Get to the finish, always.

Luigi DelvaiLuigi Delvai - Carano (TN) 25.12.1943

I don't believe you.

I look doubtingly at the doctor who is staring back at me and is trying to make me understand that he knows, he understands, that if he could...... But he doesn't know. He can't understand, it is something that comes from far away. It's like taking away the most precious thing you have. Something that you have always taken for granted.

It seems as if it was only yesterday that I was at the starting line of the first Marcialonga, the long race, and then the second, and then the third and so on for such a long time. From the 10th onwards when they gave me the title Senatore. Myself and only a few others have carried this title like a well-fitting suit. This situation now, is it some kind of joke? I don´t want to take part in it. Do you understand, doctor? This physical problem won't stop me. My legs work, my arms work. I can fix my back - somehow. You can always find a solution, can't you? I will think about it after the operation, everything will go as it should.

Here I am again! Against all medical advice. I am at the starting line. I feel colder than previous years. I am also scared of falling. Going uphill, going downhill, at the starting line where it is total chaos, where everybody pushes and shoves as soon as they hear the starting shot. As if 50 meters on a 70 km track makes a difference. I must be more careful, my condition means I can't make any mistakes. A pain in my back reminds me with every single push: it will be a totally different race. I control every movement, I calculate my strength. It's not coming first that matters, it's getting to the end. I have done so much to get here I won't let anything stop me from arriving at the finishing line even if I come last.

Each stride is hard work, another 15 km to go, the really long slope of “Predaia”, “le piane di Castello”, the final climb that brings you to the hospital, the finishing line. I am tired, tired, so tired. The pain is unbearable, it spreads to every part of my body, not just my back but everywhere. I have to stop. I don't want to, but I have to stop. There is a wooden bench at the side of the track. I sit down, the world is slowly turning black. They can see I need help, a doctor comes to check on me. Useless it's all useless. I'm not going to get there. I give up and realize that I'm finished. Then I see him, my arch rival coming into view. A wave of adrenaline runs through me. I feel suddenly in control. He won´t beat me, if he can get to the end then so can I.

I get back on the track. I haven't got any strength left in my arms, I haven't got any strength in my legs, my movements are not controlled or elegant or efficient. The only thing that keeps me going is my willpower. I have got to get to that fucking finishing line. I will get there, I will, because I won´t let him beat me.

Tomorrow, tomorrow I will see you in hospital doctor.

Concept, interview and text: Susanna Sieff
Photo: Alice Russolo
Video: Graziano Bosin - Dolomiti TV


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