The first thing that caught my attention in Chamonix at the weekend was how the heck could a 59-year-old win an endurance marathon lasting 163 kms?
Starting line: athletes at the start of the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc
When Marco Olmo won his second Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc last year, his response was: "At 59, it's natural to have a longer honours list than the others!"
It was a valid answer. He is a remarkable athlete who has won the Marathon des Sables three times, the Desert Marathon of Libya four times, a six-time winner of the Cromagnons and has had quadruple success in the Desert Cape. So many titles and yet the average person knows so little of Olmo.
The Italian was gearing up for a hat-trick of wins and I wanted to find out more about this more than plucky athlete before he was carried through the streets of Chamonix and the place run dry of the top shelf of spirits in every crammed bar.
I saw him at the start and he was sitting away from the other athletes doing last-minute interviews before I requested a more lengthy one at the end. Fearing sleep over answering mind-numbing questions like, "What music do you listen to in the race?" he coolly replied that he doesn't get tired and to grab him at the finish.
The Alpine sun wasn't accounted for, as was Olmo's leg injury. His much-vaunted stride pattern revered by other athletes couldn't take the pain and he gamely pulled out with 20kms to go.
The other runners were still trickling in long after Olmo's retirement. Climbing into bed in the wee hours, it was the only time when I wasn't worrying about late-night revellers. The cheering and clapping from passers-by welcoming home these worthy athletes was the perfect antidote.