Today is a sunny September Sunday. I’m walking to the start of my second marathon road race and the fifth marathon I’ve run on this surface. I set out to run in training mode, long run, medium to fast tempo, considering that in just six days I will be starting my first +100km Ultra. Until today, before any race, my nerves would get the better of me a few days beforehand and I’d be anxious especially during the night.
This time knowing that it was going to be a simple training run I was able to be more relaxed and get enough sleep in the last few days. Somehow I’m intrigued by the peace of mind I have, will I mobilize myself to be able to handle such a race?
I haven’t done much running on asphalt lately, I’ve done most of my volume on the trail and I’m a little skeptical about my ability to sustain the pace the asphalt and flat surface demands of you. I’ve had a few tempo runs in the last few weeks though that have run roughly within parameters so I figure it’s important to enjoy the race, the runners on the trail, the beauty of Cluj-Napoca and the spectators in Cluj who are always there for the runners and support them warmly.
I already arrive on the course and see two volunteers scrambling for a “U” loop. They greet me and I answer them and ask if they are cold. They tell me they are waiting for the sun to come up because it’s cold.
Other runners are also heading to Cluj Arena, where the start is at 8:30. The energy is good and the enthusiasm is present in everyone. I grab a water from a stall and head to my warm-up area. Twenty minutes later I’m warmed up and fitted for the start. The announcer invites us to the start area and from the back of the column I set off full of good energy on the course.
It starts off slower than last year, which I am happy about. I’m not a speed runner, I’m a steady and stubborn turtle, but a “speed runner” I never was and I don’t know if I ever will be again. I aim to run at a heart rate around 140bpm and I want to keep that as steady as possible. This marathon is also being run by my friend from Baia Mare, who turned 62 this year. He has been running 14km in the park every morning since he was 50. Day after day, year after year. He has also run a half marathon and thought until last week that he would also run a half marathon at Wizz AIR. But whoever signed him up seems to have mistakenly signed him up for the marathon. Before the race we talked and he was excited for his first marathon.
It’s a big thing to do at his age. I admire him for his discipline but also for his courage. The marathon is a worthwhile experience at any age.
The course is 21km and is run twice. It’s a slow and challenging route. It has 14 “U” turns and is done twice; so every mile you have to slow down, take the turn safely, and then push to get back into tempo. For me, who treats the race as a workout, it’s the ideal route, for those who run the race with full dedication it’s super exhausting. No matter how good a marathoner you are I think it’s impossible to run in a time under two hours and fifteen minutes. And here I’m talking about the best marathoners in the world.
The world is good, runners are enjoying the race, people are chatting, cheering each other on, volunteers and spectators are vocal and supporting us with South American warmth. I see Sorin constantly because he allows me the route and I cheer him on every time. So does he and he gives me energy.
There are other runners I know; I do the same with them. I like to encourage during a race because I love their positive reaction and that gives me strength too.
The run goes smoothly until mile thirty. I’m steady and my heart rate stays within parameters. I hydrate at every point and fuel on schedule. From here the sun starts to burn. I don’t know how many degrees it is but suddenly it seems like everyone is looking for shade. More and more people are running bare-chested, a sign that it’s a general feeling. And the half marathoners, who started two hours later but also the cross country runners who started recently, are looking for shade.
My watch shows a pulse of 156 so I slow down and wait for the pulse to drop. I’m feeling very hot. I do a few miles much slower and barely get my pulse down to 140bpm. It’s like at low speed everything is harder. I don’t know what to do! Should I try to up the tempo to make it easier or go for the pulse? I think that in six days I have an ultra waiting for me and decide to stick around. On a U-turn a runner in front of me, past fifty slips and falls. He hasn’t slowed down enough and this happens when fatigue is already taking its toll. He gets up and signals that he’s okay and starts walking. I reach him and ask if I can help him somehow. He tells me he’s relatively fine and that there’s nothing I can do to help him. I thought I’d stay by his side and support him until he gets back into rhythm. He tells me he’s fine so I walk away.
The miles go by more slowly at a leisurely pace. Nea Sorin asks me if we have much further and I tell him there’s only five kilometres to go.
It’s getting hotter and harder to run at low heart rate because I’m slowing down more and more. I decide to pick up the pace but my body doesn’t seem to be listening. Somehow it refuses the commands. I wonder what I’ll do next week at +100k if it’s hard right now. “Niculai, get your head in the game, pull yourself together and let’s go!”. It’s the voice that’s berating me from the back of my mind. I grab another gel and two more glasses of isotonic and remember my training runs. I tell myself to give it a go, and I seem to manage to climb. But after five hundred metres I sink back into the easy run. And, stubborn as I am, I give it another go. This time it works.
I do the last kilometres at almost the same pace as at the beginning. I don’t look at my heart rate anymore because it doesn’t matter. I’ll soon finish and enjoy the feeling of the finish. I increase the pace more and more and get closer to the stadium. I pass more marathon runners but also more half marathon runners. The stadium feels better. I almost finish in the sprint and am happy to get the finisher’s medal.
I keep moving and running very slowly to get my heart rate down and get my recovery right. I’m happy! I have finished a marathon again. I look at the result and see that I was six minutes faster than last year. Then I fought with myself and gave it my maximum. Today I enjoyed the course, I also suffered but I did better. Nea Sorin also finished the race with an honourable time.
I am grateful and fulfilled. I never thought I would end up having a road marathon as a training session. I can’t wait for the Crazy Wolf Ultramarathon to see what it has in store for me. Every race has its own story and lesson to offer. Endurance running is an amalgam of joy, suffering, meditation, agony and ecstasy!
Ar fi trebuit să fie povestea unei curse, Mogoșa Everesting dar o să fie despre ce ne învață alergarea.
Anul trecut, în 2021, pe 7 August participam la prima mea competiție sportivă, Mogoșa Everesting. Alergam deja din 2013 dar o făceam doar la nivel de jogging. Întâmplător am auzit la un post de radio local, din Baia Mare, o reclamă ce spunea: “Participă la Mogoșa Everesting și află care e Everestul tău. Termină cel puțin o singură urcare și coborâre și vei primi medalia de finish-er.” Mi-a plăcut mult mesajul și eram conștient că nu sunt pregătit să fac cele 18 ture pentru a strânge 8848 de metri în sus și în jos, dar mă întrebam oare care este Everestul meu.
Așa am ajuns să particip și după mai bine de 19 ore, am adunat 11 ture adică Everestul meu era de 5401 metri și se întindea pe mai bine de 44 de kilometri. Mi-am dat seama că reușisem să alerg (e mult a spune alergare, mai degrabă să mă târăsc) un ultramaraton cu o diferență considerabilă pentru un om obișnuit, nicidecum un sportiv.
Pentru cei care nu cunosc competiția, am să fac o mică descriere a traseului: lângă Baia Sprie, parte din munții Gutâi, este vârful Mogoșa ce are o altitudine de 1246 m. De pe acest vârf pornește o pârtie de schi ce se bifurcă la un momentdat în mai multe variante până la lacul Mogoșa și în altă parte spre stațiunea Șuior. Diferența de nivel dintre lac și vârf este de aproximativ 500m pe o distanță de maxim 2 km, cu o înclinație medie de peste 25%. Se face o urcare si apoi o coborâre pe una din variantele de pârtie de ski…și tot așa de 18 ori, până la capăt, cu un termen limită de 24 de ore. Brutal! Cine nu a făcut urcări si coborâri pe o înclinație de peste 25% nu poate însemna prea mare lucru, dar odată ce faci asta și începi să miroși respectul pe care ți-l transmite muntele, optica devine diferită. Iar pentru un om obișnuit, chiar e brutal. Da,cuvântul acesta descrie cel mai bine acest concurs.
Mi-a placut așa de mult conceptul, atmosfera de la concurs, alergătorii care se încurajau și se felicitau unul pe altul când se înâlneau pe traseu, încât mi-am promis, că începând cu următoarea săptămână de după concurs, am să încep pregătirea și în 2022 am să particip foarte bine pregătit și am să fac toate cele 18 ture în mai puțin de 24 de ore. Și asa am și făcut.
Am strâns într-un an de zile 399 de alergări care în total însumau 3814 km alergați cu o diferență de nivel de peste 90.000 m. Am citit cărți, mi-am ordonat viața, mi-am planificat antrenamentele, am participat la mai multe curse pregătitoare printre care și două ultramaratoane de 52 și 87 km. Totul pentru a fi pregătit pe 6 August 2022. Această dată era pentru mine un eveniment ce urma să fie foarte important în viața mea.
Și așa cum spunea o vorbă: “atunci când îți faci planuri universul râde de tine”, cu aproximativ zece zile înainte de cursă am simțit că răcesc. Am zis, o răceală, trece. Am mai avut o grămadă și cum au venit așa au și trecut. Dar după o zi m-am simțit scanat de răceală și mi-am dat seama că nu-i răceală, că-i covid (eram vaccinat dar și trecut prin boală așa că știam cum te face să te simți covidul). Mi-am făcut un prim test și a ieșit negativ. Am fost fericit că nu-i covid și mi-am văzut în continuare de antrenamente. N-am vrut să ratez nici un antrenament. Am vrut să fiu 100% în ziua concursului. Dar după alte două zile am simțit că merge tare greu un antrenamet relativ simplu. Mi-am mai făcut un test și am ieșit pozitiv. Simțeam că lumea se sfârșește, că cerul se coboară în întregime pe umerii mei. Imi ziceam că oricum Covidul trece în cinci zile si văd eu cum mă simt și pe sâmbătă mă duc la concurs.
Mi-a trebuit aproape incă o săptămână în care să discut cu cei apropiați, cu antrenorul meu, Robert, ca să zic până la urmă că sănătatea e mai importantă ca orice. Eu de fapt alerg pentru sănătate, alerg pentru că îmi place și pentru că îmi doresc să fac acest lucru până la adânci bătrâneți.
Modelul meu este un senior din Baia Mare care la 90 de ani aleargă în fiecare zi peste 4 km. Am realizat că alergarea m-a învățat să fiu reziliant și să iau lucrurile așa cum sunt. Că a fi sănătos este cel mai important lucru, că bucuria de a alerga e peste rezultatul unei competiții, că antrenamentele sunt frumusețea alergării și că ele sunt grosul călătoriei noastre de alergători, că-i important să știm să pierdem, indiferent ce pierdem. Sunt recunoscător pentru această lecție și imi propun ca pe viitor să mă bucur de fiecare antrenament, de fiecare cursă și de fiecare zi în care voi putea sănătos să mă vâr în pantofii de alergare și să pornesc pe cărări și străzi, să savurez fiecare pas indiferent că-i ușor sau greu!
