Marco de Gasperi

Marco de Gasperi. Ambassador of Skyrunning.

Behind the wooden door. (by Fabio Menino)

I wrote this article in February 2014. It was the first time I´d been to Bormio, and also the first time I met Marco and Elisa’s family.

With Alejandro and Paolo I visited, among other places, the town center, and when Marco opened his door, I began to understand more about his world. Even now, two years on, when I reread these lines, I still get excited reliving those beautiful memories.

If I had been walking alone on the street, I probably wouldn´t have paid any attention to that door. It is just one of many I have passed by until today. The umpteenth silent witness of a distant past forgotten over time.

We ought to stop and stand in front of ancient doors and contemplate their precious details that speak to us with precision of its long history. It could be an opportunity to discover something unexpected or even magical.

Stopping only for an instant, the same door paints itself in soft colors, softened by the changes of seasons in perfect harmony. We could also observe its wrought-iron handle and consider who has turned it with their hands so many times to wear it that way. We may notice that its disheveled wooden panels, though simple in appearance, are actually reinforced by a beautiful hand-carved frame; or that on the stone doorstep, also worn down by countless steps, there is an ancient carving that bears witness to its origins. This door in Bormio, at number seventeen of a narrow and anonymous cobblestone street, dates from 1690 and has many stories to tell.

If the door burst open inviting us to discover the precious things that inhabit it, its simple contemplation could be something very much taken out of a fairy tale.

Closing our eyes, tradition would lead us directly to memories of the past that today have sadly disappeared, and unknown to its youngest bystanders. A stone staircase would lead us straight into the bowels of earth, into a place lit with just enough light, but warm and very alive. This is one of those places where we can immediately engage with it.

In this tale, a man with his back turned away from us, more accustomed to talking constantly to his beloved animals, would be proud to welcome someone in, eager to hear his story.

 

If the door burst open inviting us to discover the precious things that inhabit it, its simple contemplation could be something very much taken out of a fairy tale.

Closing our eyes, tradition would lead us directly to memories of the past that today have sadly disappeared, and unknown to its youngest bystanders. A stone staircase would lead us straight into the bowels of earth, into a place lit with just enough light, but warm and very alive. This is one of those places where we can immediately engage with it.

In this tale, a man with his back turned away from us, more accustomed to talking constantly to his beloved animals, would be proud to welcome someone in, eager to hear his story.

Looking closely at the door, you realize this story could not have had a different ending.

Perhaps if I had read the name of this “anonymous cobblestone street”, Via Della Vittoria, I would have imagined many other things before crossing the threshold of the door.

 

Come forward, Mr. Ambassador. By Gontxal K. N.

He could have emulated the ill-fated Marco Pantani, Stelvio up or Mortirolo down. Perhaps he could have opted for a ski discipline in his native Bormio, home to numerous white sport aces. In fact, it was in Nordic skiing that he debuted his first race at only six years old. A debut that burned in the memory of a tender Marco with bitterness, as he finished in last place in inconsolable tears that still bring remorse to the great Marco de Gasperi today.

Stubborn and self-disciplined, he insisted on rubbing shoulders with children who were a head above him and with a ton of horsepower. But the anxiety caused by these considerable disadvantages finally made him give up and look up at the haughty and intimidating peaks that encircled Bormio.

Along with his father and his cousin Michele Compagnoni, he acquired the knowledge and skills to conquer the high peaks, each time with greater swiftness and stamina, unknowingly forging the thoroughbred he had inside.

Simultaneously, among the inexhaustible source of mountain skiers, and because it was not necessary to not stop training abruptly in the summer season, several visionaries emerged such as Fabio Meraldi, Marino Giacometti and Adriano Greco, who realized that in the absence of skis, rudimentary sneakers were good enough to tread the same peaks whilst respecting the same philosophy: to reach the summit as quick as possible and get down even faster, overcoming all sorts of challenges whilst testing the skill and strength of each person.

Skyrunning had been born, and Marco, an admirer of those sharp skiers kitted out in ski suits in the winter and in tank tops in the summer, could not help but try out the green summer pasture in a cross-country race. Marco no longer had to sweat cold drops of fear at the possibility of not classifying, but quite the opposite. Suddenly he realized his special ability to gallop upwards to the summit compared to being on flat ground. His affair with Skyrunning’s newborn and scarce races had been unleashed with feverish madness.

First were the agonizing vertical kilometers like those of Cervinia. Also, came his debut at the age of sixteen (in what today would be seen as real daredevilry due to its dangerousness and constant exposure) in the Alagna Monte Rosa Skyrace. A legendary thirty-kilometer race that culminated in the summit at 4,650 meters altitude, high above the town of Alagna at only 1,200 meters, and in which he passed through the never-ending glacier with its sharp final edge using just rudimentary equipment that today would bewilder the new breed of mountain runners.

From this point on everything else is history. A living legend of this indescribable sport: his six world championships, his records in routes such as Courmayer – Mont Blanc, his legendary duels with Kilian Jornet, “his best enemy”, in Canazei, Zegama or Kinabalu, his friendly and unassuming presence, an ambassador of Skyrunning since almost its very origins way back in the distant nineties.

We only hope that injuries and doubts that can creep into the mind of a warrior who´s fought so many battles, don´t stop us from applauding in the mountains that man who so elegantly wears the green-white jersey of Forestale.

 

Dear record, I am writing to you about… By Fabio Menino.

… Your two reference times of 4h 13m 28s and 6h 46m 42s, that will remain engraved in my mind for a long time, as well as in those of fans and observers of this kind of mountain sport.

However, I would have liked to have met you in the months leading up to that July 16th, during that journey and in the days that followed, but it was not meant to be. It’s not your fault. You did your duty. Even so, I’ll briefly tell you what you missed and what’s behind your precious numbers…

The day beforehand you would have heard Elisa´s doubts, unsure, in secret, about whether to confront or not the long journey to Courmayeur with little Lidia.

You would have seen her arrive in the city late at night happier than ever, just wanting to hug Marco and help him through the long and difficult hours of waiting as swiftly as possible.

At the campsite, you would have laughed with Michele, Fabio, Nico, Alessandro, Martin, Franco, Denis, Matteo and the rest who seemed even more nervous than Marco.

Already up in the Gornella refuge, you would have seen Marco disappear behind a rock ready to face the walls of ice and the abysses.

You would have seen his jersey drenched in sweat even before the sun had kissed the day.

You would have suffered the feeling of anguish as you left him to face his destination.

From the sharp crests, looking down from above the glacier and battered by the heat, huge cracks had opened up, and you would have been afraid, like Adriano, Michele and Lucio, and you would have come to the same conclusions and had to take comfort in the instincts of Marco.

In each slip, you would have held your breath as they did.

And so, you would have enjoyed it all that much more…

 

“Ever since I was a young boy, I’ve never stopped dreaming. I still do it today, and even more so whenever the mountains catch my eye. These dreams have always been the driving force of my life, whether I have already experienced them or they still lie dormant. To be honest, these unfinished dreams tend to reflect the regrets I have in my life. Today I feel compelled to live out those dreams. I have decided to start with the very first of them all. The one of a child who did not dream about anything else than running in the mountains”.

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