Ski to march, march to ski

ZambaldoArmando Zambaldo - Illasi (VR) 23.10.1943

Hot. It's too hot.
I am surrounded by green, bright green, like summer in the mountains. Underneath me the heat of the tarmac increases the sensation of melting. My legs move, my hips move, my arms move. Lean, push, attack. I move my right leg forward, my foot almost brushing against the parched ground. My body leans slightly forward to compensate the movement. I stretch forward as much as possible so I'm not touching the ground and roll. My body is still responding well, but the sweat that filters out of my skin is soaking me to the core. Every fibre of my being feels like its on fire. It's hard work but the wish to finish the session is greater. I have trained for over three hours now, on the roads of Val di Fiemme. I march, I walk. I have chosen this as my life. A passion that has become my job. A passion that lead me to a climax at The Montreal Olympics in 1976 the 20km march. I have competed with the best in the world, benefiting from training at high-altitude. Pure air, granite surroundings. In summer, in winter.

Cold. It's too cold.
I am surrounded by bright white, the depth of winter in the mountains. The snow underneath me increases the sensation of imminent freezing. My legs move, my arms move. Lean, push, attack. Pushing the right leg forward, keeping the left one still clinging to the frozen ground. My arms alternate, giving the body the necessary stability to amplify the power of the movement. I must try go faster. My fingers feel stif and I have pins and needles in them. I feel my toes becoming stif in my boots searching for heat from one another. Every breath that comes out of my mouth acts as a thermometer. Cold. It's too cold to continue today. I have trained for more than three hours, on the slopes of Val di Fassa. In a line in front of me my companions, ski inside the rails. I ski behind, watching their movements, slow and precise. I absorb the essence of the noise that is produced by skis against the snow .Sssssscccccc. It is almost therapeutic, you reconnect with something old, and very reassuring.

Disillusioned. I should to end the session. I think about where all of this will get me. I think about my two objectives. To train for the race, pushing my body to be ready for the summer training, and to train for the Marcialonga. Trying to classify this year as well, on the last Sunday of January. A regular date that started out as fun. I was there anyway to train but when there is a race, well, it is in the DNA of an athlete. It is difficult to give up the thrill of being at the starting line. Challenge other athletes. Beat them.
I begin, and the training became constant year in year out. And then came the tenth race, now I was really stuck. The title of Senator, almost an investiture. How do you give up then? How do you go back? You cannot. The bond becomes unbreakable . You and It. And the years that have passed.
Marching in summer, skiing in winter. And the roles are reversed at the end. Ski to march, but at a certain point I found I was marching to ski. To get to the end, always.

The two sides of the same coin, that have alternated as seasons alternate. They mark time as it flows. Or as it marchs, maybe.

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


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