At the end of each month, we send out a newsletter that keeps you up to date with important events in the running world, gives you training ideas, and motivates you for your next competition.
I almost always train with my headphones on and listen to podcasts. In all the years of running I have gathered and learned a lot, but there are some that have remained written in capital letters and that you will remember forever. Someone once said that in an ultra you have a moment when you know for sure that you will finish. It was the first ultra in which I had that kind of moment.
“I did half of the climbs. We still have that much!” I told the boys. As soon as I said that, I knew I would finish. I knew that the brain, the most important organ in an ultra, would take me to the end. I still can’t explain why and how, but I knew then and there that it would be fine.
I was climbing through a pine forest with Paul and Gabi and checked the data on our watches. It was morning, I had probably ended the worst night of my life. The rain was pausing and, being in the woods, the fog was less visible. All that remained was the penetrating and persistent cold, the cold from which neither my clothes nor my running protected me. But let’s start with the beginning.
Trans Gran Canaria is one of the largest trail races in the world, being part of a circuit every year, such as the Ultra Trail World Tour or the Spartan Trail Race. It crosses the island from north to south, from Las Palmas, one of the two capitals of the Canary Islands, to the south, in Maspalomas, a resort bathed in sunshine all year round. Being of volcanic origin, the center of the island is a massive mountain range, with many branches. What is specific to Gran Canaria is that on a very small area you will find many extraordinary types of climate and vegetation. Within a 30-minute drive, you can drive from rainforests to sand dunes, from the humid, rainy climate of the northern half to the southern desert. The race is almost 130 km long and almost 7000 m positive level difference.
I arrived on the island two days before the competition and from the moment I landed I had a feeling of “home”. I have connected with the place from the beginning and I was sure that I will return several times. I’ve felt this in just a few places. The program for the two days was busy, with many organizational trips related to equipment, nutrition plans and meetings with fellow riders. I managed to sleep well, one of the most important things before such an effort.
The start is a festive moment, a show organized for runners and thousands of spectators standing in line on the 2 km from Playa de las Canteras where it all begins. There are percussion bands, a choir singing the island’s anthem, and games of lasers and lights. We meet Robert and exchange the latest information and head to our starting places. Robert is set to race mode, I always liked that about him, that he can be relaxed and ready to run like a running machine for 14 hours at the same time. Before the start, a selfie with Paul and Bogdan. Last picture in which we look decent…
I have started with Paul too fast, but we try to get out of the platoon because we know that there are areas that we will not be able to overcome. It’s 11 at night and the beach and the seafront are full, it’s a carnival atmosphere. Our tricolor T-shirts, with ROMANIA, written big on the back, produce effects, I hear various nice remarks from those we run with. We also meet a runner from the Republic of Moldova, and we wish each other success. We leave the city and start the climb. Las Palmas remains bathed in light, we let it sleep.
The silence begins.
It’s a kind of silence at an ultra that you can rarely find in real life. It is something that comes from within when you manage to isolate the noises from the outside and you are left alone with your thoughts. It’s meditation, it’s introspection, it’s giving up the permanent external stimuli that keep our brains plugged in every day. This peace is addictive, it’s one of the things that makes me go back to long races, despite the inevitable suffering.
We left in shorts and a T-shirt, but as we advanced into the night, the cold began to set. We’re on a tropical island, but something doesn’t look right. A gust of cold wind coming from nowhere, a valley from which the cold air from the base does not come out and enters under your clothes. The rain, which will be with us all night, begins slowly. As we climb the mountains, it gets worse, as if nature is trying to stop us.
Although after finishing an ultra, in the coming weeks I remember very clearly all the climbs, all the descents and the discussions with my colleagues, the night in Gran Canaria was completely different. It no longer has a chronological thread, it’s just a collection of images, some stronger, others more erased, a drunkenness from which sensations and feelings return. I see Aloe Vera forests and cacti, dormant villages, some coquettish, some dilapidated, pine forests, valleys full of boulders, a 25% climb with so much mud that I was pulling trees so I could advance, a ridge on that the wind was blowing so hard that I couldn’t go in a straight line, a lot of falls and an incredible amount of water and MUD. Above all, a penetrating freeze and a cold rain that enters under your clothes and freezes your blood.
But one thing worked during the night: nutrition. There were 3 supply and hydration points, Arucas, Teror and Fontanales. I vaguely remember them, at Fontanales I tried an unsuccessful hot soup from which I tasted and threw it away. Otherwise, gels and sticks for 30 minutes, water and electrolytes, and as the electrolyte flask emptied, I filled it with Pepsi.
In the morning we were caught on a steep descent, on wet rocks, and then an ascent as well, to the El Hornillo hydration point, a small point where we stayed for less than 5 minutes. I was still through fog and rain but the light of day gave me a boost of energy and I was slowly leaving the night behind. After El Hornillo, as we climbed through a pine forest, I had the moment described at the beginning. From then on I knew I would finish, abandonment was ruled out!
Artenara is the feeding point located approximately halfway through the race, at km 65, arranged in a hall, protected from rain and cold, equipped with food, blankets, chairs, doctors and, most importantly, the possibility of transport to start or finish. Because of this it was a difficult threshold to cross for many competitors because of the 262 abandonments in the race, 85 were at this point. After a night of cold, rain and torment, I understood perfectly every runner who chose to stop here.
For me, Artenara was a good time. I am satisfied with the design of a plan and its perfect execution. Even though the plan itself wasn’t the best, as I was going to find it on my own skin, it helped me move on and leave the torment of the night behind. I knew that in the southern part of the island there is an arid, desert area and it rarely rains. Left alone, I decided that the only thing I would do was cross the mountains, to reach the southern slope. It didn’t matter after that, I had only one goal. So ambitious for this new plan, I took all my clothes off, even though they were wet, and started implementing my plan. I found a steady pace and, helped by the fact that the rain was getting rarer, I increased the pace and started to overtake competitors. We climbed and then descended to Tejeda, one of the most beautiful villages we have seen so far, and after the point in the central square of Tejeda we started the climb to the campsite El Garañon, where we had our drop bag. It was the first climb in the race where I felt it was no longer working. The brain wanted me to go at a pace, but my legs couldn’t. We had a few breaks without rain and even sunshine, but once we reached the ridge, the strong wind, rain and fog started again.
The drop bag helps in the ultra both logistically, with equipment and food, and psychologically. I left the El Garañon campsite with new, dry shoes, and some of the fatigue and wear was left in the drop bag, with the old equipment. I did a reset and started the last marathon. The weather was already much better, it was really hot, and the mud was replaced by dust and dry boulders. All that remained was the strong wind. The most emblematic point of the route followed, Roque Nublo.
Roque Nublo is a 67 m high volcanic rock, located on a mountain peak, being the third-highest peak on the island. It is a magnet for tourists and is visible from several points on the island, especially from the south. I saw it from a distance and started the loop that went around it with a descent that went well, then a torturous ascent on strong winds.
The passing of Roque Nublo was a new psychological threshold. This is where my plan ends, this is where I set out to be. If until now my only goal was to cross the mountains, once I managed that, I was a little confused. The accumulated fatigue caused all the determination and motivation to melt as soon as we reached the hydration point at Roque Nublo. Another problem was that from here I did not know very well the profile of the route. I knew that only a descent would follow in the sea, but I missed the fact that there were 3 more climbs which, although not very big, at the stage of fatigue accumulated until then, became the heaviest climbs in the race.
Another thing that has been constantly deteriorating over the days has been nutrition. The gels and sticks were getting harder and harder to eat, and I started eating chorizo bread and cheese from the check points.
It was a mistake because, although they tasted good, they were not digested at all, as I would find out later in the evening.
After Roque Nublo we climbed to the highest point of the route, then began a long and stony descent, as if placed there to chop finely what was left whole of the muscles and ligaments.
As after 100 km of the race the judgment is not the clearest, I was sure that there is only one intermediate point, at Ayagaures, and then the finish. I knew that the last point on the dam was an accumulation lake, a lake that could be seen in the distance at the base of the mountain.
But the road took a completely different direction, and I couldn’t explain why. I only realized when I got down to the village that I had forgotten about the Tunte supply point. I got there so tired and demoralized that I couldn’t eat anything. I stayed very little and took it on.
This was followed by the climb that consumed me the most psychologically, crossing a ridge between Tunte and Ayagaures. In addition to the extreme fatigue, it was already getting dark, I could not see where the road passed the ridge, and my body was listening to me less and less. I tried to think a little, clench my teeth and squeeze out what energy I had left. When I reached the top, I put on my headlamp and had my first equipment problem in the race. Although the battery normally lasts 16 hours, due to the extreme cold of the previous night, it was now almost discharged and was operating in emergency mode. So, in addition to being tired, I was also blind!
After a few swear words and a few “God help!” I started the descent. I strategically positioned myself behind a girl who was constantly running and had a better head lamp and I set out to hold on to her as much as I could. Because I was running on a very rocky path and I couldn’t see anything, I hit my feet in every way they could hit. That girl got acquainted with the darkest corners of the Romanian language..
In the end it was a good descent, of 7-8 km, run slowly but steadily. I arrived at the dam at Ayagaures dizzy, as if I were floating. I don’t remember what I did at that point, I just know that I wanted to go with the sticks of a German, forgetting that I had mine folded back in my waistcoat. I had about 15 km to go and I was not well at all. My legs were moving at their own pace, I couldn’t control them too much, my brain was in a panic, and my stomach was completely blocked, I couldn’t even drink water. A theoretically easy climb followed, but for me it was the hardest in the competition.
I was lucky enough to clear my stomach on the side of the road at the beginning of the climb. I mentally noticed that the ultra no longer eats chorizo and cheese and I went on a little better. From there until the end I at least managed to drink water again. I passed the last peak and started the descent towards the finish. What was supposed to be a pleasure run became a final torment, because the route did not lead to a road or a path, but through the dry riverbed, full of boulders. It didn’t help that I had almost no light at all.
I forgot about all at the entrance to Maspalomas, the lights in the Parque del Sur and the applause of the spectators at the finish. In the cheers of the crowd, I was surrounded by a bunch of locals, I was congratulated by the race director and the mayor, and the local press crowded to say a few words to me. A few girls, probably local models, were crowding around to take pictures for Instagram, and a few kids were asking for my autographs!
