“There it is, melancholia”
Much to its misfortune, it participated in many showers, many dish washes and floor scrubs; already tiny puddles of water have seeped into it’s plastic wrapping and the chip. It is falling apart the poor little thing; a few times I’ve thought about resigning myself, cutting it off and putting it in my box of relics… But for now, a month on, it’s still there, faithful. Ever brighter and shinier, more precious than a lump of gold.
My “Courmayeur Trailers” logoed wristband. You keep it bound tightly around your wrist in the hour before setting off, when you still don’t know that that band will wrap right around your mountain runner’s heart, not just for the week of the competition, but for the rest of your days..
Just so. The Tor is not just any race. And not just because it is over 330 kilometres long, because it inflicts 24,000 meters of elevation on you, because during it, you will pass many sleepless nights, because it has an altimetric graph which would make an electrocardiogram jealous. The Tor is a pilgrimage. It is a collection of glacial sunrises of fiery colours, of afternoons flooded with dazzling light from the three thousand meters of altitude, of nights glimmering with stars, of raging lightening which cracks against the stony cliffs, of artificial lights which pick out the profile of the path along a faraway ledge in the dark, of little yellow flags which follow one another in an obsessive crescendo, of eyelids which droop, of shadows which exist only in a foggy mind, of nails which fall off, of poles which clack on the stone in an ever slower and more fatigued rhythm, of the cowbells of cows, of mountain huts and shepherds, of the rustling of leaves and animals in the gloom, of dishes with fontina cheese and cured beef, of blistered feet, of smiles, of sighs, of moments when you think you might die and of the courage which runs through your veins when the much sweated over ground is finally under your feet.
The Tor is amazement, rage, discomfort, joy, desolation, exhaustion, tears, hallucination, weariness, it is dying and being reborn. It is an entire life concentrated into seven, six day, maybe less, if you’re fast.
The Tor carves itself a niche in your heart and from there, every day of your existence, it will make its voice heard; it may be subdued, subtle, perhaps a simple short call, but you won’t be able to mistake it.
At least for one moment, every day, you will take yourself back to struggling on the debris of the Col Loson, to feeling your head spin standing before the abyss beyond the Colle della Vecchia, to smiling, admiring the full moon as you arrive at the Sogno mountain hut, to racking your brains over how to manage to get back within the timed gates, to dreaming of a camp bed and a cover, to letting yourself fall asleep on any rock of any path, to feeling your weary legs, which nevertheless want to run over the last stretch of terrain of the Col Malatrà.
No, the Tor is not just any race, because there is not joy when you arrive at the finish. It cannot be joy, because there under the finishing banner at Courmayeur, is the end of a dream. After you give yourself the time to let the euphoria filter away, to finally be free to sleep, then it will hit you, unshakeable, melancholia.
You will be left with the wristband, to fool you into thinking, if you close your eyes for a moment, that you are still up there. And you will surprise yourself by always coming back to think about it, day after day.
This is “Tor sickness” and there is no cure for it.
Giancarla Agosti in Spirito Trail, November 2011