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SanPa Comes to New York to Cross the Finish Line

A community-based rehabilitation institution runs with a message to send out to the world

NYC marathon san patrignano

The team of runners which will be at the NYC Marathon

San Patrignano is a secular and free community that currently hosts 1,300 men and women with addiction problems. A team of 12, will run the NYC Marathon with the dream of crossing the finish line and send out their message of hope.


The community of San Patrignano will take part of the New York Marathon again this year, but this time the runners will try to cross a more important finish line.

The community of San Patrignano is a rehabilitation institution founded in 1978 near Rimini, Italy, by Vincenzo Muccioli. San Patrignano is a secular and free community that currently hosts 1,300 men and women with addiction problems from all over Italy, but also from all over the world. The organization does not simply accommodate its guests, but it also provides them with free legal services and heath care. For this reason, the community of San Patrignano received the ONU recognitions and it is rewarded as one of the best and most effective institutions in Europe nowadays. The key for this community’s success is the educational approach to the addiction, concentrated on creating and sustaining the guests’ motivation during their path of social and physical rehabilitation.

The philosophy of SanPa – as the guests commonly call the community – is to help its people by giving them the necessary self-awareness to reach the bottom of the problems that lead them to use narcotic substances to escape reality; realities often characterized by abandonment, non-acceptance, and social exclusion. Differently from the medical approach of many countries, among which the United States, the community does not believe that addiction is a disease, but a symptom; consequently, SanPa does not treat addictions with any kind of medication. The medical treatments are simply considered as shortcuts that do not reach the real causes of the problems: it is not a permanent solution. The addiction is only the tip of the iceberg of deeper problematics that need to be faced, in order to reach a full rehabilitation. The path usually lasts 3 to 4 years, and it features a wide range educational activities, from different sports teams to musical classes and professional trainings. Those activities are important because they allow all the guests of the community to have a second chance, but also a third one, to help them create healthy relationships in their lives, and also to economically support San Patrignano. The craftsmanship created by the men and women of the community during the activities both help the guests to take responsibilities and regain self-esteem and make up the 50% of the community’s budget.

However, for the men and women living at SanPa, those activities are much more than mere hobbies, but real opportunities to take advantage of. For example, in the last few years the running team has participated in various competitions both in Italy and abroad. The team had, in fact, the opportunity to take part of the London and the New York marathon, a chance that they will have the fortune to repeat this year. After the tragically comic events of last year –in which a member of the SanPa running team, Gianclaudio Marengo, after ending the competition, had gone missing and wondered around the city for two days– which received wide coverage by American media, the community wants to recoup and move the attention towards the message that they intend to bring to United States.

san patrignano maratona di new york

The team pictured before take off

After months of a long and intense preparation and of individual training to improve the weak points of each runner, the twelve members are ready to face the challenge. On November 6th 2016, Francesca Airardo Esposito, Virgilio Albertini, Sara Carrena, Azzurra Di Bennardo, Nicola Dzhanshiev, Francesco Carmelo Facecchia, Rosario Fiorinelli, Stefano Folco, Claudio Lotti, Mario Mondelli, Giuseppe Morfese, and Roberto Morgese will represent the community of San Patrignano at the New York City marathon. When talking to Virgilio and Francesco – two members of the team – it is clear that the excitement is great. Virgilio tells me: “I haven’t been able to sleep and have been thinking only about the marathon for the past week.” Then he adds: “it’s a new challenge, but I am living it with extreme excitement and I looking forward to being there.” For many of the athletes, among whom Francesco and Virgilio, this is not only the first marathon in which they participate, but also the first time in New York and in the United States. When I ask what the relationship with the rest of the members of the team is like, Francesco and Virgilio answer: “we all know each other already, because we are all guests at SanPa since a long time, but working together we got to know each other better.” Then they add: “We dragged and we have been dragged!” because in the group they all became the motivation for one another to carry on. The group became the strength and the support for all of them.

There is no pressure on the results of the competition, the incentive is strong and the athletes are ready to give all they have to get to the finish line. Francesco and Virgilio explain to me: “our finishing time is not important to us, living this experience with serenity is.” This marathon is not simply a life experience, but also an important commitment towards the community. Francesco tell that: “Thanks to the sponsor that will finance the trip, this marathon will also help all the other sports teams at San Patrignano. Thanks to these sponsors that allow us to realize this project, we are able to support all the other sports projects at SanPa.”

san patrignano maratona di new yorksan patrignano maratona di new yorkFrom what the guys tell me, it is clear since the beginning that the marathon is only an excuse to send a message to the world regarding the community and that, as Francesco says: “You can get out of the addiction with the everyday activities.” Elaborating on what Francesco stated, Virgilio comments that if he will be able to reach the finish line “it will be like winning the marathon” and that it will be his merit as well as the community’s, that throughout the years helped him get back on his feet: “I run for myself and for SanPa.” Getting to the finish line will be an important message for the community, but also for all the people in Italy who, as Francesco says: “Believe that in front of the difficulties, often there isn’t any desire for a new star and continue anew, but, in actuality, with effort, perseverance, and determination and the help of others everything becomes possible.”

Then all it is left to say is to wish good luck to all the runners on the San Patrignano team and to all the people that will take part to the New York marathon on Sunday.


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