Or maybe I don’t remember well… After the finish line, after the spotlights on the last 50 meters it’s dark. The race announcer can still be heard, but it’s quieter. I found two chairs that I sat in with Lutz, the German with the sticks from Ayagaures with whom I had run the last 10 km together. We took our medals and finisher’s vests, we also took water in flasks and, for the first time in 24 hours, we were without any specific purpose. I just stayed.
Technical part for runners, with questions from Robert:
Probably the night running through a totally anti-running weather. I passed because I had a time horizon ahead, I knew it was just a stage, I had to go through it and get to an area where it is no longer cold and not raining.
I didn’t use the external battery at all, but I should have charged my headlamp. I took too many gels and bars, I don’t know if I should have taken less or eaten more. The clothes were the most useful, the cold blouse I bought last year from Chamonix became my favorite coat.
Echipament Transgrancanaria 2022
Altra Olympus 4 shoes on the first 90k, then Hoka Speedgoat 4 to the finish
HG T-shirt, Compressport blouse, Uglow raincoat
Nike tights, Decathlon trousers
Salomon 10L running vest with 3 Salomon 500ml flasks of which I used 2
Compressport Pro Racing socks
Leki Carbon sticks
Petzl Nao headlamp + Reactive Lighting
Maurten, SIS, Decathlon gels
*) Anime champion! you hear from spectators lined up on all roads, in all villages and at all intersections, at night, day, wind or rain. The people you most likely meet once in a lifetime are there to encourage you. A remarkable level of civilization and sports culture.
The 126th Boston Marathon will took place on April 18. Last year’s event was pushed from April to October due to the COVID-19 pandemic, while the 2020 iteration of the competition was held virtually.
Last year’s champions were Benson Kipruto (men’s open), Diana Kipyokei (women’s open), Marcel Hug (men’s wheelchair) and Manuela Schar (women’s wheelchair), Zachary Stinson (men’s handcycles), Wendy Larsen (women’s handcycles), Chaz Davis (men’s para athletics) and Misato Michishita (women’s para athletics).
THE B.A.A. HAS ORGANIZED THE BOSTON MARATHON SINCE THE EVENT’S INCEPTION IN 1897
The Boston Marathon is the world’s oldest annual marathon and ranks as one of the world’s most prestigious road racing events. The B.A.A. continues to manage this American classic, which has been sponsored by John Hancock Financial since 1986. The Boston Marathon has distinguished itself as the pinnacle event within the sport of road racing by virtue of its traditions, longevity, and method of gaining entry into the race (via qualification).
THE MODERN ERA OF THE BOSTON MARATHON
When Guy Morse took the reins of the B.A.A. in 1985, he was given a rotary phone and an empty office in the old Boston Garden. The days of the B.A.A. Games at the Boston Garden and the B.A.A. clubhouse were long gone, but the organization held onto its marquee event, the Boston Marathon, and the B.A.A. Running Club as the only two visible pieces of its illustrious past.
As race director, Morse and the B.A.A.’s Board of Governors attracted a principal sponsor for the Boston Marathon in John Hancock Financial and, with John Hancock’s assistance, instituted a prize money structure to help bring the world’s fastest runners to Boston. The change not only brought faster runners to Boston; it brought more runners to Boston. Since 1986, the men’s and women’s open division course records have improved a combined eight times and the field size has grown from 4,904 entrants to 30,000 in recent years. The Boston Marathon also attracts approximately 500,000 spectators each year, making it New England’s most widely viewed sporting event.
For the 100th running of the Boston Marathon on April 15, 1996, the B.A.A. worked for years ahead of time in cooperation with the eight cities and towns along the Boston Marathon course to appropriately commemorate the milestone. Through a one-time exception to field size constraints, a record 38,708 runners were given entry into the Centennial Boston Marathon. This single-time field size stood for seven years as the largest in marathon history.
Ten years later, the Boston Marathon partnered with the London, Berlin, Chicago, and New York City marathons to collectively launch the Abbott World Marathon Majors. This series links the world’s most prestigious marathons and offers a $1 million prize purse to be split equally among the top male and female marathoners in the world each year. In 2013, the Tokyo Marathon joined as the sixth event in the Abbott World Marathon Majors series.
The progressive actions of the B.A.A. throughout the years have been reflective of the vision of the B.A.A. Board of Governors. Since the B.A.A.’s inception in 1887, the Board of Governors have voluntarily led the organization through good times and bad.
Through its dedicated leadership, the B.A.A. has demonstrated its commitment to and support of the Greater Boston area, especially the eight cities and towns along the Boston Marathon route. In 2013, the B.A.A. renewed its financial commitment to the towns of Hopkinton, Ashland, Framingham, Natick, Wellesley, and Brookline, the cities of Newton and Boston, and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, pledging a total of $2.7 million over a three-year term, with contributions increasing annually.
OFFICIAL CHARITY PROGRAM FOR THE BOSTON MARATHON
The runners of the selected charities of the B.A.A.’s Charity Program for the Boston Marathon raise more than $15 million annually and serve areas of need within Greater Boston. The funds and positive impact are important to the success of the B.A.A.’s mission, and the B.A.A. is proud to support these charities and their fundraising endeavors. With special regard to the field of Boston Marathon qualifiers, the B.A.A. has integrated its charity program into the race in an effort which recognizes the running community in and around the Boston Marathon, and the year-round philanthropic endeavors of the Boston Athletic Association. The Charity Program for the Boston Marathon began in 1989 when the American Liver Foundation became the first charity to receive official entries into the Boston Marathon. Dana-Farber Cancer Institute came aboard in 1990, and since then the program has grown to support at least 30 charities each year.
Looking for a Running Coach?
Let me teach you training, nutrition and competition tricks!
If what you’re reading helps, buy a digital subscription. It’s the most direct form of support for our work in training, during the competition and afterwards when we write these articles.
Runner by runner, we’re gathering a community that contributes and supports us in meeting the needs of other runners through our own stories of how we train, how we compete, how we relate, how we can change those around us through sport.
Starting with December 2021, I chose a coach to work with for a more efficient process. How did I get to him? What benefits did a coach brings me? What is and is not a coach? Why you should do this step?
The first memory I have of myself is running in the schoolyard.
The first running competition I took part in was 10 years ago, in the Retezat mountains. It was 28 kilometers with 2200 positive level differences.
It was painful, but I was caught up in this sport of suffering even though I told myself I would never do it again. Since then I have started and finished more than 50 running competitions on different distances and on different surfaces.
Some of them did really well, especially those in my “niche” of ultramarathons on the 100 kilometers on the mountain.
All this 10 year span period I structured my training plan on my own, I chose my races and I had a continuous desire to improve my process. Both, to train and to train.
I think a change is welcome for a while, especially since I’ve been running for 10 years.
Starting in December 2021, I chose a coach to work with for a more efficient process. How did I get to him? What benefits did a coach bring me? What is and is not a coach? Why you should do this step, I will detail in this article.
I wouldn’t have taken that step in 100 years because too often I was saying to myself, “No one else will know what’s best for me,” especially since I’ve been doing this for so long.
What I was really saying was that I was not prepared for such a commitment and I would not want to disappoint anyone in my training and competition process. It sounds familiar? That it is my right to choose when to run and to suffer or to take a day off.
Spoiler alert! Even though I now have a coach, I still have this right and I have more days off than I would have given myself.
How did I decide to have a running coach and where did I choose him?
I was in Bucharest on Mihai’s massage table. To my left, on another massage table, Florin, a triathlete talks about his today’s cycling workout. Cadence, watts, pulse, everything seemed very, very accurate. I asked him who was his coach and he told me that he had a training plan from Training Peaks that he was following.
When we met, one of the first conversations I had with Maria, about running, was about a coach. If I have one or not. I told her that I am my own coach and that I prefer to make my own training plans, and without lack of modesty I told her that if I took a few podiums I was good at it.
He confirmed to me that I am good at this (ego boost), but that I should still have someone to guide and motivate me.
Besides, she told me I should just run and not bother with other things like my own training plan. And she said that it’s very easy to be biassed when it comes to your training plan. It’s easier to make the right plan for others, but it’s harder to make your own plan and follow it exactly. Smart girl, from the start.
This discussion was a recurring one, especially on the days when I used to say “today I will have a soft day because I don’t feel ready for an intense workout” and these days have been more and more frequent lately.
The year 2021 was a year full of competitions for me but a year that could have been better in training. After MIUT, where I took 5th place, I told myself that I had to take another step forward, to fight for a place on the podium (top 3) at every ultramarathon I start.
Listening to Maria’s advice, and remembering the discussion with Florin, I told myself that for the next competition, I will take a training plan that I will follow with holiness from TrainingPeaks.
After about two hours of scrolling through training plans, I find a plan that suits my needs. “16-week training plan with 18-20 hours of training for 100-mile competitions on the mountain”
It sounded very appropriate for what I needed.
In addition, I liked how the “demo” week looked like. It was very well structured and shared the same the principles after I train and considered healthy to have. Enough volume, enough intensity, enough recovery. Not not too many not too few of each.
The plan was not perfect.
It was a 16-week training plan and there were only 12 weeks until Transgrancanaria. I bought the plan and gave an email to the coach who made the training plan to ask him how can I adjust the plan Transgrancanaria how It should be adapted, to cut the first weeks, cut the weeks of volume, and what to cut, how much to cut? I wouldn’t have thought that maybe I should add something,
The coach responds to my email congratulating me on 2nd place at UTMB and told me that he knows me and that he could restructure my plan, but at the same time, if I am interested, we can start a collaboration in which he will supervise my training process. In addition, he can give me a 50% discount for the first month.
We made a call after MIUT and I was caught.
What benefits did a running coach bring?
Testing. Consistency. Diversity. Volume. Focus. Recovery. Attention to detail. Progress.
The biggest plus I have felt since I have a coach is that I can share with someonethe successes, the difficult moments, a race plan, and a nutrition plan. I have someone on this journey looking in the same direction, with the same vision.
Testing.After a week of lightly running recovery after MIUT and setting goals for 2022, the plan began with flat running, treadmill tests, and a strength test. Because it was the end of the season, and because I had eaten a lot of pastel del nata in Madeira, orange cakes, and egg sandwiches, I felt heavy and out of shape from the beginning. I was not discouraged knowing that if I keep working hard it is very difficult to go lower than that. I said it to myself.
Consistency. I did more work than I would have done if I trained alone. I went out of the house more often even if I didn’t feel like it, which is a bonus from the start.
