THE WRITER'S IMPRESSIONS 2019 | Sarasso at TOR 2019
DAY 1 - Friday 6th September 2019
“Plimpy, are you ready?" It's Alberto's voice, my son.
It sounds like silver and smells of suncreen.
He calls me with a name that he invented on your own. I did the same at his age. My granfather was Pum Pum. Because of the rifle, I guess. My grandfather was a hunter.
"Almost, my love" I answer. "I have to check again if I got everything. I always forget something"
"Well, do not forget your bravery, please. And to smile. And kisses for me, ok" He says.
And I'm touched, even before closing my suitcase.
It happens every year, for three years.
It happens when finally Septembers comes, and it is time to go home.
This year I leave earlier, this year is special.
This year my journey starts two days earlier. And I can't wait.
TOR turs ten years old. Just thirteen months more than my Alberto.
I wish I was there from the beginning, but ten years ago I didn't know anything about running. And for sure, I wasn't at peace with the mountain. Ten years ago, when everything started, my life was, simply, another life.
September smelled like ocean, and thongues that I tried to understand for the first time.
In September I pulled the paddles in my boat and collected books to leave in search of the world.
I had in my heart Marseille, Northern Ireland. In my mouth salt and beer.
Eliis Island from the boat, with the wind on my face. And Lady Liberty, to watch with the same eyes of my great grandfather, who arrived there just one century ago.
I was looking for the world, ten years ago.
And I am still looking for it.
That's why I came back home.
Alberto gives me the last kiss and it is time to leave.
The road from my lowland to the mountains is always the same. I hated it when I was a child.
Now, on the contrary, I know what mom and dad felt every time that we got up there, bend after bend.
Now I understand those breaths, on the balcony, in front of those night full of stars.
I understand the hunger to arrive, to steo on the grass and to feed the soles with some rocks. To feel free, for once.
If I made peace with the mountain, it is thanks of TOR.
And of the family that imagined it, cuddled it, carried it and grew it with the same love with with I grew my boy.
Alessandra and Erica called me, few days ago.
We were talking about what I would have told, this year, along the trails. And how I would have done.
"Sarasso, the first time you came here you were like a child in a bakery. Do you remember? Do you remember that wonder?"
I do remember it: the magic of TOR overwhelmed me from the very first. Ecstatic looks to those heroes with sticks and trail shoes, the smiles of the crowd, the colors of Jardin de l'Ange, the music that hits everything. And then, the silence of the steps during the ascent.
The breath of who is not prepared to give up. The tears and the loss of yourself: asleep and blessed from mud and dust, in a hut, open only for the race. And the descent at dawn, desiders that come to life, yellow flag after yellow flag. The last peak that explodes of wonder.
And the last run between bells and costumes that tells about another era.
A smile and a hug. Life is not the same anymore.
"I do remember, guys. Every single moment" I answer to my friends.
"You know what's your problem?" they say.
I don't know.
"You're not virgin anymore"
They are right.
Every year TOR is a different magic. But still the same.
And every year I fall in love with an unknown peak, with a blinding reflection, with a breathtaking sunset, and, above all, with the stories of those that make TOR possible. Runners, for sure. But also volunteers, assistants, normal people.
TOR is of everyone and burn your heart untill it explodes if you get in touch with it. And you didn't expected it.
Really, you didn't expected it.
Anyway, the first time is just once.
Those wonder, maybe, is gone. It belongs to that foolish that embark on an unknown adventure three years ago, without knowing where he was going, where he was supposed to eat and sleep, the exhaustion, the cold and the amazement.
Or maybe not?
"What stories are you going to tell, this year? And with wich kind of eyes are you going to paint this special edition? Ten years.. can you believe it?"
"I don't know yet" I lie. "Normally best ideas come along the road, step by step.."
They know that's a lie.
But the feel to be surprised, as me.
Because, I do have an idea.
And it is so inebriating that I spill my coffee.
