WHERE DID YOU GET YOUR PASSION FOR TRAIL RUNNING? AND HOW DID IT BECOME YOUR JOB?
In the early 2000s, I pioneered the long races of that time, which were basically all on asphalt. Living in the Aosta Valley, however, I always trained on the trails, and I loved it infinitely more than the asphalt. After all, that type of running was much more in tune with my other passions: mountaineering, ski-mountaineering and cross-country skiing. I met and became friends with Michel Poletti, the creator of the Ultra Trail on the Mont Blanc, who invited me to the first edition of the race. From there, I caught the “bug”, which has still not gone away, despite the inexorable passing of the years. In reality, my work is not on trail running, but on the theme of human performance – and in particular on the influence of mental aspects on performance. I focus on this in my work with the University of Verona and the CERISM Research Centre in Rovereto, and as a consultant for mostly professional athletes. My relationship with the Tor Academy is not so much business-oriented, but rather something that I see as a great opportunity to gain data and knowledge on trail athletes; and, at the same time, to help people discover the great psycho-physical resources that lie within every human being.
In a climate marked by the third wave of the pandemic, in which many regions of Italy are announcing new lockdowns, what would you say to encourage those who are preparing to face the TOR?
Well, I would say that the lockdown situation can be a great opportunity to become aware of the things we really need: like the need to test ourselves, to live in contact with the natural environment, to discover our limits. Before, when everything was taken for granted, it was much more difficult to appreciate the many privileges to which we had access. So, I would say to those who are going to participate in the TOR that all these difficulties that accompany the preparation towards the goal should be seen as forging our motivation and nourishing the desire to be there even more.
How can sports help raise our spirits in a time like this?
The link between exercise, neurotransmitter emission and mood is well known. We are made to move, and, evolutionarily speaking, the nervous system appeared in living beings as a regulating tool for movement. Thought came as an unexpected effect millions of years later. When we do physical activity, we stimulate the central nervous system in a very healthy and natural way. In other words, smartworking can be a solution to an organizational and economic problem, but from a strictly evolutionary point of view, it represents a degeneration, going against Nature itself.
Why, in addition to physical training, is mental preparation also essential in an endurance race?
On the trails, the mental factor is fundamental. It is even more important than in other forms of running. There, the usual fatigue and pain are accompanied by the encounter with the “unexpected”: the storm that suddenly catches you on a hilltop, the torch that abandons you while you grope for spare batteries in the absolute darkness, the awareness of being irretrievably lost that takes your breath away… Controlling does not necessarily mean “resolving”: it means foreseeing, if possible, and, in any case, knowing how to manage the unexpected. But managing the unexpected means, above all, knowing how to manage yourself. So, the trails are also this: self-management competitions above all. Before being an athletic test, they put into play the ability to hold fast, to deal with difficulties, to not be disheartened by problems.