I have done all of that not because someone was following me but because once I took that step, I had to stick to the process. If I have done the same thing as before, I would have had the same results. Even Andrei Ivănescu was surprised to see me at the gym, in the evening after a running workout.
Diversity.I ran on the track, on the trail, on the treadmill, on the road. I did cross-country skiing. I used the weight vest, I cycled on the trainer, and I went to the gym. During all these 4 months I did all the job without feeling that I was losing the fun that winter offers me, without feeling that I was training too much or that I will be injured.
Volume. Not only did I train more, it was more fun, but I also ran longer this time of the year than I would have done with my own schedule.
Focus.Each training had its precise purpose and the Vertix2 watch confirmed to me that the training goal had been achieved.
Recovery.Often the coach informed me that I had to recover that day or not too pedal or run hard or too much. I remember running downhill at the first weight lifted west and the coach told me not to do that anymore. Or when I had an indoor cycling session on the trainer, I made it too intense and the coach told me to make it softer and pull when needed.
Attention to detail. After the TGC I was put in the practical situation, to write down what went well, what worked, what didn’t work, and what steps we should take to improve the pre-race process. For Istria, I have taken these aspects into account and I hope for an improved result.
Progress.From the first test to the last test a few days ago, progress has not stopped. Both in speed, and strength, and in my perception of effort. As long as we have progress in process or result I am delighted and “better” can be more often.
What does a running coach is and what a running coach is not?
A coach will not take you out of the house, but if you are a person who feels motivated when supervised then this service may be for you. I know that many people feel the need for a coach to be more motivated, productive, and communicative about training and goals.
A coach will not argue with you because you did not run, but he understands your reason.
A coach will adapt your training plan to your needs and unforeseen moments.
A coach understands the “struggles” you go through, he will motivate you to overcome them.
Under no circumstances should a coach punish you. He is with you, he shares this process with you. A coach sees the potential that you have and the negative passes are transient.
A coach (re)gives you confidence.
After 16 weeks of training, a few days before the start of the race, I thank Maria for sticking to the idea of having a coach and motivating me to take this step.
A few days before a hundred miles I find myself fitter, more motivated, and more prepared than ever to make a successful run.
And it’s good because I’ve never been alone in this, but now I have another person with me to share this journey with.
Let’s get to know him a little better: Hannes Namberger
A little preview of Hannes Namberger’s mindset, training philosophy, and how he became one of the best ultrarunners in the world.
Interview by Robert Hajnal
My name is Hannes Namberger. I am 32 years old and I am from the south of Germany, close to the Austrian border. I started trail running in 2015. I love running over 100km.
2021 has been a very good year for me. I won the Lavaredo Ultra Trail in Italy, MIUT 115, and I took part in the UTMB 100-mile race. It was my first time there. I finished in sixth position.
It was a spectacular experience.
Ultrarunner // Dynafit Athlete
The first interaction
Hannes is one of the friendliest people I’ve ever met. Not only from the running community but from all the people you will have ever encountered. I think this is a very valuable asset for a a person, I envy him for that.
The first time I met Hannes, was at kilometer 25 at UTMB, where I caught up with him, he was in a difficult moment of the race.
I congratulated him for the Lavaredo race, wished him a successful race, and told him to take it slow. He did so until the 90th kilometer when he slowly overtook me and reached Chamonix 6th.
From ski to pubs to Trailrunning
I must admit that I first heard about you as a runner at Lavaredo Ultra Trail in 2021, where you won the race, even though your running career started years before. Before talking about running, can you tell me more about your life, where were you born, where do you live now and what is the most frequent place you go out to have a beer?
I am 32 years old, I am German and I live in Ruhpolding. It’s between Munich and Salzburg, so directly in the Alps.
I work as a policeman on the border to Austria but I feel more like a Trailrunning Pro then a police officer. Since last year August I am engaged with my girlfriend Ida, so my season highlight will be my wedding in June .
Sorry, but I have to say you don’t find me in a bar for a beer, I don’t like to go out for a drink and it’s difficult to find the time for that.
I like it more to be in the mountains.
I also admit that I stalked you after your 1st place at Lavaredo, scrolling through your Strava profile, interviews and so on. I know that you were a professional skier. Can you tell us more about your transition from skiing to running and why did you stick to ultrarunning?
I finished my skiing career in 2011 and started running in 2015. In the years between, I had a cool time partying, freeskiing, backpacking in Asia, and enjoying my life.
I did all these things that I couldn’t do as a skier. But when I started with running, I had to lose some weight. I was really heavy. I had 16kg more then now and my legs had the double size then my running legs.
I Never planned to make races or ultras, but I enjoyed the time in the mountains. The beginning of my transition was cool because the progress went so fast and then I heard about a 52km race in Austria.
I signed in, trained hard, and enjoyed every second of it. After this race, I said to myself “Let’s do this again!”.
From that moment on, running was my new sport.
HANNES AND HIS FIRST COACH
Your first ITRA races were in 2015. Did you have a coach from the start of your running career?
No, I only listened to my body and did what I wanted. Fun was the most important thing at the beginning of my running career.
Your first 100km race was at CCC in 2019 and only two years later you had your best running year (1st Lavaredo, 1st MIUT, 6th UTMB). What have you done differently in 2021 and in the past 2 years?
The years before I trained without a plan and without introduction. I went out the door and had fun in the mountains. But after 2019 I wanted to be more professional and contacted Micha Arend, my Trainer of the past 2 years.
My longest day in running shoes 101k in 11h 48m. Yesss i did it!! I finished my first k race with many ups and downs…. but at the end i made the 12th place. Thanks to all who watched this race at the livestream.
Hannes after CCC in 2019
What is the name of your coach and how did you two meet each other?
In 2020 & 2021 it was Michael Arend, he had a company for endurance Athletes. He was a trail runner too but in December of 2021, he sold his company to his employers which are also great trail runners, and quit his job. From January this year, I train under the rules of Lars Schweizer who learned everything from Micha Arend. So it’s a little bit of a change for me, but I am actually very happy with my trainer.
Do you coach other athletes or do you focus mainly on your running career?
I focus only on racing. I do not coach other athletes but I am happpy when a young athlete writes to me and seek for advices, I will give my advice happily.
What is your favourite anaerobe training? And what is your favourite training for improving lactate threshold?
I don’t like anaerobe training because I am really bad at it. But you have to do it. The most time I do 5 times 3minutes or 4 times 8 minutes.
Sometimes I do 4 times 20 minutes uphill training which are really hard but necessary for the Ultra Races.
We all have lows during an ultra event. What do you tell yourself to lift you up? Do you have a mantra for the hard times?
I only try to push myself forward. Racing is for me only a fight against myself, that’s all.
You are now an Elite Dynafit athlete. Can you tell us more about the brand and what is required to be an elite athlete for your team?
I am in Dynafit since 2018 and it’s the perfect brand for me. This are products from athletes for athletes. I am in the Pro Team what is perfect for me, because I can do what I want to. I don’t have to run any series or special races. I wanna select my races by myself because I want to be on the startline with the best athletes in the world.
And Dynafit gives me the perfect equipment to perform on the highest level. An extra plus is that since this year they organized an endurance studio, it’s like a gym, but more for endurance athletes and I train there my body for stability.
What competition do you visualise yourself winning while you are training?
All my 4 big races. To win it’s not the most important thing for me, but more important is that I give my best and show my best performance!
What races will you do in 2022 and what is your main focus now in training?
My season opener is a short race on La Palma with 29km.
My main goals are Penyagolosa, Mozart100, Utmb and the World Championships in Thailand. Those are 4 big races plus my wedding
My focus in training is on 3 parts, uphill, flat and downhill because at all I am okay, but not really good. I have to improve more and more.
Did you like what you have red
If what you have read will help you, buy a digital subscription. It is the most direct form of support for our work in training, during the competition and after, when we write these articles.
Runner by runner, we will bring together a community through our own stories, about how we train, how we compete, how we relate, how we can change those around us through sport.
It would be great to be able to take 1st place in every competition you enter, but success can be defined in more ways than just taking the top step on the podium. Success, in running, can be defined as finishing an injury-free season motivated and energized for the next season.
For me 2021 was a very competitive year. I trained less (near the end of the year I ran about 4000 kiometres), but I didn’t lack to take start to competitions. I enjoyed running with my pulse racing events ranging from 10 minute events to ultramarathons lasting over 20 hours. In conclusion, I will always prefer the longer ones, because I’m better at them and because they involve more food.
And I always enjoy running “for all my money”.
3000m National Championship
Bucharest, 6 February 09:24:31, 20th place
I started the competitive year very early, choosing to run the 3000m indoor event. It was a first for me. If you get to start this kind of competition at 30, chances are you’re the oldest athlete on the line or in your wave.
I was lucky with Damian that he took my place as the “oldest” athlete in our wave.
For me it was my first 3000m track race, so however I finished, the final result was a personal best.
Right from the start I relied on the experience of Bogdan Damian who has run this event before. The strategy was simple: “don’t start (too) hard and stay as long as you can with him, don’t overtake in the turn and try to have the fastest last kilometre”.
I sat at the start with a pair of Altra (XC Racer) while all the other runners had pegs. The laps went by very quickly, although during the 9 minutes I had my heart rate at record levels.
Without much specific training, the incline of the tower gave me a headache and a sore glute post race.
The intermediate times “shouted” by Sergiu, the CSM Cluj coach helped me realize that I was slowing down on the last mile instead of speeding up.
I finished in 09:25, a true parameter of the form I was in.
10 km Road National Championship
Timișoara, 04.04. 34:11, 28th
In Timisoara I had a difficult day.
A bumpy 2.5km loop and a pain in my right side prevented me from doing my PB for the 10km distance. I don’t know exactly what caused the pain that almost brought me to my knees.
Maybe I left too little time between breakfast and the run, maybe I drank too much coffee, maybe I started too hard.
I finished the race in 34:11 and with a desire to do better.
50 km Road National Championship
București, 17 april 3:08:43, 7th place
The ultramarathon is my home. It’s the event I feel best at and have the best results at. In ultra running you need to be patient, you need to know your strong and weak sides, you need to save your energy reserves for the end.
You don’t have to give everything from the start. You need to have a strong finish, something I’m very good at.
For the first time, a National Championship was held at this distance in Bucharest. The competition was a qualifying event for the 50km World Championships in China – a competition that was eventually cancelled, but I’m glad that the FRA organised this race.
New national records were set in various events, and I did my PB for the marathon distance (2h:34min) because I had the opportunity to constantly fuel up and be encouraged every 4km.