"What a mess, Plimpy!" I think I hear my son's voice.
But the idea - said the poet -is like Christmas: it comes when it's time.
And it doesn't care if you're not ready, if you didn't think about it, if it find - litteraly - in the middle of a road.
And so I run to my phone to check some datas, and, page after page, the vision takes shape. But it is only when I step in Courmayeur that my fool intuitions are confirmed.
Ready to take me in a trip, peak by peak. Day by day, until next Sunday.
Shy smiles in colored jackets, almond eyes and and different shades of skin.
And foreing accent heard at Caffé delle Guide, with a spritz, a hot chocolate and an ice cream: differnt kind of English, from Cork, Melbourne or Glasgow and an unique mexican "Perdoname.."
Ten years ago I shut the door behind me to go around the world. I was looking for something else and, above all, for someone else.
Today I come back home and the entire world is here.
Runners from seventy-two nations took a train, a plane, a boat or a car to be here. To be part of that fairytale that the world know as Tor des Géants®. And with them their families and friends.
At TOR there is the whole globe. And it's not a figure of speech. Every continent is represented by at least one runner. Just mentioning the principal race.
Other twenty-three nationalities for Tor des Glaciers that will start this evening, 100 marvelous runners that will take a journey 450km long. My heartbeat speeds up, just thinking about it.
And it's not all.
Five-hundred dreamers from eighteen countries will leave next Tuesday from Gressoney for Tot Dret.
Last but not least, other five-hundred runners from twenty-three nations for Passage au Malatrà, the short one, 30km that I will run as well, keeping a promise I made three year ago: "I will do it - with some fear - I will, too"
I wrote it in these pages that one day, maybe, I would have retourned to wear a bib, on the starting line. I talked out of turn, perfectly conscious of how far from my reach races like TOR or Tot Dret are. (Tor des Glaciers wasn't yes planned when I wrote those words, luckly) Now I feel that the time is come to feel on my skin the countdown. Heart beats on my head, the music grows and you know that it will soon be nothing but sweat, burning muscles, willing and resilience.
I can't wait to wear my running shoes and bite the bullet.
I can't wait to lift my look and feel the hug, the breath of the world aroung me.
This is how I want to live the dream this year: from today until Friday you will find me along the trails, as usual. Or in the life bases, with my friend Mien.
Peeking, shooting and writing on my notebook eroded by life, glimpses of the planet. And on Saturday, finally, I will climb up there, to Col Malatrà, to receive once again that baptism.
How does it feel to wake up miles away from your bed, maybe under a sky where even the stars do not look anymore as those you were used to know, and let the unkwown mountains welcome you, kilometers by kilometer?
How does the usual rice, quinoa or banana taste like, when you eat them head down, on the other side of the earth? How does the music sound in your hears, between warm camp beds in a sport center? The wind around you and so much peace that brake your heart.
I wait this week for the entire year.
In a sort of dreamy and distracted catatonia, to much busy with the alarm clock, paperwork, numbers, words, books to tell to those who even know what they are.
One yar ago I met a man, at Rifugio Dondena, that told me that TOR for him is not a problem. Neither a fatigue, or a monster to fear, or even a too great dream.
The real problem, says choosing carefully every word, is the rest of the year: the other 365 days without TOR.
That man is called Gilberto Iglesias Nuñez and he spend the most of his life in a Asturian mine. Since he is in retrait, he decided to live on the mountains, there where the world still seems right, severe and gently. He spend part of the year in Aosta Valley, chewing every day a piace of TOR. And the other part in his native village that saw him come to life, without stopping even for a moment to think of his mountains. Our valleys.
Sunday you will find Gilberto in Courmayeur, on the starting line with the bib number 1928.
Ready to live again this adventure once again (he was finisher in 2016 and 2017).
Somewhere in the crowd, ready to cheer the Giants come frome the entire world, there will be also me and my notebook. Thirsty of nevernding stories.
To listen and tell, once again, with virgin hears and eyes.