Last summer, I decided to resume my professional career in Krakow. Living alone in a city where I knew no one was not easy but not that hard as anticipated. The fact that the office is open, respecting anti-Covid norms, was very helpful. I could meet face to face many colleagues. The company assisted me with all the formalities needed to work from Poland.
Running helped me a lot. I continued my training under indications from my coach, Stefan Oprina. In Krakow, I ran 540 km, three times per week, before I had to stop in December. The reason was that it was too cold outside. I had a sour throat after running while the outside temperature was under 0 Celsius. The gyms were closed due to Covid. My only option was to run at home with two dumbbells. I did that three times every week. I hope that I will be able to resume running outside starting from March. At the end of 2020, I still ran 1500 km in total.
Generally, I was running at a slower speed because the area for my training was where other people use to walk. In most cases, my runs were on the shores of Vistula. For example, in October, I ran a half marathon in two hours and thirteen minutes. Almost thirty minutes slower than the previous year. Still, running helps a lot both physical and mental health.
Krakow is the most popular tourist destination in Poland, with 14 million visitors in 2019. The city looks great, full of medieval buildings and the biggest old center in Europe. Most of the people speak English as they are used to interact with tourists. That is important for someone who doesn’t speak Polish. Coming here last July was a good thing. All the museums and restaurants were open. For example, visiting Shindler’s factory, I understood the plot from “Schindler’s List” movie. Laying on the hills the city has many spectacular landscapes. A must-see is the Wawel cathedral and castle, the residence of Polish kings before 1596. Then Warsaw became the capital of Poland.
Close to the city, there are many other attractions, the Carpathian mountains with the famous resort Zakopane situated about 110 km to the south. There are hills, small towns, lakes, and nice sightseeings. Other cities in proximity are Katowice with wide-open spaces reminding of US cities, Częstochowa and Ostrava in Czechia.
Other positive things? The food tastes better and is cheaper than in Romania. Big malls and better roads.
What are the shortcomings? The winter is colder here than in Bucharest. Also, for me, the Polish language is hard to understand, but my colleagues are friendly.
Coming to Krakow was a great decision. A great life experience so far. Maybe I will post later some tourist experiences around Krakow.
Traditionally, at the end of the year, there are many chess tournaments around the world. At that time, most chess players are on vacation. The most famous example is Hastings International Chess Congress, which had its first edition in 1895. This year, because of the Covid pandemic, tournaments decades older moved online or got canceled. There was one exception. The XXXI edition of the Krakow International Chess Festival took place from December 27th to January 4th in a traditional format. Players were meeting face to face. They were grouped by rating in six different tournaments. Almost 500 players participated.
To play chess during a world pandemic… That sounds like Antoninus Block in Ingmar Bergman’s “The Seventh Seal”. “A man seeks answers about life, death, and the existence of God as he plays chess against the Grim Reaper during the Black Plague”. If you haven’t seen the movie, I recommend it. It’s one of the most important movies ever made.
These days, in chess, Grim Reaper was replaced by computers that can defeat any human being. Computers are trying to kill the soul of chess by exploring all the possible variations of the game.
Returning to real life, there were, of course, special safety measures for the Krakow tournament. All players had to have their nose and mouth covered with a mask. Each player’s temperature was checked at the beginning of the game. The hands were disinfected. Also, no visitors were allowed inside the playing venue. The pictures for this post were taken from the tournament site.
Due to the current world situation, I expect to pass a long time until the next chance to play chess at the table. The alternative is not too good. There are many online chess tournaments. The problem with online chess is that some players are cheating with software. They are identified after the games with the help of software that detects computer moves. Unfortunately, the rankings can’t be corrected at the end of the tournaments. The damage remains.
My hope for this tournament was not to get infected with Covid. Now, I can say that I achieved this goal. I was playing in the B section of the tournament. Together with 95 other players and 3 arbiters. We were in the same room for 3 to 4 hours for 9 days. Although we were wearing masks, the risk was present. The context was that at that time, Poland had a high rate of infections.
The tournament venue was the Galaxy Hotel on the shores of the Vistula river. It is not far from the city center. The playing conditions were great. Many boards were transmitted live on popular chess sites. The organizers had to cancel some other touristic activities planned for the chess players because of Covid.