I ran almost the whole distance with my teammate from CSM Cluj, Andrei Crainic. It was also a good day for the CSM Cluj team with whom I took 2nd place.
I was impressed by Corneschi who won all 3 events I started in the last months 3000m, 10km, 50km. It seems you can be good at everything!
Putna, First stage 42km, 1st place
I made a trip to the place where the map hangs on the nail to run the first 42 kilometres of ViaTransilvanica, at Transilvania Legends.
It was a day full of mud, beautiful scenery and good cheer. A day where a good training earned me 1st place in the first stage of the first edition of Transilvania Legends, a multistage race of over 650 kilometers on ViaTransilvanica.
After the stage, I left for Tășuleasa Social where I spent the next week.
Feleacu Running Hills
19+ 9 km, Cluj Napoca, 1:59, 2nd place
Feleacu Running Hills
When I think of Cluj, I think of the friends I’ve made over the years there: Peter, Paul, Bogdan, Florin, Răzvan, Mișu, and how delighted I am when I see them again and how we sit around chatting over a (too) spicy dinner or a bottle of wine.
I happily come back to this city for them, and if there’s a competition, all the better.
From Feleacu Running Hills I didn’t have very high expectations. Especially since it was 3 days away from Transilvania Legends. It’s true that I didn’t pull myself hard at the 42 km race in Bucovina, but I didn’t want to kill myself at the two start race in Cluj either.
I remember that the first race, the 9 km race, started very hard and the front runners were getting lost one by one. I was on the lookout, following the correct route. I was like a sly old fox.
Surprising even to me, I finished the short race in 2nd place and the long race also in 2nd place, finishing – you guessed it – 2nd overall.
The winner was Andrei Ivănescu, who beat me by 1 minute and some change in the overall standings.
After the race, I peeled off the best pizza, which also seemed endless. I think pasta party should turn into pizza party.
Tășuleasa, 18 Iunie 3:07min, 1st place
Via Transilvanica Maraton
After almost 10 days of “settling in” to a place I hoped I wouldn’t end up in anytime soon (military trauma), I started the competition which took less time than I would have liked, but which brought me 1st place.
This competition was like a running celebration. The bright raw green woods, runnable climbs, delicious burgers at the finish and endless beer were some of the bonuses provided by the organizers.
I had the opportunity during these 10 days to wander the ViaTransilvanica, spend a few good days with Tibi, drink a few bottles of wine, do the cypress, sauna and plan for the year that promised much.
It was like a mini all inclusive holiday where Mrs Aurica took care of us from sunrise to sunset.
Ultramarathon National Championship
Suncuius, 3rd place
Primavera TrailRace National Ultramarathon Championship - Șuncuiuș
Since the beginning of 2021, I have done almost every run with this competition in mind. A competition that was postponed in the first phase and that gave my plans to participate in Transgrancanaria and Lavaredo upside down .
The reason: a possible qualification for the Ultramarathon World Championships in Thailand. That’s why I chose to participate in the National Championships and give it my all.
We expected it to be a hot day and to suffer because of it. The first part of the race was quite hot, but then a rain came and cooled us down.
With a bit of luck, I came 3rd after Andrei Preda and Toma Valentin.
We had an exemplary check-point and a great accommodation at Victor’s hamlet.
38 km, 2200+ 3rd place
Only 6 days have passed since the 80+ km race in Șuncuiuș. However, I also decided to run the Brasov Marathon. Because it’s 1 km from home, because it’s on the trails where I train, because I would have been sorry not to do it.
It wasn’t an easy day here either. Maybe because I’m not as trained as I think I am, maybe because the time allotted for speed was unproductive, maybe because I’m tired, I found it hard to even run the serpentines to the top of the Tâmpa.
What’s clear to me is that things can turn out better than you expect.
I was around kilometre 16, before Postăvaru peak, and I was thinking of abandoning because I was in 5th place. Besides, knowing all the trails, I knew how to get straight home, on the Old Road. However, I told myself that I had to take the run to the end, turn it into a long run, if I couldn’t be a bit more competitive.
But soon, the runners in front of me started having problems: cramping, dehydration, dropping off the pace. So over the next few miles, on the downhill, I came in 3rd place, more than happy that in 7 days I “maxed out 2 races”.
Bucovina Ultra Rocks
Câmpulung Moldovenesc 85 km, 5400+, 1st
Bucovina Ultra Rocks
I was undecided until the last minute. I didn’t know which race to choose: 85, 110 or 180.
I chose to run a shorter race – 80km – in which I would gather maximum elevation. Oh, and that the start was at a decent hour.
It was the race that I went as hard as I could from the start – not something I’m known for. I wanted to see how long I could last. I think I managed to keep a pretty good pace until mile 60, when the heat came on and I found out I was over 30 minutes off 2nd place.
It was the race where I ran out of gels and took a longer rest break before climbing the Runc.
Ultra Trail Du Mont Blanc
Chamonix, 25 August 170 km cu 10100+ 46th place, 27:45
I went to the UTMB for the 5th time. 4 times I ran the 100 mile race. This time I suffered the most and chose to continue. This year I missed the longer 15 hour races and an altitude training camp, so when I got to 1800+ my strength would fail me.
On the bright side, there will be an edition next year and I will definitely be at the start line wanting to get a great result.
I’ve written a detailed history of the UTMB.
Sibiu International Half-Maraton
Sibiu, 21 km, 1h19, locul 4
Sibiu International Maraton
On a cool autumn day in the centre of Sibiu, we set off on a race that took us through the streets of the city, through the Village Museum, through Subarini Park.
It’s hard to get up to speed after a 100-mile race. Even though I felt like I had my engine revved to the max, I could barely run 3:50/km.
The run went by relatively quickly and left us plenty of time for pizza.
Would it have been a good idea to run the Marathon event? Maybe at the 2022 edition.
Castelon de la Plana 110 km, 5400+, Locul 3
After the UTMB I felt I still had energy for two end of year competitions. I chose Penyagolosa and MIUT.
In Castelon I ran the 105km race which starts in the middle of the town and finishes below the Penyagolosa peak. Three years ago, when I was training for the World Championships, I promised myself that I would come back to run the longest race of the event.
It surprised me that I was the second favourite, after ITRA points, and I told myself I had a chance to be at least in the top 3.
I started the race slowly and, to my surprise, after 50 kilometres I was in 4th place. At kilometre 55 I was in 3rd place and that’s how I finished the race. I pulled myself up for it, but it was worth it.
Penyagolosa Trails is a very runnable race, but very difficult because of the technical terrain, rocks and cliffs on the course. If on paper it looks like a fast race, at the time you think you’ll do it you’ll need to add at least 10%.
It was a delight to place 3rd in this competition. Three years ago I spent about 30 days in Vistabella, a village on the competition route, and this year I made the podium.
MIUT - Madeira Island Ultra Trail
Porto Moniz - Machico 115 km, 7200+, Locul 5
Madeira island ultra trail
Maria. MIUT. Madeira.
This was the plan for which I returned to this place for the 4th time.
When I left Porto do Sao Lorenco in the spring, I told myself that I would come back and ask Maria to marry me, right there.
6 months later I found my voice trembling as I popped the question.
Euphorically, after Maria said “I do,” the outcome of the race came to matter very little. I resolved to “suffer” as little as possible, thinking that a top 10 would mean a good result, a top 5 – very good, a top 3 – exceptional, and a 1st place – extraordinary.
I started the race with a problem with one of the sticks, ending the first CP in 30ish place. I still had time for another 110 kilometers to get through. Which I did.
I had a huge advantage in that I knew the course by heart and all I had to do was be patient and eat and run to the finish.
5th place was the bonus of this trip.
I see running as a journey, as a pleasant means of navigating everyday life. It’s what gives me meaning and gives me the feeling that I was born with a purpose. I’ve been lucky enough to turn this hobby into a lifestyle. However, my participation in these competitions would not have been possible without the help of Altra, Uglow, Datacor, Gold Nutrition, InfinityRun.
Ți-a plăcut ce ai citit?
Dacă ce citești te ajută, cumpără un abonament digital. E cea mai directă formă de susținere pentru munca noastră din antrenamente, din timpul concursului și de după, când scriem aceste articole.
Alergător cu alergător, vom strânge o comunitate care contribuie și ne sprijină în a răspunde nevoilor celorlalți alergători prin propriile povești, despre cum ne antrenăm, cum concurăm, cum relaționăm, cum îi putem schimba pe cei de lângă noi prin sport.
I’m in Bucharest. I’ve been sitting on the oversized wooden bench at the Steam coffe shop for an hour. I’ve had a filter and a medium with a shot. I’ve been sitting in the shade, but at 09:37 the sun comes out on Uruguay Street. I can feel it warming me through my thick jacket received as a gift from M.
Most people would just strip off and enjoy the morning chill. But for me the warmth relaxes me. I’m overcome by a state of bliss. It’s the opposite of the state I get during an ultramarathon. Or at least at the end of one.
In the ultra, from one point on, you have every muscle tensed and it seems like every thought is against the desire to continue. Here, on the bench, I would sit for hours.
On August 27, another Friday, I was at the start of the UTMB with the sun warming me up. I got the state of bliss, and in not 20 hours I got the opposite of that, I think during an ultramarathon it is an absolutely natural state.
Jordi, Xavier, me, Germain, Jim, Dmitry, Francois – front row.
Behind us several hundred other runners. I feel we are no different from each other and our chances of finishing first are equal.
Ahead of us we have 171 kilometres, over 10200 metres difference in level. We all set out to run or walk them. That “communicates” us.
The start is on fast-forward, but from the first steps of the run I’m at the front with the leading pack. I have a thought of running ahead of everyone for a few metres, but I tell myself that this is something only an unconscious beginner would do. I refrain.
I get into the rhythm of the pack and enjoy running side by side with runners who have invested a lot in this race, at least as much as I have.
I cover the first 8 kilometres to Les Houches in 33-35 minutes. They were almost flat kilometres and I have a smile on my face, a few people who recognise me are cheering me on by name.
At the first CP I fill my 2 flasks with water, as planned, and am ready to run the first climb. I’m within a minute of the first 10-15 runners. The effort seems easy, and I’m right on schedule with my target times.
I reach Saint-Gervais, kilometre 21, in 1h55, taking care not to accelerate too much on the descent, then Les Contamines, kilometre 33, in 2h55. Exactly the times I set myself.
At the check-point Ergo was waiting for me, who was ½ of the support team completed by Maria. Ergo had just entered the check-point, and I, not two minutes later, and I’m off.
