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Run Together: Giuseppe Giambrone

Discover the story of Giuseppe Giambrone, the man behind Tuscany Camp. Learn how he built a supportive and successful running hub.

Giuseppe Giambrone Tuscany Camp
Giuseppe Giambrone at the dirt track.
Where is Coach? Coach, what are we gonna do this morning? Coach, are we racing in Trieste or Venaria next month?

Giuseppe Giambrone is simply Coach for all his runners. Coach is omnipresent at Tuscany Camp. Coach is the one who created Tuscany Camp and put all his energies into it for more than 10 years between highs and lows. Everything gravitates around him, from the daily workouts to the business relationships. He drove the van following the runners. He arranged dinner at the local trattoria. He told us where to position to get the best pictures. Do you have a question? Ask Coach.

What does run together mean to you?

It means sharing. It means growth. It means helping each other through daily difficulties. The group helps you in daily life. Achieving success by yourself is difficult.

People from different cultures live together at Tuscany Camp. How were you able to build an environment favorable to athletes?

We have created a family environment here. We are a big family. My athletes live here all year round. This is not an accommodation facility, but it is a family, a home where we live together and everyone does their part. Someone does the dishes, someone cooks, someone launders, and so on.

For example, Simon told us that he gives massages to other athletes.

That's right, he likes to give massages to other runners. That's why I say it's a big family, everyone participates in their way. This makes it easier for newcomers to integrate, as they immediately find a familiar environment.

Familiar in the sense that you are like brothers. As I said everyone actively cooperates in the housekeeping, and this also applies to the mutual aid aspect, in the sense that they are fraternal even in times of difficulty. For example, the champion may have a difficult period and the others help him. This is the secret of our success.

Athletes from all over the world come and go to Tuscany Camp, some stay for a week, and some for the whole year. How do athletes coexist in this environment?

When they come here the impact is huge, because you understand very well that they come from Uganda and Burundi where there is no running water and no electricity. So there is an adaptation from a physical point of view, of managing daily life. They adapt quickly among themselves because there are rules to follow. Those who have been here longer teach the new ones and help them adapt. They are like mentors or older siblings. Cultures and religions may be different but Tuscany Camp is an example that people can coexist beyond these personal traits. In 10 years, I have never seen an argument. There are Muslims, Buddhists, Catholic Christians, and Protestants here, but they all get along as brothers. That's why I think the wars are about money and not about religion.

Giuseppe Giambrone intervista
Giuseppe during our interview.

Outside of the training method, have you created rules or do you leave freedom within the framework of living together?

They are free, as long as one's freedom does not harm the freedom of others. That means if you're supposed to do the dishes you wash them, if you're supposed to clean the bathroom you clean it. Even if you came back from an Olympics with a medal around your neck you have to wash it. In this way, the boys remain humble, and it is also an example for young athletes who see world-class runners fulfilling their duties like everyone else. "If he does the dishes, I have to do them too."

This last point is important both from the point of view of daily management and from the growth of the athlete. If the young person sees the champion in his daily challenges, he understands that he is not as perfect as he may appear from the outside. The champion becomes a normal person and is no longer unattainable. The young person at that point thinks, "I can try to become like him." By training together you see everyone having a bad day, week, or period and maybe you can run faster than your idol. You realize that you can be as strong as him and this motivates you. Then again, anyone who comes here is a talent, but you have to work to express it 100 percent. Everyone has two legs and can run fast.

The mental aspect is very important when you are already running fast.

The mentality of the athlete matters so much. If you think that running 2:05 in a marathon is impossible for you, you have already lost at the start and will never make it.

On this very point, it stuck with me when you said in an interview that Italian athletes have nothing to envy about Africans and can run as fast as they do. That's why you decided to start working with young Italians to prove it.

Slowly we are proving it but it takes time. It is a years-long process. I am convinced that in a few years, we will have Italians running fast.

Giuseppe giambrone yohanes chiappinelli
Giuseppe coaching Yohanes Chiappinelli during a track session.

Since last year, On has supported Tuscany Camp and allowed you to maximize the Camp. Specifically, what has On brought in terms of added value to Camp?

I immediately married On's idea, or rather they married mine. It all came about by accident when I saw a guy who came here to train two years ago and he was dressed in a brand I didn't know. The products were good so I asked him to give me an email address to write to. So I wrote directly to Oliver [Bernard], the founder, introducing myself. He wrote back and said he thought it sounded like an interesting project and wanted to talk about it.

On your side you already had world medals won with your athletes anyway.

Yes, that's true but no brand had ever believed in me until that moment. From the very first calls with Flavio Calligaris, the head of On's athletes, we understood each other. On understood my philosophy and my model. The company did not have to change me, but it had to adapt to my model. I always developed young athletes. On was already doing this with its athletes, refusing to "buy" the big names. So we were already aligned on this topic.

Shortly after the second call with On, by chance, a manager from another big company, whom I had contacted in the past unsuccessfully, happened to be doing a COVID-19 swab at the clinic with which we collaborated and decided to visit Camp. At that moment he realized the value and potential of the project. He called me to communicate his interest and that he would be willing to give me whatever I needed if I wanted it. I did not accept. After they had not considered me for years and I did not even have the money to eat a pizza with my children, now with On I had found someone who believed in me and with the same values. So I refused the offer from that manager, who took me for a fool.

