On July 9, at the end of the Gran Trail Courmayeur, Gilberto Iglesias, a gracious Asturian runner, alongside Lombard doctor Elena Piazza, was awarded a special gift. During their 90km, both had unhesitatingly set the race aside to help two other competitors in their time of need. The two marveled at the small recognition they had received, "because," they said with a smile, "we simply did what anyone should do, especially in a mountain trail race."
Gilberto Iglesias has strong ties with the Aosta Valley Region, and with the Tor des Géants® in particular - so much so that he has jokingly changed his name to Gilbertor, as can be seen on his Facebook profile. We've asked Ivan Parasacco, one of the two voices of the Tor and many other trail races, and an old friend of his, to tell us more about him. So Ivan called him.
Gilberto, ¿hola como estas? Asì estoy corriendo, ¿còmo puedo ayudar?
This is how his call to Gilber"tor" Iglesias, as per his designation on the "book of faces," begins. A Spanish runner, from Asturias. We talk for a few minutes, myself in a Spanish/Venetian, and him in an Italianate Spanish, which seems almost Vicentino to me... We both seem to be from the Veneto region in the end.
I want to ask you something; you're a true protagonist of the "Storie di Tor."
"But I'm not anybody!"
Sure! In fact, I know you well, and I know there's a story underneath - unpleasant for you, but full of feeling and love. A story that might help us understand why so many people run for hundreds of kilometers in often forbidding conditions on mountain trails - in short, no small part of the participants in the Tor ...
"I'm at Bertone, I'll be at your store in an hour... Perfecto! Gracias!”
Gilberto, as punctual as a collection agency, is out of breath when he arrives in Dolonne ...
"I'm not anybody, Ivan. What do you want to write about me?"
I explain what the tone of these few lines would be, and he's reticent at first, but he slowly opens up, seeming almost to want to give free reign to his thoughts and fears, and especially to his mixed feelings that, since February, the month in which he arrived here in Courmayeur, have had him living in a world of elected solitude and love for the Trail, shared with his friends at Courmayeur Trailers.
"You know, Ivan, I was born in 1963. I've been working for 24 years - one year of my work, two of yours - in a coal mine 1,000 meters underground. I've always had passion for the mountains, which I started going to in the Picos de Europa, close to home, in my free time. I became a snowboarding instructor, a passion I then passed on to my son. Over time, I got closer to the mountain races, favoring the longer ones; I was a finisher twice in the UTMB and once in the Grand Raid des Pyrénées, as well as other beautiful races, but none longer than 90 kilometers. In 2012, Jonathan heard about the Tor Des Géants, and he called me, 'Dad, I've found the race for you.' So I started preparing, but didn't make the runners' list. 2013 was the worst year of my life. A misfortune robbed me of something indescribable, something that still weighs on my heart."
Somehow I understand you, my dear friend. I too am a father, and what's happened to you would probably push me over the brink.
"In 2014, thanks to that year's Main Sponsor, I was able to get a wild card, So I trained and I ran, my heart full of hope and purpose. The first was to honor a promise. Unfortunately, at St. Jaques, on the 236th kilometre – so less than 100 to the finish line - despite all the morale and support of the many volunteers, my determination to keep that inner promise to the one who had encouraged me to make it so far wasn't enough. Two broken toes, a subsequent ulcer, and several days in the hospital in Aosta forced me to return home, in a defeat that sadly weighed very heavily on me. In 2015, I was unable to enter but I came to Tor anyway as a volunteer. But this year, I've been lucky; I've made it into the seventh edition, which starts in just a few weeks. So I decided, leaving my family and so many problems behind, to move here early, in February, to train on-location and better study the trail. Clearly it's not easy for me, partly because of the differences in language and culture, although I quickly found many friends to run with - but then, coming home in the evenings there's so much thought and solitude. Moments of despair that take me back to my previous life, when I was accompanied by the light of my life. In the morning I go out and vent my frustration by running. I'm trying to make it to the top as quickly as possible, to share with the one who’s no longer physically present, but always there inside me, that breathtaking view of your Valle d'Aosta, which today is a little bit mine as well, my dear friend. On September 11 I’ll set off on a journey to rediscover the Gilberto that I know I am. Alone, or almost so, not wanting any help. Alone with a backpack full of the materials needed to finish my journey, and a heart full of memories and promises. I want to make it back to Courmayeur, at any cost. I'm not bothered by time. I want to bring the Finisher jacket back home, hang it up there and write underneath, 'did you see, we made it!'"
Buona carrera my amigo, you deserve all the good in the world, and all the emotions your run brings. Together. (I.P.)