In Les Contamines (km 33) in the CP it is crowded and chaotic. If the support team isn’t on their toes, they can miss you. When I arrived, I didn’t see it and shouted loudly “Ergooo!”. Like a genie out of a lamp, he appeared in front of me and pulled me by the hand to the little piece of bench that had all the makings of an ad-hoc checkpoint.
I load up with food for the next 50 kilometres, while Ergo says “you’re 10 minutes early”. I look at my watch which shows 2h55. That’s exactly what I planned. I don’t understand what he means.
I put on my headset and exit the checkpoint 83 seconds later.
I don’t know what place I’m in, I don’t know who’s in front, but after I get out of CP I’m running side by side with other runners ahead of me.
By Les Contamines they were a few seconds ahead of me: Diego Pazos and a Compressport athlete with blond pigtails. Fuelled by Tuc biscuits, mint tea and Maria’s smile that I caught out of the corner of my eye for a few seconds, I run to the next CP.
After mile 33, on the flat, I run a little harder, even as I feel the weight of the bag full of goodies. Without much effort, I catch up with the runners behind.
I catch up, say hello and cheer on Tom Owens. Within a kilometre, I catch Xavier. I pass him and see that he’s having trouble climbing, wobbling, looking dazed.
Before this I was having an inner monologue and wondering how many years and how many times I have to go around Mont Blanc to run side by side with him?
It took 4 entries and 7 laps of the loop.
This was the year, but he had some health issues. I preferred it to be different. To be fully healthy and run with a smile on our faces, side by side. I preferred the duel to be fair. Now the “duel” seems unequal.
I reach kilometre 50, Les Chapieux, in 5h 25, still fresh.
Jordi a few seconds behind me. The miles went by so naturally, like pouring a beer in a glass.
Here comes the first section where I like to speed up: Les Chapieux (km 50) – Col de la Seign (km 60).
After Les Chapieux follows a one kilometre section of asphalt on a slight climb. Who can still run this section in the race, it’s still fresh. I run it and decide to catch Jordi behind, who has a two minute lead. I catch him and quickly gain the lead.
After another 3 kilometres, uphill, I get my first low and start looking back at the lights that are haunting me.
I hear a voice that wasn’t just in my head and asks me in Romanian: “Can you still go?”. Even though I’m a little dazed and confused, I realize it’s Cristi Manole.
I thought he was ahead of me, because I didn’t pass him in the race. It turns out that I’m ahead of him in the CP at Les Contamines (km 33). I reply “yeah, sure” and we continue a stretch together.
From the altitude, the exertion and the force feeding I feel like throwing up. Deaf vomiting. No spitting anything out of my mouth, just an abdominal tightness followed by a “bleaah” from all my guts.
That’s a sign that I need to ease up on the food poking and get more into the running part. Cristi takes the lead. I put a shirt on and try to get closer to the front.
I’m on the most technical portion of the race and for the first time regret starting with a pair of road trainers. I can feel the edge of the rocks I’m stepping on in my cleats and it makes my quads tighten more than they need to.
I arrive at Lac Combal and find I’m in 9th place. Better than I expected, but worse than 2 years ago when I was in 3rd place.
The second stretch I like to speed up:Lac Combal (km 66) – Col Cheruit (km 75). I accelerate without looking back. It’s all over the climb, quite fast, even though I walked it.
Only the descent remains towards kilometre 80.
I’m still fresh and no one is on my tail, but no one is in front of me either. It’s a feeling that makes me happy.
It feels like I’m all alone in the forest and the whole globe is asleep. It feels like the end of the world has come and I have nothing better to do and choose to run.
Do I run for pleasure or do I run to find a home with other human beings? I can’t tell if what I’m thinking about is fiction or reality, but after a few meandering runs, through dust and forest, I arrive in Courmayeur to “real people” and leave my fiction.
Coming a kilometre ahead of me on the trail, Maria and Paul wake me up to reality. They fill me in on where I am, what the runners in front of me look like, how long they’ve been in CP, and I tell them how I feel, what my problems are, “the gels don’t really fit anymore and I’m going for ‘natural, smoothies. I tell them half-heartedly. The other half I lost somewhere on the way down.
The low voice tells me I’m more tired than I realise.
I arrive in Courmayeur (km 80) at 02:25. I’ve been running for more than 9 hours and everything feels natural. It feels like I haven’t put in much effort. I’m like at a race in Romania where I know I’m going to speed up. The second half is harder, but should be done in less than 12 hours.
The first 80 kilometres went by easily and because I had planned every time, every gel. Now, in the 2nd half, I have left room for the unknown. Although I had all the food planned, I didn’t know exactly the times I needed to tick off to meet the goal at the next CPs.
I pass the floodlit CP in the Courmayeur gym on the streets over which the night has poured. My thoughts are racing ahead. I’m on the next climb, close to Bertone.
I’m in 8th place and ahead of me is Cristi Manole. Even though I’ve done 100% of the climb on foot, I reach Bertone at almost 4am.
It’s the coldest point of the night and I feel it. I get to the CP and ask them for soup. I put TUC crackers over it, but it’s too hot to spoon down my throat.
Soup too hot, outside too cold.
I walk into a room and there I see Cristi cramping and wanting to give up.
I’m disappointed, it seemed like we were fighting a common battle.
Now it’s like I’m alone in the race. Cold, I put all the clothes in my rucksack on, grab some more soup and leave. I could use a hug from Maria as consolation for his abandonment. If I were a puppy, I’d have my tail between my legs, dreading being left alone.
Two minutes later, 3-4 runners come along and overtake me. Their metronomic pace seems powered by the stars of the night. They run so easily, if they were running on the beach, there would be no sole.
After another 10 minutes of walk-run, I feel the urge to pull over and “take a picnic”. Jordi passes me and seems to speed up when he sees me. I stay sitting on my butt and try to get as much gel and Tuc bits into me as possible.
After a few minutes I resume the run, then I pace it because I’m sleepy and feeling the effort too hard. I am overtaken by 6-7 other runners as I try to survive.
I’m at mile 60.
I rub the back of my neck with the palm of my hand, like a piece of Fontina cheese in a grater, and think about what to do. I tell myself that I have time to recover from the biggest low I’ve ever had in a competition and to overtake the others in a few hours.
But I still feel like I’m barely moving. I do 10 kilometers in 2 hours. I’m thinking of stopping at Arnouvaz, kilometre 100, where Paul, Bucovina Ultra Rocks organiser and part of my crew, is waiting for me. The thought that in a few moments I can stay warm in the car is tempting.
At that moment, however, it’s as if someone cuts through the sky and it starts to brighten. Little by little, like when you wake up and pull back the curtain, and the room gradually-gradually-becomes light. Suddenly, I start running.
I feel like I’m on a film set, like the director said “action” and that got me moving. I feel reborn.
Ten minutes later my phone rings, it’s Paul. He asks what’s wrong with me and tells me he’ll pick me up if he has to. I tell him I don’t need it, “I was sick, but I’m back, see you in Arnouvaz”.
After 20 minutes, I see Paul and Mateo, Paul child, their first words were encouraging: “Jim and Pablo Villa have retired”.
I tell them I want soup at the next checkpoints and then I realize how good it is to have a man at each checkpoint, he can inform the support team to prepare me exactly what I need.
I also have soup with TUC here and am grabbed by the 2nd girl, Mimi Kotka. I’m happy for her, but hurry out of the check-point.
I fill up 2 flasks with water (although I was planning to have 3) and come out with fresh strength.
I turn off the front. We are at mile 105 at 2200 meters altitude.
I see 4-5 runners who have passed me at night and who I am about to pass in the next kilometers. Next up is how many sections where I like to speed up?
Gran Col Ferret – La Foly.
I catch up with 4-5 runners who are suffering from the cold. I still have all my clothes on. And the hunter’s eye activated. I hydrate and fuel myself to the brim until I put in a gel that I throw up instantly.
The moment you come to is magic. You feel like you’ve vanquished a creature that’s had a hold on you for hours. For these small victories it’s worth continuing, no matter how fierce the thought of quitting.
I start running and catch other runners behind. The wind picks up, a sign that we are nearing the top of the climb. Even though I’ve done over an hour on this climb, it felt like it went by very quickly.
In total, I’ve done TMB 7 times, in competitions and training. This climb to Col Ferret about 10 times.
This year my mind has shortened the distances. This year I felt how the miles seemed to shorten. The mind no longer makes an effort to encompass this distance entirely, instead it’s divided into segments. Some to be tackled faster, others slower. Some I run, others I hydrate or fuel.
2-3 kilometres before La Fouly (kilometre 114), my race begins.
I start to peel the layers of clothes off me. I enjoy the morning coolness. I stuff my hat, gloves, rain jacket, wind jacket into my trouser pockets. I make two gussets on my quads so that when I get to CP I just take off my pants and stuff that pair into my backpack, with the rest of my gear in my pockets. I’m excited about the idea.
Before the CP, Maria tells me that I’m 20 minutes faster than the app said, that I look better and run faster than the other runners in front of me, that I’m 12th overall and 11th male.
I still had 55 kilometres to go. I was feeling so good that I thought I was going to run like this all the way to Chamonix. My mood is also fuelled by the fact that I had also caught Jordi behind. All the runners I passed were damaged, none of them responded to my pace and none of them kept up with me.
I was running like I was at the start of a marathon, and not in the middle of an ultra. I’m euphoric!
A few miles later, I stop to pee. I’m alarmed by the color of it, dark brown. Strange, because it was also cool and I think I had drunk enough water.
I look back and don’t see any runners.
I keep walking-running, but the euphoria wears off. It lasted me about 3 hours.
The climb to Champex-Lake comes and I start to feel my quads aching. I’ve been running for 14 hours. I haven’t run that long in over 12 months, it’s normal to feel tired.
I arrive in the CP at Champex-Lac and not a minute later the runner I’m racing against for 10th place, a Korean, shows up.
I eat well, change my shirt, let myself be encouraged by the support team and leave the CP after about 3 minutes. My quads are getting sore and I combine fast walking with running. At this stage of the race, even those fighting for a top 10 are pacing it out, even on the flat stretches.
They also take 9th place from last. I pass him at a run. As soon as he sees me, he activates and starts running too. I let him go to the front and the Korean passes me.
The climb that made me drop out twice in previous editions follows. I knew it would go by quickly if I hydrated and fueled up. I get near the top and see that the 2 athletes who had overtaken me have a maximum of 5 minutes ahead. It’s the “most dangerous” portion (close to 2000m) where I feel weak.
