there are those who cook and those who wash dishes. Some do their homework and others wait for the next international event. Each runner removes him or herself from their own sporting condition, becoming simply a human being. “Often, the simplest method is the one that works best. Serenity and collectivity. Everything produced from these cornerstones is a natural consequence and a source of pride for all of us,” Giambrone continues, using his deep connection with the African continent and, in particular, Uganda, to describe the qualities sought for and developed in each runner, “Strength of will, perseverance, and sensibility. I look for these characteristics in athletes before technique. Our daily work, then, must allow them to grow athletically while also fostering growth from a relational and cultural perspective.”

Yves Nimubona
Lionel Nihimbazwe

The world champion marathon runner Victor Kiplangat is just one example of this virtuous system: an athletic, scientific, and empathic system, which Giambrone has decided to base on stress management and reaction to critical situations, along with the perception of effort, especially in relation to his young Italian athletes. “With ‘Western’ pupils, I try to recreate the right motivation. This is a crucial psychological aspect, which they can observe in many of the African athletes who train alongside them. Our system is two-sided, where youngsters can learn from the established champions, and the established champions, in turn, can keep their heads on their shoulders, sharing the daily routine with other students. I wish that from the age of 16 or 17, they will develop the awareness that a race is never really over and that all unforeseen events can be managed. During the last Italian mountain running championships, for example, I had my athletes run with smooth soles: I know it was torture, but by falling over and over, they understood that you can and must get back up, that you have to have the strength to react.”

Francine Niyomukunzi
Oscar Chelimo

Giambrone’s teachings, theories, and future plans, however, couldn’t be achieved without the help of On. The coach himself shares this very sentiment just before starting a group run. It is a synergy with the Swiss brand that goes far beyond the simple concept of sponsorship, transcending a mixture of intentions: “On’s support is fundamental for several reasons. There’s the most direct part, the economic one, which allows me to keep athletes here who, until some time ago, after their first victories, would have been ‘taken away’ by other companies with greater market power. Then there is the positive influence on my activity as a talent scout and coach, because On guarantees that Tuscany Camp gets the opportunity to make athletes grow, to make them live correctly, to make them develop in a broader sense by sending them to school, providing them with technical material and all kinds of assistance, and giving even the youngest ones experience in international meets. And believe me, none of this is taken for granted in contemporary athletics. Before our connection with On, the whole project was self-financed, which wasn’t easy, but now I can work in what I believe to be the best possible way.”

Text by Gianmarco Pacione

Photo credits: ON

All Roads Lead to Rome, and to FILA

A portrait of the FILA social run that combined past and future in the Eternal City

Innovation in history. History in innovation. There is no better dualism to define the All Roads Lead to Rome event, organised by FILA in the heart of the Eternal City. A running and cultural itinerary fashioned from the desire to celebrate a generation of running shoes that remain true to the past but projected towards the future: a conscious evolution of an iconic brand embodied in the new ASTATINE and ARGON models.

Certainties are necessary for facing the unknowns of a constantly developing landscape, and the certainties inherent in the relationship between FILA and the world of running are part of a legacy of ante litteram technological inventions. This is demonstrated, for example, by the carbon plate conceived in the 1990s and relaunched in new forms in the shadow of the Colosseum, where what has been continues to be. Just like in FILA.

“Rome is the perfect setting for this social run,” says Stefano, one of the many locals who took part in this experience suspended in space and time, populated with contemporary collectivity. “I’m convinced that the link between tradition and progress is a pillar of FILA’s new vision of running, and this connection is reflected in this young community that runs on the same streets of Julius Caesar. It sounds a bit clichéd but running in the centre of Rome is something else…”

From Piazza del Popolo to the Ara Pacis. The Trevi Fountain to the Spanish Steps. For six fascinating kilometres, the ancient Roman cobblestones are painted by the words of the short-of-breath, rhythmic beats and bright FILA colours, gazed upon by astonished crowds of tourists who flocked here to adore La Dolce Vita. Lisa Gustavsson, PR Manager of Europe FILA and active participant in the run, told us: “It was my first time in Rome, and there’s no better way than running to experience a city you don’t know. Doing it with a community imbues it all with unique energy. A lot of tourists cheered us along the way as if they were part of the run. There were beautiful moments of spontaneous participation. I think it’s great to meet local communities, make new connections and try out our products with them. We’re organising similar events all over Europe, but being here for a brand with Italian heritage has a special symbolic value…”

“I communicate with runners worldwide on social media daily: they’re taking notice of FILA’s networking efforts. Introducing a shoe and having different running communities test it out has been a winner,” echoes Marco Di Matteo, a runner from Abruzzo but long-time Roman resident. “A lot of people think that running is an individual sport, but it isn’t. That sense of community has always played a central role. Running continues to give me the chance to get to know people from all parts of this city which, for me, is the most beautiful in the world. And I did that again tonight. Its streets are a collection of the histories and cultures that have settled, stratified and merged over the centuries…. To be able to experience them fully, doing what we love most, is priceless. Tonight’s event shows that we can organise runs and cultural marathons here, planning routes according to the monuments and marvels of the city.”