As for myself, I played in the intermediate level tournament. It was open for players rated between 1700 and 2100. The nine players that I encountered were rated higher than me. I lost 5 games, won 3, and draw one. Not a great result. However, because of the differences in rating, I ended up winning 15 ELO points. More important, I was able to enjoy some chess games. Normally, I would share some chess positions as highlights. Unfortunately, I had no chance to make combinations. The only combination that was played against me was incorrect. I played correctly and my opponent gained nothing out of it. All the games were interesting. It was tough fighting even if there were no fireworks.
I would like to end on a positive note. It makes me really happy that chess is so popular among children. This happens not only in Poland or in Romania but in many other countries around the world. Children can learn a lot of things from chess. Maybe I will write later a post about the benefits of chess.
Across the world, based on the average ratings of the top 10 players, the leading countries are Russia, the United States, China, and India. This can give you insight into how popular chess became worldwide.
Two years ago, on a trip to East Coast, I visited Washington D.C. The US capital has many museums and plenty of tourist attractions. It is really an interesting city. It was the place in the US in which I learned most things.
Like all the visitors, I took a picture in front of the White House.
At that time, Donald Trump was the US President. The victory sign was my hope that one day this period of hate will end. That day has come. Donald Trump was not voted for a second term. Hence the timing for this post.
I did not resonate with the values promoted by Donald Trump. In my opinion, a country governed by fake news and lies goes in the wrong direction. Lying is a norm in day to day life in a dictatorship, but not in a democracy. I know that because I lived in Romania before 1989.
A day after the picture in front of the White House, still in Washington, I witnessed a scene that impressed me.
In Washington D.C. there are many memorial monuments. Including the famous Lincoln Memorial and Vietnam War Memorial. One of these memorial monuments is Martin Luther King jr. Memorial.
Next to Martin Luther King’s memorial, I saw an old man together with his family, children, and nephews. The old man was in a state of deep emotion. He was trying to convey his feelings to his family. I saw gratitude in that man’s looks towards Martin Luther King’s statue. His family moved on from the memorial. He remained for a while next to the monument. It was then I took the picture below.
The monument, inaugurated in 2011, is inspired by the line “Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope”. From the memorable discourse, “I have a dream”.
“I have a dream” is maybe the most famous speech in US History. Martin Luther King had that speech during the March to Washington in August 1963.
At the time the man in the picture above was grieving next to the monument, Martin Luther King was gone from this world for fifty years. Yet, people are still honoring his memory.
Seneca once said that gratitude ages very fast. We rarely see this feeling expressed in the modern world.
The United States owe to Martin Luther King the fact that they are not a segregated nation. He paid that price with his life.
That scene in Washington D.C. made me think about the fact that for politicians, the test of time is the most important. If people will honor a politician’s memory years after they depart from this world, it means the politician fulfilled his or her mission. For those aiming for a political career, this should be the ultimate goal.
My political dream is for responsible leaders. Leaders who will think beyond themselves, their relatives, and friends in the first place. I hope that the human race will finally move over this form of tribal leadership.
When playing Chopin’s Nocturne 20 on September 23rd, 1939 at Warsaw Radio, Wladyslaw Szpilman did not know that it will be his last performance for a long time. Hours later, a German bombardment destroyed the power supply. The radio was shut down for almost six years.
Last year, while reading The Pianist by Wladyslaw Szpilman, I had no idea that Covid will come. That everyone will be isolated inside, living like the hero of this book during World War II. The book reminded me of a famous journal in Romanian literature, Mihail Sebastian’s Journal. As a consequence, this year, during isolation, I read, again, Sebastian’s journal. This happened after more than twenty years from my first lecture.
These days, when the Covid pandemic affects the whole world, I found these two books inspiring and powerful. Despite the tragedies happening at every step in the books, I found them very human. These are real-life stories. They describe how the authors kept going in difficult circumstances. I hope people reading these testimonies will find help in overcoming the current situation.
These books depict the stories of two men, a pianist, and a writer. Both were highly esteemed before the war for their talents. During World War II they lost everything they had. In both cases, the only reason behind this was their Jewish origin. One lived during the war in Warsaw. The other one in Bucharest. They went on living and fighting for their lives during hard times. They overcome the difficulties in the end.
If you don’t have the time to read the book, you can watch Szpilman’s story in the video below. Or you can watch the famous movie directed by Roman Polanski.