More than overtaking them, I want to reach the check-point and get obliterated by the team. By Trient I am overtaken by 2 other runners on the descent. I still miss a competition longer than 14 hours.
In Trient (km 145), I am spoilt for choice. I change my running shoes, change my shirt again, eat and drink well. I am already 17 hours into the race. Six hours longer than my longest effort in 12 months. I’m already writing it down as a lesson for the next UTMB – “an 18-20 hour effort is required 12-14 weeks before the race”.
It’s getting hotter and hotter, and I’m finding it harder and harder to sustain the effort. I’m in 15th place and the battle (this time with myself) is getting harder and harder.
I’m thinking of finishing the race at the next point, in Vallorcine (kilometre 154). When you’re fighting for the top spot, when you’re constantly overtaking people, you have a few allies and hormones to keep you in the game.
When those hormones leave you, you’re on your own, facing the demon inside you.
I’m 25 kilometres before the finish, when the competitiveness leaves me. I feel disarmed, like a warrior without a sword. I can only keep my body moving by walking. Runners pass me on the run. I’m frustrated that I can’t do this. The descent is more painful than the ascent and more difficult than the last descent.
The thought bubble of abandonment grows. I mentally project myself towards the next few miles. I have at least 6 hours to go until the finish. 6 hours of crawling.
I knew it would be hard, but I had no idea how hard. Between Vallorcine and the finish I felt like I was reaching my body’s limits. I’m moving as if in the Vallorcine CP I stuck my fingers in the socket and left them there. Every step is a step out of my comfort zone. My muscles ache, I’ve run out of energy in my body.
The altitude of over 2000m at La Flegere makes my effort considerably harder. I did 3 kilometres in 80 minutes. In which I put all my clothes back on and tried to sleep for 5 minutes, curled up on a rock.
On the last descent I try to run in small steps, to overcome my pain. I had no idea walking could be so painful.
I slowly peel off my raincoat and feel the coolness energise me. I change my walking stride to a running stride and head with the last of my strength to the finish.
Maria and Ergo come my way with 2 miles to go and we run together on the last descent.
The only muscles that don’t hurt are my facial muscles.
I can smile without pain. Even though the sun is hidden somewhere in the mountains I’ve been running through, I get a warm feeling.
It seems that at the other end of suffering is the feeling of bliss
DID YOU LIKE WHAT YOU READ?
If what you’re reading helps, buy a digital subscription. It’s the most direct form of support for our work in training, during the competition and afterwards when we write these articles.
Runner by runner, we’re gathering a community that contributes and supports us in meeting the needs of other runners through our own stories of how we train, how we compete, how we relate, how we can change those around us through sport.
“You can run a good race, I’m not telling you to win, but I want to see you in the top 3, and I don’t want to hear that your nutrition didn’t work, or that you hurt your leg, or that you got sick!”
Of course the reality was different from these plans 🙂
I really like the route of the race, it takes us to the three highest peaks in Bucovina: Rarău (twice), Pietrosu Bistriței and Giumalău (twice), crossing the Moara Dracului Gorge, Codrul Secular and other spectacular areas.
Compared to last year, when I ran the 88 km race, now the start will be at 00:00 at night, and I still have to do a descent from Giumalău, in the Putnei Valley, and a climb back up Giumalău.
The season preparation started in February and included 230 hours of training, 2300 km run, 57000 m difference in level gathered.
I participated in competitions during which I gradually increased my distance, competitions such as Feleacu Running Hills, Scaunul Domnului Marathon, Via Transilvanica Marathon, and Primavera Trail Race National Ultra Running Championship, and Bucovina Ultra Rocks.
Throughout this training period, in addition to the guidance of my coach – Robert, and the help of fellow runners, I have had unconditional support from my family as well, which has helped and helps me a lot.
It’s not easy to wake up almost every Sunday without your husband by your side, because he’s training somewhere on the couloirs from 5-6 am or doing the family schedule after his training or not being able to rely on him for 3-4 days because he’s at a competition somewhere in the country and many other things.
This time, in Câmpulung Moldovenesc I arrived on Thursday evening, I had time to do the race plan and nutrition.
According to the ITRA score, I was fourth, I tried to focus only on what I had to do, I aimed to finish the race in 17 hours (if all goes well) or, at worst, 18 hours.
For the most part, I knew the route, I knew where I was going to shoot and where I was going to go consistently, nutrition was better prepared than any race before, basically everything was ready for a successful race.
On Friday afternoon, I met Gicu and his wife, Diana, who was going to help him at the nutrition checkpoints; she offered me her help at the Rarău 1, Rarău 2 and Rusca checkpoints.
Theoretically, at Valea Putnei I should have had a bigger lead over Gicu, and Diana couldn’t help me anymore.
It was great news, I didn’t have to carry all the food with me on the first part of the race! Plus it’s a big help when someone is waiting for you at a checkpoint and knows what they have to do, so they can quickly get you back on track.
THE START OF BUCOVINA ULTRA ROCKS
We started at 00:00, we were in the first wave as we were ordered according to the ITRA score.
Everything went super well, until the first checkpoint, from where I started to get very intense abdominal cramps, I slowed down, the first ascent of Rarău was coming anyway.
For almost an hour I didn’t eat anything, to see if the pain would let up, then I restarted the nutrition slowly, with an oat bar, to see if it would work. Of course, it didn’t work.
I arrived on Rarău, Diana was waiting for me with the pack for the next section, I took water and left; a bit drunk, admittedly, but I continued.
When I reached the Moara Dracului Gorge, after a little wandering, I met up with Gicu, who, to my surprise, had covered more than he had originally proposed. He asked me if I was okay (indeed, I looked a bit crappy), then we started running together.
He was feeling great, he was ahead of schedule, I was feeling bad and behind my plan, so we decided that we’d walk together so we’d do a 18h – 18h:30min time if we kept up the pace.
THE LOW POINT
By the time we hit the tarmac in Slătioara, I could hardly breathe due to cramps and pain, I was counting the steps to the checkpoint and honestly didn’t know what to do, I was at the start of the race and had serious digestion issues.
Gicu didn’t let me, he convinced me that he would get me on my feet if we made it to the CP.
That’s exactly what happened!
I sat for a few minutes, ate some chips, and remembered Robert telling me about ginger as a stomach remedy; I quickly drank the bottle of ginger juice and set off towards Rarău, through the Codrul Secular.
I made a point of eating rice on the ascent, alternating with Spring gel, to give my stomach as simple a meal as possible to settle. Indeed, there weren’t enough carbs for the effort, but it was more than nothing.
After jumping over dozens of downed trees in the Secular Forest, and making very difficult progress (human intervention is not allowed in the Secular Forest, it is a nature reserve. Trees die standing, decay, and provide food for future generations.
In Romania, there are no more such coniferous forests, this is the second in Europe, after Germany, we reached Rarau, the second time.
We caught an incredibly beautiful sunrise near the summit, I was filled with energy and couldn’t wait to get to the CP, where Diana was heroically waiting for us, almost frozen, but smiling.
We refueled and set off at a run towards Zugreni.
We had a great time, resumed eating almost as planned and ran at a good pace to Zugreni.
The next peak on the list was Pietrosu Bistriței. I decided, together with Gicu, to climb it at a pace of 25 min/km, to fit in with the descent, and arrive at 10:00 in Rușca.
We managed to fit it in, I was glad that my stomach was working at 70% capacity, but having run all night in wet grass and wet socks, I started to feel blisters appearing in my soles. Robert’s words echoed in my head “In an ultra do you feel good? You get over it. Do you feel sick? That goes away too!”
HALF OF THE BUCOVINA ULTRA ROCKS
In Rușca we stayed a little longer, changed shoes, ate a few mouthfuls of soup, melon, chips and rice, then set off for the third peak, Giumalău.
Already the heat had started, my stomach was a bit full and it felt like I was again not doing well with the food.
With every step I felt my energy drop, I had a deja vu when last year on this very climb I had the same problem.
Instead of 1h:45min, we did 2h:10min to the top; it was only before we reached the top that I recovered.
We ate watermelon and ran all the way to Putna Valley.
From here it was hell, we set off towards Giumalău, it was already about 32 degrees, the sun was burning pretty hard, we had learned from Gicu that there was no water until CP, nor much forest, and we took all the flasks full of water with us.
We already knew there was no way we could fit in 2h:30min on this segment because of the heat; we estimated we would make it up in a 2h:45min – 3h.
The water we had was evaporating with every step, the heat was already unbearable, the forest… no way.
When we reached the bottom of the ridge, we could see how much further we had to go before we reached Giumalău. We looked at how little water we had left and got totally demoralized.
From Putna Valley, Marius came with us. We found some shade and sat down for a few minutes to recover. All three of us were mentally and physically knocked out, we had already been overtaken by six competitors on this segment, time was ticking away and we seemed to be crawling up the climb where we needed to run or at least powerhike.
We were out of water, we couldn’t eat without water, my soles were better, I don’t even remember. The only chance was to get to the Giumalău.
That’s when I decided I wasn’t going to stop, no matter what.
I paused my thoughts, drank the last drops of water and set off as hard as I could. Gicu and Marius stayed behind, later I found out they had dropped out when they reached Giumalău.
We arrived in CP! It took me almost 3h.
Volunteers helped me get my strength back, I put water in flasks, ate watermelon and salt, then set off to Transrarău, together with the first girl from the 88 km race. I was trying to keep pace with her, but I got pretty worn out on the last climb and let her go on.
My digestion started working again after the break we had, but on the descent I felt the already unbearable pain in my soles, I couldn’t go forward as I wanted, but I didn’t want to push it either, risking an injury.
In the forest, I took out my phone to put it on silent, because it kept ringing and I wanted to let my wife know. I sent her a picture of me and told her I was pretty beat up, the heat had destroyed me and I was outpaced by a lot and not even in the top 10.
She encouraged me, saying that I don’t have much left, that I’m good at the end of races and I’m sure I’ll make it, that’s not why I’ve trained so long and come so far, to give up just now, towards the end.
I remembered our youngest son, who waits for me after every race and asks me about the medal, I couldn’t let them down. Those minutes gave me as much energy as any gel in the world can give me!
Teary-eyed, I packed up my phone and started running. I ran at a brisk pace and I felt good!
I started eating, every 30 minutes, rice alternating with gels that I knew felt good.
I was starting to overtake competitors, one after the other, I couldn’t believe I still had the strength to run at a steady pace up and down hill.
I couldn’t wait for the Runch :). In less than 1h:30min we reached the base of Runc.