In the amatriciana-drenched thoughts of the tired but enthusiastic runners at the end of the race, guests at the typical trattoria Rocco, the relationship between the identity of FILA and the essence of Rome is sublime. Or sublimated. To quote Roman Carlotta Porqueddu: “I’d like to find more events like this in Rome, that sense of community, the energy of runs like this is incredible. I’m glad FILA set it up. I’ve recently found out about the company’s rich history in running, and it’s great that they are bringing back technologies they had originally patented years ago… Testing these shoes in the city where I hope to run forever is especially nice. Rome is home for me. When I run in its historic centre I feel welcomed, embraced. It’s always a wonderful sensation.”

Thanks to: Fila Europe & We Are Busy

Text by Gianmarco Pacione

Photo Credits: Riccardo Romani

The Beautiful Game

We celebrate the gallery of peoples, emotions and sacred football rituals together with Imago

“The game of football is a system of signs; it’s a nonverbal language,” said the oracular Italian writer Pier Paolo Pasolini. The football language is a unique language, capable of evolving and changing season after season; it’s a cosmopolitan and transversal idiom, learned among the stadium stands and the squares of every town; it’s a diverse and popular dialect, where morphology and syntax are shaped like scarves and flags. In the controversial drama of contemporary football, few actors continue to be pure and pristine: they are the beating heart of a global and globalized sport, they are the fans. Together with Imago, we have selected 10 images to celebrate the vast and multifaceted human dance of football, creating a photo gallery that, on the one hand, traces some of the most important milestones of the last season and, on the other, frescoes the eternal symbiosis between human beings and football. We asked each photographer to describe emotions and feelings related to these artworks – Welcome to ‘The Beautiful Game’ gallery, produced in synergy with The Game Magazine by Imago.

IMAGO / Ricardo Nogueira
IMAGO / Marjam Majd

Ricardo Nogueira

“I took this image about half an hour after the referee’s final whistle in the game that won Leo Messi’s first World Cup. I was shooting from the stands, high above the level of the playing field. With the end of the game and the handing over of the cup to the champions, I believe that I and the other photographers knew that the “game” was not over yet. The star of the night and the best player of recent times had yet to have his individual moment of glory. So, while editing the material produced on the computer, every now and then I peeked with my eyes to try to find out when and how Messi would appear to lift the 2022 World Cup alone. And the moment arrived: in the middle of the sea of people who were on the lawn, there was the ace with the cup in hand. I believe that this image has a lot to do with the Beautiful Game, because it synthesizes the glory and the fulfillment of an athlete’s dream, obviously represented by Leo Messi, and also that of an entire nation – represented by the fans who surround him.”

IMAGO / Hester Ng

Hester Ng

“There are countless memorable moments in football history. During the Qatar World Cup, there was one particularly indelible – when Morocco defeated Portugal and earned their place in the semifinal. It was the first time in history where an African country made it to the semifinals. I was in London, where Moroccan fans hailing from diverse backgrounds came together in celebration. The joy and excitement displayed transcend nationality, race, and language, emphasising that sports have the unique ability to unite everyone. I was inspired to encapsulate the celebration of the Beautiful Game by exemplifying the universal appeal and global reach of football. It symbolises how the sport erases barriers and fosters a sense of belonging and camaraderie among individuals from different cultures and across continents. This moment embodies the true meaning and power of football, demonstrating that the passion, connection, and spirit it ignites know no boundaries when it comes to sports.”

IMAGO / Antonio Balasco

Antonio Balasco

“At that magical moment, under the Maradona mural in San Giovanni a Teduccio, there is a unique atmosphere. That mural is more than just a painting on a wall, it is a shrine embodying the passion and devotion of an entire community. It is a tangible symbol of the inspiration that Maradona gave to the whole world with his magic and talent. It is an irresistible call to the passionate hearts of those who believe in the power of sport to unite, excite and transform. Under that mural, people gather to celebrate, not only Maradona’s greatness as a footballer, but also his humanity, not by chance the artist Jorit calls him a human god, his strength and his passion. It is a moment in which differences dissolve and everyone is united in joy and admiration for a man who has left an indelible mark on football and the lives of millions of Neapolitans and Argentines. The presence of that mural is a testament to the fact that the Bel Gioco goes beyond the results on the field. It is the beauty of artistic expression, creativity and the ability to inspire. That moment is a reminder of the purity of the love for the game of football and for Diego Armando Maradona on his birthday by the Neapolitan people.”

