Each marathon, each race tells a story… a story of determination and hope while pushing to the limit.
For 66-year-old Antonio Grotto, the 2016 Malta Marathon signalled a milestone in his career – it was the 800th time that the Italian veteran had ran the 42km distance and more.
His reserved and unassuming demeanour belies the energy and enthusiasm that exude from Grotto. He started running some 30 years back when his life had reached a hiatus.
So, he felt he needed new challenges, new frontiers that would renew his zest for life.
Simply put in his own words, running makes Grotto feel good.
“It gives me a free mind,” he said.
“Running is all about having the courage to start and the motivation to finish, enjoying the whole experience in the process.”
This positivity came across loud and clear when at the end of the Malta Marathon, Grotto was asked as to how the windy conditions, which most runners had complained about, affected his run.
Grotto simply replied that the wind is part of nature and another element that contributes to the experience of the marathon.
Grotto ran the Malta Marathon in the past and his family have business connections here.
His son-in-law, Carlo Segala, who is also an avid runner and took part in the Malta Half Marathon, is one of the owners of Helvi (Italy), a manufacturer of welding machines and long-term partner of local company Multigas.
Helvi and Multigas jointly fielded a team of seven runners at the Malta Marathon and Half-Marathon, showing that their successful relationship goes beyond business.
“I came to Malta to spend a few days with my family and some friends who joined me for the race,” Grotto said.
“This is my second Malta Marathon, it’s a route that I like and Malta is such a beautiful island with such an interesting history. I have met some very special people along the way.”
Grotto ran his first marathon in Venice in 1994.
From then on he didn’t look back, combining his love of travelling with running. His preferred distances are challenging 100km runs, of which he has assembled quite a long list on his CV.
Each race offers different emotions, however. Grosso pinpoints two particular events that left an indelible mark on him.
The Jerusalem marathon, where so many different faiths unite to reach one goal – that of completing a marathon – still gives him the goose bumps.
The 2011 New York Marathon, held in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks, was another emotional experience.
While running, the enormity of the tragedy became even more real, filling his eyes with tears and sadness along the route.
But, after 800 marathons does running and the challenges that come with ultra running still stimulate Grotto?
The answer to that question was a strong yes.
“As long as one does not take up the unnecessary stress that comes with competition, the sport produces a feel good factor,” he said.
“Running is not about racing against the clock or feeling down after slow runs – the sport is all about being good with yourself.”
When asked what advice he would offer to those who might be considering taking up running, Grosso said: “Build slowly, day by day, and little by little it will become a life habit.
“Do not overdo training at the beginning. Run to feel good, to find yourself, spend time with nature, meet new people and visit new places.”
Grotto is now planning his next races which include the Paris Marathon (next Sunday), 50km Romagna (April 25), 100km – 100eLode (May 7) and 100km del Passatore (May 29).
The demanding Auckland Marathon, later on in the season, is also part of his plans.
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