I have dignity, so I have to go my own way. Besides the work aspect, there is the human and family aspect. On is a family business in this respect. It is very close to the athletes, not only because there is business but because they are people. I have a good relationship with Niklas, Jordan, and Flavio who follow the Camp closely, and Oliver himself. This kind of human relationship I have never seen in big companies. Either you have a strong athlete or they don't say hello.

Let's turn to what you did in 2021 for the world of athletics. Sixty-five percent of the runners at the Tokyo Olympics had run their qualifier in the event you organized at Lampugnano Airport a few miles away. That figure is incredible. Given the success you had with that event, did it ever occur to you to organize more?

The idea has been there several times however the project has grown so much and I am only one person. If I dedicate myself to one thing then I have to sacrifice another.

On that occasion, we were coming from two years of lockdown and I tried to seize the opportunity. It was a success, not only mine but those who helped me. I had never even organized a briscola - an Italian card game - tournament [laughs], whereas this was the second largest athletics event after the Olympics in 2021. Without the volunteers, it could never have been possible.

The problem arose when it was decided to have the Olympics but there were no races to make the qualifiers. The federations objected to this and World Athletics had to call a meeting to solve the problem and identify a place where a marathon could be held safely. No politician wanted to take on this responsibility. When they contacted me, I decided to give it a try.

The first event was a half marathon in February that we organized in ten days and served as a test. Then, two months later, the marathon. From the beginning, the mayor, the quaestor, and the prefect felt like taking a chance on me. I had little to lose, they had far more. They understood from the beginning the importance of the territory of such an event. Then I contacted my friends who I knew could help, electricians, carpenters, and so on.

runners tuscany camp
Athletes during a track session.

All of this happened during the pandemic. How did you handle logistics, travel, and health security?

The combination of public and private was crucial to the success of the event. Everyone did what they could do to help and facilitate the event, from Fidal and Coni to the municipality and the region. We are not talking about money, we are talking about cooperation.

We got 250 entry visas in one month for athletes from 37 nations. From the health point of view, it was a success. Thanks to the many volunteers we have done 600 swabs in two days. And we are not in Milan where it is easy to find people to do a swab; here we are in a small town. We had to reopen the accommodations to host the athletes and organize the swabs at the time of the departure. I recognize that we were lucky and it was a success.

You have always said that this is a land of champions and that you would like to become a tourist destination for runners from all over the world. Do you think something is moving in that direction?

It's getting out of hand and I can't take care of everything. Groups from all over the world are asking me to stay for a week to live and train with the champions.

From the area's point of view, initiatives have been made in this direction to make the location "touristically" sports-oriented. We have mapped all the routes to run here in the surrounding area and made this information available to the receiving facilities. We have put up the billboard at the entrance to the town. We are working with the municipality to create a running-themed tourist destination and enjoy the area for free.

Giuseppe giambrone laughing
Giuseppe laughing in the garden of the Tuscany Camp villa.

Another of your stated goals is to make Tuscany Camp the European running hub. Are you succeeding in that?

As I said before, this is also getting out of hand in the sense that I don't have enough places for people to stay. We are not an accommodation facility, and fortunately, one has been opened nearby. Then we have the medical offices that provide high-level care for athletes. This is a great advantage for example for an athlete who comes from China or Japan and does not have the resources to bring a full staff. Here you can find everything and train with other champions.

Uganda has been key to your success and you have made a connection with two extremely different places. How do Uganda and Tuscany interact in your work?

I chose Uganda because I wanted to discover a new country. There was already Flavio Pasca and his wife Beatrice's camp there working with the local federation. I met them there for the first time.

The connection came through the first athlete we welcomed to the Camp. This Ugandan boy had become an alcoholic, and we helped him get back on his feet and run strong again. He accessed the spark of Uganda for me and advised me where to go. I then grafted myself into the camp that already existed and helped improve and upgrade it, with the help of World Athletics. We built a wing of the facility for the girls, a clay athletic track, and a gym. I was there to supervise the work.

On Tuscany Camp banner
A banner at the dirt track.

After spending two days here with you, we have heard many athletes say that they live here in a similar way to that of athletes in Kenya for example.

Everyone who visits Camp has the same reaction. It is like Kenya without the risks of Kenya. It feels like Africa without road accidents, hygiene risks, and limited health care. When you are here all you think about is running and resting.

The secret of champions is not to go looking for big things. When a person is serene and calm, he trains progressively and professionally. In this way, he can achieve great results without any big secrets behind it.

Talking about your training method with Yohanes Chiappinelli, who recently moved here, he told me that there is nothing extremely different from what he was doing before.

The secret is not the training program. There must be 150 other coaches better than me in Italy from a technical point of view. Living here is the main thing. It is the atmosphere. It is the environment. It is the group that creates a favorable situation so that the athlete can succeed in getting the most out of himself. I have never believed much in detailed training plans. The champion is not an amateur who works and needs a detailed training program. The champion has an uncommon talent and is not comparable to ordinary athletes. The athlete needs psychological support and a person who acts like a father many times. This family environment facilitates the expression of someone's potential, especially the younger ones.

Looking back to when you started the Tuscany Camp adventure, what would you do differently?

Nothing. Everything is going well.

This interview has been edited.


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