IMAGO / Antonio Balasco

Antonio Balasco

“The celebration of Napoli’s third Scudetto is a moment charged with meaning and power in the world of football, Napoli this year has in my opinion expressed the most beautiful game in Europe. The sacred images in the altar represent the faith and spirituality that accompany the Neapolitan people on their journey. The encounter between the sacred and the profane is very subtle in Naples. Each Scudetto is a trophy won with commitment, sacrifice and talent, and symbolises the achievement of a goal that seemed impossible. The streets fill with festive fans, embraced by happiness and emotion, creating a unique atmosphere of magic and unity. This celebration, with its unique mix of spirituality and sport, represents a moment of joy, emotion and gratitude.”

IMAGO / Leandro Bernardes

Leandro Bernardes

“It marked a somber chapter in football’s history as Pelè, one of the all-time greatest football players, passed away after a courageous fight against cancer. However, his legacy shall endure eternally. In tribute to the profound significance Pelè holds, I dedicated three days to crafting a heartfelt gesture around the Vila Belmiro Stadium (home of Santos FC). My objective was to express the immense love people have for Pelè to the world. The jerseys I created were eagerly purchased in various Santos streets, quickly selling out.”

IMAGO / Michael Erichsen

Michael Erichsen

“I wanted to capture some of the supporters in the stands ahead of this decisive qualification game. Their team (Örgryte IS) if loosing the game was going to be relegated so the atmosphere in the arena was intense and packed with emotions. A couple of masked supporters with smoke cans drew my attention. The smoke put a nice frame around them adding to the emotional build up to the game. I think this moment encapsulates the passion for their club and love for the game going all in with everything they can bring as supporters up in the stands.”

IMAGO / Zabed Chowdhori

Zabed Chowdhori

“As a photographer, I went there to cover an event but in Bangladesh, there are some really crazy fans of football. People in Bangladesh celebrate the World Cup football matches like a festival. In many places in our country watch football matches by collecting money from area residents to set projectors. But in some places like this many people come from different locations to watch football matches live on the big screen. I chose this place as it was the most crowded place. Various classes of people come here to watch matches together. This is the most beautiful moment where there is no upper class or lower class, no religious differences, no political differences, only football lovers who laugh together cries together. In this place, they watch all the matches but I choose to cover the match of Argentina to show the craziness of football lovers as this match grabs more crowds. Their craziness or you can say the love for football of our country’s people inspired me to capture this moment.”

IMAGO / Alejo Manuel Avila

Alejo Manuel Avila

“Football is a chosen religion, football is played with the feet and lived with the heart. It is the portrait of an inexplicable passion. Sweat, gritted teeth and throats burst when the “crack” of the team fulfils the dream of an entire society by scoring a goal. When this happens, the screams become one, and people raise their eyes to the sky. Argentine football has that illusion that is represented in the beloved blue and white. It occupies the front page of the newspapers, defines the Monday mood, encourages promises, gives hugs. It is a genuine expression of Argentinian identity, it is a cry that defines everything, displacing everything else: eyes and hearts rest there, where the ball rolls.”

IMAGO / David Klein

David Klein

“The sense of togetherness between the Welsh team and fans is really shown in this one image. They had just bowed out of the tournament and yet the massed red wall serenaded the team, to show their continued support.”

Text by Gianmarco Pacione

Photo Credits: IMAGO, Ricardo Nogueira, Marjam Majd, Hester Ng, Antonio Balasco, Leandro Bernardes, Michael Erichsen, Zabed Chowdhori, Alejo Manuel Avila, David Klein

It’s the Flo-Jo style

Tribute to the world’s fastest woman and the world’s fastest style

On the 21st of September 1998 the fastest woman in history and speed designer Florence Delorez Griffith-Joyner died at just 38 years old. This unforgettable star is still revered for 3 Olympic gold medals (Seoul ’88) and two world records (100 and 200 meters) that still observe all of mankind from above, but her legacy goes beyond these achievements. Her legacy also lurks in contemporary brands, trends, and collections.

“I like to be unconventional,” Flo-Jo used to say before flying on the tartan and breaking the laws of physics and aesthetics. Because Flo-Jo was her own designer starting in high school, where she was able to dress her entire team, and was the anticipated connection between fashion and sports.

