© Simona Cresta

After interviewing Ajla Del Ponte (2020 Swiss Athletics athlete of the year, queen of the 100 m), we had the pleasure of having a chat with Soccorso Cresta, a marathon runner who has been involved in the world of sport and voluntary work for many years.

966 km of running in 19 days, from Lugano to Castelfranci (Avellino, Italy) in the summer of COVID-19, accompanied by his son Gabriele on a bicycle with a tent on his back!

Planning versus unforeseen events, all accompanied by initiative and perseverance.

Enjoy reading!

How did you get the idea to do this?

The idea came about 7-8 years ago. My intention was to create a kind of twinning between my home town (Castelfranci, ed.) and the city that hosted me for about 50 years (Lugano, ed.). For the occasion, I had T-shirts and pennants printed with photos and logos depicting both countries.

Would you like to share with us your sporting journey? When did you start running?

I started running in 1993, after about ten years of cycling, and I haven’t stopped since.

When did you start training for marathons?

I ran my first marathon in 1994 in Venice, after three months of specific training.

Which marathons have you run? Any particular memories you would like to share with us?

I have taken part in 48 marathons around the world, including New York, Boston, Rome (several times), Amsterdam, Munich, Vienna, Berlin and Prague. In Switzerland: Zurich, Lausanne, Lucerne and the Ticino Marathon in Tenero (several times). I have my personal best in London in 1999, 2:55:32!
At the Ascona-Locarno Run I participated several times in the half marathon with the All4All Ticino group, pushing our athletes.

What was the most exciting marathon (course, atmosphere, …)?

It’s difficult to choose one: New York is the Marathon, the event that all runners want to take part in at least once in their lives. The Valencia Marathon is beautiful, both for the course and the atmosphere that surrounds it.

Let’s go back to your latest venture, when did you decide to embark on this adventure?

I had initially planned to undertake this adventure in 2021, as I will be retiring.
The pandemic triggered the spring in March 2020.
Since my son Gabriel was willing to accompany me on the bike, we decided to leave on 30 July 2020.

What were the preparation steps?

I was already quite well prepared for long distances, since I was planning to run the Barcelona Marathon in March 2020, which was then cancelled like all major sporting events.
Gabriele had planned to go cycling in July with a friend from Lugano to Freiburg where he is studying… in the end they covered almost 3,000 km in 28 days, completing the itinerary of the Grand Tour of Switzerland, through Alpine passes, lakes, countryside and beautiful landscapes.

How did you organise your training?

I started out doing more or less 150 to 180 km a week, at a slower pace to get my body used to longer distances. On the first few rides it was difficult to lower the training pace.

What were the main difficulties you encountered?

The main difficulties were various in the first part of the route due to the busy roads and the heat, in some places it was up to 40 degrees and there was a lot of humidity in the Po valley. In the central part, the route was better along the Adriatic coast where I was able to visit some fantastic places, I mention one in particular where I will definitely return, the ‘green way of the Trabocchi’ (from Ortona to Vasto) in Abruzzo. In Vasto we left the sea and began the most challenging route, long deserted country roads with uphill stretches, very expensive.

Tell us about this adventure, where did you start from?

The start was on 30.07.2020 from Piazza della Riforma in Lugano with greetings from the Mayor, Marco Borradori, and friends, including some SAM Massagno runners who accompanied me for a few kilometres, Annamaria Solari even up to Mendrisio! At lunchtime we stopped at the Ristorante Carlino in Chiasso, lunch offered by our friend Franco Santoro and in the late afternoon we arrived in Mariano Comense covering the first 50 km. We were hosted for the night by our friend Fausto Lepre from Irpinia.
As the day went on, almost all of the stages exceeded 50 km, crossing Cremona, Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, Bologna, Imola, Forlì and arriving at the sea in Rimini.
Along the way we met many friends, including Pier Paolo Catani, Giuseppe Caso and Maurizio Giuseppe.
Every day we marked on the asphalt with a piece of chalk the point where I had stopped, the point from which I would leave again the next day.

Had you planned all the stages?

We had planned the various stages, but we hadn’t booked any accommodation as we couldn’t predict the precise point of arrival, so we had to find accommodation every afternoon. My daughter Simona, my wife Maria and my friend Francesco Salvatore Marinari helped us from a distance to find hotels and/or B&Bs but, given the period (Ferragosto) and the COVID-19 situation, many structures were full or closed. My son also carried a small tent that we used a few times, including one evening when we “slept” on the beach in Falconara, while in Casacalenda the owner of the B&B La Quercia had us set up our tent in the garden, as it was full. On another occasion, having found no structure, we asked the parish priest Don Stefano of Montenero di Bisaccia for hospitality, and he allowed us to sleep in the sacristy.

The second part of the interview will be published in the first week of February.