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