She was a colorful feeling of omnipotence, the histrionic leotards and ‘one-legger’ jumpsuits, the long nails and their psychedelic patterns, the lime green and fuchsia, the tons of jewelry and long, long hair. Flo-Jo was a style pioneer able to inspire entire generations of female athletes, from Serena Williams to Sha’Carri Richardson, showing them how personality and creativity shouldn’t be taboo for women athletes.

Twenty-five years after her incomprehensible and untimely death, we honor the memory of Florence Griffith-Joyner with a series of iconic shots and ten quotes that define her eclectic life philosophy. Ten, like her unattainable 10″49.

“I used to be teased for the way I wore my hair at school. I used to do things like wear a different-colored sock on each leg.”

“I couldn’t wait until I grew up. I used to look at my mom’s stockings and put them on with her high heels and mess with my hair.”

“Dress good to look good. Look good to feel good. And feel good to run fast!”

“I had been designing my own track uniforms since high school. After I retired from sports I continued to pursue fashion, launching my own line”

“Conventional is not for me. I like things that are uniquely Flo. I like being different.”

“It doesn’t matter what you wear, it’s what you believe you can do”

“I don’t look at myself as being famous. I look at myself as an athlete.”

“I believe in the impossible because no one else does.”

“When anyone tells me I can’t do anything… I’m just not listening any more.”

Credits: IMAGO / PCN Photography / WEREK
Text by: Gianmarco Pacione

Átjan Festival, running is epic

The Faroe Islands turn running into sensations and natural enchantment

More than 300 runners from all over the world are surrounded by the last sounds and colors of the Nordic night. The Faroes make everything magical, especially the transition from darkness to the first, dazzling dawn light. On this stormy Saturday, their pristine wilderness is populated by athletes and explorers: human beings drawn to the remote allure of pure coastlines and wild mountains. It is the highlight day of the visionary Átjan Wild Islands Festival, it is the time when local culture and vistas connect with extreme running competition. It is the day when this wonderful archipelago manifests itself in all its wild splendor. If the first 3 days of this Festival allowed, in their multidimensionality, athletes to test themselves in snorkeling and surfing, and to savor the benefits of open water swimming, today the enchanting natural discovery gives way to the epic sporting feat.

Incessant wind and gentle rain set the tone for the 4 races that intertwine on the atavistic trails of these Islands: Ultra Trail, Mountain Marathon, Half Marathon and 10km Trail. Hours pass and the rain becomes downpour, the earth becomes mud, the delicate waterways become rushing torrents. From 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. (and beyond), the Faroes demand every physical and mental energy from Átjan participants, repaying them with one of the world’s most mesmerizing milestones: Tjørnuvík volcanic beach. There are those who eat voraciously and those who dive irrationally into the icy Atlantic waves. All of them just savor and embrace an unparalleled moment. “It was a tough but wonderful day,” says Átjan Festival organizer Theo Larn-Jones, “Everyone is happy with their accomplishment. Every year it is a great thrill to see so many people at the Átjan Wild Islands Festival. They are running and nature lovers who come from all over the world to meet each other, build human connections and discover this magical place, the Faroe Islands.”

Credits: riseupduo
Text by Gianmarco Pacione

Átjan Wild Islands, in the Faroe Islands the trail becomes sublime

Welcome to the famous Nordic archipelago, where running is an experiential journey

“Tidinn rennur sem streymur i á”. Time flows like the current of a river, says an ancient Faroese proverb. These are ancient words from an equally ancient floating land, from an archipelago that has always defied the northern borders of Europe and the World. 18 islands that formally depend on Denmark, but have been, are, and will continue to be linked to the icy water flows of the Atlantic Ocean and the Norwegian Sea. Here, where everything becomes sublime, the Átjan Wild Islands race takes shape: not just a trail race, but a full-scale festival dedicated to the atavistic relationship between human movement and pristine natural beauty. Between September 6th and 10th we will witness an experiential journey, where running will become the pretext for admiring a remote earthly paradise, sharing ecstasy and fatigue, and celebrating the desire for adventure in all its forms. “Tidinn rennur sem streymur i á”. Time flows like the current of a river, says an ancient Faroese proverb. But in September, bodies and legs will flow in the archaic as well as the vibrant and contemporary Nordic archipelago. And we will portray these moments.

Barberà Rookies – Empowering Women’s Football

Yards, triumphs, and unstoppable spirit in Yuriy Ogarkov’s reportage

The Barberà Rookies, an American female football team from Barberà del Vallès near Barcelona, is redefining the world of women’s football. Founded in 2002, they recently secured a remarkable second-place finish in the LNFA Series B final. Their unwavering commitment to excellence has earned them numerous accolades, including being crowned Champions of Catalonia in 2009-10 and 2010-11, Champions of Spain for five consecutive seasons from 2009-10 to 2013-14, and winners of the Spanish Cup four times.

