Magic in the air

Giovanni Mariani
Giovanni Mariani - Lissone (MB) 09.04.1948 

Magical vibrations.

I can feel it in every cell of my body, and looking at the people that have just arrived at the start line I can see that they can feel it too. It is as if a fine magical powder is sparkling in the air. The rest of the world is still sleeping.

It is the same feeling that kept me awake last night. I didn't feel like this at the first Marcialonga. As time has passed this feeling has grown within me. Sleepless nights before the competition and being able to fully appreciate the excitement before the race. It is like a climber who has already climbed to the summit, but knows that every time the climb is different. The feelings, the encounters, the strain, the landscape, and your travelling companions. You don't know what it will be like until you have reached the end.

It is my 40th race. My stomach churns though my breakfast was light, this has also changed. It was not like this when I was younger. Even though my head is telling me to eat something substantial being as this is a long race, I just can't manage it. I will have to rely on energy bars and the refreshments given along the way. I will rely on my stamina and my understanding of time and pacing which comes only with age.

30 minutes to the start.
More and more lights are turned on in the little village of Moena. They look like fireflies that are floating above a crystal blanket. White. Everything is white. This year there is snow. This year it's really winter. I watch others arriving, first just a few, then more and more and the tension rises. There are queues at the entrance. The competitors already on the track move from foot to foot to keep themselves warm, or sort out their skis, or chat about the track and the wax for their skis, but in their minds they are already thinking about what is to come.

15 minutes to the start.
A feeling of uneasiness due to my nerves. I can hear my heartbeat accelerating. It follows the rising sound of music in the distance. The track that will carry this flow of dreamers. I start taking off my extra clothes until I am just wearing my race ski-suit and my yellow race bib. I straighten it with my gloved fingers. I can already hear the cheers along the track in my head. I am a Senator, and we are loved. I breath out and my gaze follows the cloud of vapour which streams out of my mouth and then disappears into the now electric air.

5 minutes to the start.
I can hear the speaker in the distance. I am slightly bewildered, vaguely elated, like after drinking a glass of champagne. I remain poised, torn between the desire to leave immediately or to stay here suspended in time. To stay in this very moment filled with all these sensations, I can feel them and everyone around me can feel them as well. I am drenched in positive anxiety which empties my stomach.

1 minute to the start.
I put my skis on and mentally review the first part of the track. My lucidity is back and I want to be ready. I knock my skis unconsciously against the snow so the wax doesn't form a wedge, an act of superstition to stop me from being nervous. I get in position and wait for the inevitable starting shot. The shot is crystal clear. A sigh of relief goes up and I set off. The tension has now completely dissolved and the air has become much lighter.

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


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