I drank coke and started to face the last obstacle to the finish! 1.5km with almost 400m positive level difference.
In 45 minutes, Paul and Iulia, Florin’s future wife (training colleague from Trail Running Academy) were waiting for me at the finish line.
In 19h:55min I managed to run the course and finish in 6th place.
19 hours and 55 minutes in which again I learned a lot about myself, my body, my mind and especially about how much the support of the people around us matters.
In an ultra, as in life, many situations arise that prevent us from moving forward at the desired pace; all these situations must be resolved, otherwise they bring us down and we choose the shortcut represented by abandonment.
Since the beginning of the race, I have made it my goal that whatever happens, I want to keep going, find solutions to the situations that arise and prove to myself that I am capable of putting my mind on pause when it tells me that I can’t, it’s not worth it, it hurts or who knows what else it makes up.
It was easier to do this with the help of those around me, with the support of my family, my coach – Robert, my fellow runners, especially Gicu – who encouraged me in Slătioara, Diana – who waited for us at the checkpoints, Julia – who helped me wash my feet and recover after the race and the volunteers, who were wonderful.
Without their unconditional support it would have been much, much more difficult and I would like to thank them! They too are part of the story and the success of the race.
Running is magical from all points of view and I say this because initially I started running to consume the emotion – Florin Alexandru
I was frustrated, angry, “defeated”, disappointed with the way my life went.
But by deciding to go running again and again, I did myself a huge service because I started working on what was to become a work of art, my own behavior.
It was the period when I understood that this behavior of mine is a sum of habits built over time by a man without a presence in his own life.
It was like living another person’s life. I was totally unaware of the effects of my actions, I did not assume my behavior and I was emotionally immature.
A child in the adult body.
So it was time to do the right thing. I was after a severe depression in which the apogee was represented by the simple but strong thought in which I said to myself: “Does it still make sense to live?”
And from there, from below, hope came out of nowhere: “If emotions can hurt me in such a way, in the opposite direction, what could they offer me?”
From that moment everything started and I realized that I had made the decision to build a work of art from my own behavior.
I wanted my son to be proud of me.
I got to work right away and among the first information I found I was told that what I have to do is work, be quiet and play with what I do because I will succeed one day if I do “what must”!
A quote from Albert Eiinstein that said something like:
Success = Z + Y + X Where Z is work, Y is silent and X is playing.
Well, I realized that all I have to do is do the right thing. For the first time, I did a daily practice that included activities for each “body” of who I was: physical, rational, emotional, and spiritual.
For the spiritual I had made the decision after long searches to practice conscious breathing and meditation, for the emotional to develop my emotional intelligence, for the rational to learn something new every day, and for the physical to do sports, more precisely to run.
That’s how my most enduring and important habit, running, began. At first I ran about 3 times a week, but after I started seriously, I ran 6 times a week with one day I didn’t run.
I turned running into the most beautiful way to develop my resilience, that is, to postpone my reward until the end of the task in which I was engaged.
And postponing the reward means doing the right thing.
At first it was 2 kilometers, then 3, then 4, then more than a year I ran 6 km.
It’s just that from a time of 6 minutes per kilometer, I started running with 4 minutes and 20 seconds.
Then I increased the distance to 10 kilometers. And word for word when I was walking on Moldoveanu, a friend told me that there is a competition in Bran where mountain marathons are run and that they can run long distances, for example 50 kilometers.
Immediately after hearing about such a contest, I signed up, only there were problems because I had no other contests and I had to ask the organizers to let me participate in a 50 km Ultramarathon.
I didn’t even know I had chosen a 50-kilometer Ultramarathon for the first time, but it seemed like a good distance to run.
I ran it all and it was something of a dream, I couldn’t believe what had happened during the race.
My mind told me if I didn’t know how many times to give up, my physical body was suffering and urging me to stop, begging me not to torment him anymore.
Instead, the emotions were in the team with me and helped me moment by moment. The picture is taken in a moment of ecstasy, a moment when, although everything was against me, I was in my heart and I enjoyed everything that was happening there.
An attitude that I repeat every time I run because this is the reason why I manage to cultivate my resilience and emotions are what help me every time.
In the meantime, I’ve learned what emotions can offer me if I’m on the other side of depression.
I learned to live beautifully and running was always there to help me.
I went for a run regardless of the weather, I enjoyed the moments of loneliness and I celebrated each run as an opportunity to do the right thing.
I let my body show me how to run, I managed to get to know my physical body, to connect with it every time I finished a run I received a gift in the form of a cocktail of hormones: serotonin, oxytocin, dopamine, etc.
Running is much more than it seems, it is a tool through which I offer myself education.
It is a tool for settling emotions, it is the moment when I sit with me now without any thought and on top of that, I breathe consciously, practice for the spiritual body.
Do you know of any other activity that will give you so many benefits at the same time?
Well, and if this happens on the mountain and you let the mountain be in you and you in the mountain managing to connect with it, everything is wonderful.
Feel God take you in his arms.
And when I think about it, it all started two miles away at a time when I needed to get the rage out of me.
I am grateful for everything I learned from running.
My behavior today?
A work of art through which I can build any habit I want because I know how to postpone my reward due to running.
Probably the best way to put your appetite in the nail and get used to completing any project.
And life is measured in completed and completed projects.
I also say that the first Ultra was in 2018, and in 2020 it was the first qualification at UTMB, ie the most famous Ultra in the world, a kind of Football Champions League, where a nice Romanian, Robert Hajnal managed to rank 2nd in 2018, an amazing performance for all of us, dream runners.
Come for a run, you just have to go out and you will see how much you will receive if you notice the gift sitting in the present.
Give me a sign that we may see ourselves on the mountain tired, but happy to do “the right thing.”
Behavioral analyst, bestselling author and the only accredited Romanian Paul Eckman International.
Olympus Mythical Trail is an ultramarathon of 108 kilometers and 6800 difference + in Greece, in its 9th edition. The race record is set by Foltopoulos Moysis in 14h20min. The best Romanian ranking in men: Marius Vasilache, 2015, 1st place, 14h57min
I often feel the need to write. It’s almost like the need to run.
This lust is an outsourcing of feelings, an “emptying” of them to make room for other feelings to ensure a flow, not a blockage. More and more often lately, I just want to sit in front of the keyboard and let my fingers express my thoughts. I want that, but I fail to create a routine around this habit. I fail to create a routine around any habit besides running. But that’s another story.
The fact that I am gone to a new area, alone, under the pretext of a running competition, gives me the perfect opportunity to let myself be carried away by the wave of creation, “to sit in front of the screen and bleed”. Bleeding is stopped by good food and a carafe of water. I prefer it to be wine but … It’s July 20, the year of the pandemic, and in exactly two weeks I will start the second ultramarathon of this year: Olympus Mythical Trail. An 108-kilometer ultramarathon at 9th edition that takes you on the paths of Zeus’ “garden”.
This contest was not on the list of competitions at the beginning of the year. Ergo, a very good friend of mine ran last year and was impressed by the competition and he told me only good things about it. After a few messages exchanged with Lazaros, the organizer, I told myself that if he is so determined to hold a contest in the middle of the pandemic then I can be just as determined to run it. The Organizers-Runners seem to be in a perfect symbiosis of satisfying the need for competitiveness.
It started with a 12-hour ultra-road Bucharest – Thessaloniki. I allow myself to call it “ultra-road” because everything seems to be “ultra” these days. “Ultra shampoo” with “ultra-care”, “Ultra toothpaste” that “UltraBleaches”. The road would have passed quickly if it were not for the frequent stops of drivers.
The 12 hour bus ride could have been done in 9. This is just a reminder to me and the benefit of having a car. I’m not complaining, I’m just trying to take stock.
Bus ride: 12 hours; charged the phone and helped transported parcels – 1 hour; expected at Tesaloniki bus station – 3 hours; Drum – Thessaloniki – Litochoror – 2 hours; espresso drinks: 2; Total: 18 hours and 2 espressos;
By car 10 hours and 3 espressos, probably;
Arriving in Litochoro, Lazaros was kind enough to wait for me in the city center, to give me a mini tour of the place, to greet everyone who gets in our way, to show me the heights that have been watching for thousands of years, the places at his feet. “I seem to see the quiet face of Zeus laughing at us and our pandemic,” I said to myself.
We went to the place where I will be staying for the next few days, made a mini plan for the weekend that involves running and a lot of uphill running. Then I took the dose of sleep lost in the last hours. I wanted it to be an overdose, but the heat and the Moon (the puppy) woke me up.
I told myself that I had more time to discover the places, to discover the food, to sit in front of the laptop and open my thoughts.
Something tells me that it will be a unique experience because I left the country without expectations, without too much pressure on myself.But maybe more focused and trained than any other running competition.
Litochoro is the village-town of about 7,500 inhabitants, each with a unique story.
The place where I am staying was arranged by Lazaros before I arrived. It’s a two-bed room upstairs in Dimitris’ (Taki) house that has a daughter, Sellini, and a Labrador, Luna.
At first glance, the room where I stayed seems just a place where I can sleep and wait quietly for the day of the competition. It is equipped with a bathroom whose door does not close, a round table with 2 chairs, air fan in the ceiling and a large yard.
Seeing the things that were in the yard, I remembered the house I moved to in Brasov less than 2 months ago.
After returning from a short walk and a map orientation by Lazaros and a few friends, I sat down at the table with Taki in semi-darkness. That’s when I realized that the place is more than it seems at first glance.
Each house takes over the personality of the person living in it and you can get an impression of the personality of the hosts from the little things that keep them handy. Scattered blocks of pumice stone that looked like unfinished sculptures.
Even though the first thought was that Taki is a sculptor, from the first conversation in the garden, to the music of Miles Davis, he told me that he feels and sings blues. That’s when I realized that Taki and I had at least one thing in common.
He lives the blues like I live mountain running.
Our discussion started with the fact that music is his lifestyle and that the blues is lived before it is played. We talked about it, about the state of “flow” that music and running gives you, about how important it is to do what you like and to be a good person.
I realized that I am a good listener because I just enjoyed sitting and listening to him, telling me about his life and the values he guides his life.
I got up from the table impatiently for tomorrow when I will do my first run and take part to a mini-concert in Taki’s garden where a friend of his will come to visit and sing.
Sunt om de munte și am o viziune clară despre ce vreau să fac în viața mea. Îmi imaginez o lume în care fiecare om face sport și își pune pe primul loc sănătatea.
Locul 2 UTMB in 2018, 862 ITRA points.