The Barberà Rookies break stereotypes and inspire female athletes to embrace their strengths. With grace and power, they show that femininity and athleticism go hand in hand. Their journey continues, driven by an unshakeable spirit and a determination to conquer new challenges. Yuriy Ogarkov’s reportage allows us to observe and explore the protagonists of this social and sports journey, populated by field goals and touchdowns.

Mind your Soul, Mind the Gap

Runaway’s event explained by its protagonists

Sweating voices in the Milanese night. Some bodies speed late on Via Ugo Bassi sidewalks, still searching for the finish line of a frantic and tangible metropolitan video game. Mind the Gap tests the essence of every runner. Body and mind. Rationality and irrationality. Selfishness and altruism. Between checkpoints every detail burns energy, every factor is crucial in solving yet another riddle made by Runaway. The exhausted MTG protagonists use these words, sharing emotions and visions as frosty beers pass from hand to hand. Fatigue and frustration already seem a distant memory, erased by the sense of community that pervades the sultry Milanese peace. It is during this moment, just after the ecstasy or pain of the stuck stopwatch, that the true meaning of this event takes shape. Let’s hear it.

Vinicio Villa

“The race went unexpectedly well, I didn’t think I would win because a few hours ago I was running on the Stelvio. Mind the Gap is totally different from what I usually do. It is devastating, because you never know what pace to choose, but at the same time it is exciting, because at every checkpoint you feel the thrill of the unknown. You bond with other people, even strangers. For example, I ran a few miles with a guy who knew the checkpoints better than I did. He helped me and I told him that if we arrived together, I would let him win. Unfortunately, he had more heart than legs. I am Milanese and it is beautiful to experience the city like this. During summer nights the streets are deserted and you can really feel part of Milan. When I ran in the grand boulevards I really enjoyed every second of it.”

Beatrice Bianco

“I don’t normally run around Milan at night; it’s nice to explore streets I’ve never been on and see the city so empty. When I run in traffic everything seems huge and confusing. At times like this, however, Milan seems tiny and peaceful. It’s an ordinary Monday night in July, but the energy is crazy. I think it’s great that there is this interchange between different crews and people. Many of them wouldn’t have met without Mind the Gap. I started the race pushing to win, but I finished by enjoying the run together with another girl. We were side by side most of the time, when we see each other again we will definitely remember this experience.”

Artem Danko

“I am lucky, because I have known the guys from Runaway for a long time and have participated in all the Mind the Gap editions. In the beginning it was pure adrenaline and the checkpoints were definitely easier to find. Then they evolved the format, and today I had the feeling of launching myself into the unknown. A lot of strategy is required, and I have learned to make connections with others, because otherwise the risk is to burn myself out physically or find unexpected surprises. During MTG, the mind is as valuable as the legs. I’m an adoptive Milanese, I’ve lived here for 7 years and I love that this event has a New York or London vibe, but at the same time it has a proper family dimension. Formats like this put Milan on the same level as the big international metropolises, their movements and their crews. Mind the Gap has above all allowed me to meet so many friends, and I think that is the most important achievement.”

Maria Vittoria Nanut

“I came here wanting to win, but I was a little afraid, because in a race like this it is almost impossible to know if you are calculating the right path and following the right direction. Almost the whole time I felt like I was inside a video game. I’m from Gorizia and half Slovenian, I just started running a year ago when I moved to Milan, so it’s great for me to get in touch with this fantastic environment. I have to thank Floriano Macchione, who introduced me to Runaway and MTG. It is strange to share such a race with so many people, and I am amazed that there were so many girls. Along the way I realized that it’s important to do your own thing, even when you connect with other runners…. I think that’s the best way to try to win. This time it went well for me, so we’ll see how the next edition goes.”

Ippolito Pestellini

“MTG is a beautiful format because it creates so much community. There is a lack of these aggregators in Italy, and it is significant that different crews, who normally run in different places, come together here. Here you rely on others and others rely on you, there is a unique fusion of solidarity and competition. MTG is not only performance, it is also lucidity and planning. It is a unique way of running through the city at night, of seeing it with atypical and truly unique spatial perspectives. I am an architect, and every time I attend events organized by Runaway, I think it would be great to map all the things they have invented over the years: we would see a parallel city, the runners’ city, a different Milan. At the end of the day, I believe that many cities coexist in every city, this is just one of them.”

Photo Credits: Riccardo Romani
Text by: Gianmarco Pacione