I don’t have a video for Sebastian’s story. But his journal is very well written. He was a talented writer. His family kept his journal private for more than fifty years after his death. It was published in 1996. By then, most of the people mentioned in the book were no longer alive.
Below is a short video of his biography. He was honored with a Doodle on the occasion of his birthday in October 2020.
Both books offer great insight into historical events. And how ordinary people lived them. We can read in history books about what happened during World War II. However, reading about day to day life is like zooming in on a historical moment.
When reading Sebastian’s journal, I realized that possibly before the war, Sebastian listened to Szpilman playing live on PolishRadio. He mentions in the journal a few times listening to classical music at the Warsaw Radio. Once, it was a three piano concerto. Szpilman worked with Polish Radio since 1935.
That happened in a normal world, before the war. A writer passionate about music could listen to a talented musician from another European country. Then the war came. Szpilman was no longer playing the piano. Sebastian was not allowed to write plays or novels. Because he was a jew. However, during the war, in 1942, he wrote his best play. He named it “A star without a name”. Somebody else had to assume writing that play to bypass the law. Sebastian saw the great success of the play. Yet, he took no credit for it until the end of 1944.
Szpilman lived with his parents, his brother, and sisters at the beginning of the war. By 1945 all his family members died in the Treblinka concentration camp. Sebastian lived alone before the war. He had to move back with his parents and his brother during the war. He lacked money. At the end of the war, Szpilman was the only one alive from his family. Sebastian the only one who died.
There were many stories in both books that impressed me. In most cases, it’s about human nature. The books contain mostly sad and sometimes tragic scenes. But in the end, after going through all these difficult experiences, the message is optimistic.
In 1945, when the Polish Radio station broadcasted again, Szpilman played the same Nocturne by Chopin as in 1939. It was a superb way to resume life and overcome the pains suffered during the war.
One day, like him, we’ll have the chance to resume our usual lives.
According to the Myers-Briggs personality test, Goethe was an INFJ, the same type as me. I recommend this personality test. You’ll learn many things about yourself. You can take this test online for free from many sites, including the one linked above.
Goethe liked to travel, and he traveled a lot for his time. This would be his first life lesson. Once, I realized that I have visited over twenty towns and cities in Germany, Italy, and Switzerland, where Goethe walked over 200 years before me. I do agree that the places you’ve seen do not influence you as much as the people you interact with during a lifetime or the books you read. But still, they have a small impact on you.
For these “elective affinities” I resonate with Goethe’s vision on life and the world. When I was in high school, I liked some of his quotes. “Chess is the touchstone of intellect“. Being a chess player, I shared that opinion. “One look into the book and two into life“. The ideal proportion of reading and living. My favorite quote at that age was “Life is the childhood of our immortality“.
Years have passed and I see things differently now. I do no longer rate these sayings as high as I did then.
Later, when I was a student, I read “The Sorrows of Young Werther” and “Faust“. That was all I have ever read from Goethe. But I’ve also found out many interesting things about his life. Probably I liked those books as they were inspired by real-life happenings.
In “The Sorrows of Young Werther“, Goethe writes about a sad love story ending with the suicide of Werther. In fact, the novel recounts a biographic love of the author for Charlotte Buff (Lotte) while he worked as a lawyer in Wetzlar. Goethe redirects his sufferance for the lost love in writing about it. Instead of killing himself, he writes about the suicide of Werther. Psychologically this is explained by the fact that by focusing his energy on writing, Goethe was able to pass over this painful episode. This way he offered us another life lesson. In 1939 Thomas Mann wrote “Lotte in Weimar” on the ending of this famous story.
“Verweile doch! Du bist so schön!” – Goethe, Faust
“Faust” was Goethe’s most important creation and he worked on it for many years. It is also inspired by a sad story from Goethe’s biography. I don’t want to discuss it here. I knew about Faust’s story from a movie I saw in my childhood. He sold his soul to the devil and the devil made him look younger. The devil gave him anything he wanted. Only to make him say that life is so beautiful and wish that moment stay forever. If he will say “Verweile doch! Du bist so schön!” that moment he will die. This is the most famous line in German literature.
Perhaps, one life lesson behind this story is that anything is possible in life, even getting younger if you are willing to pay a price.
Over twenty years passed by and now I appreciate more some other words of wisdom from him.
“If you don’t feel it, you’ll never get it” – Goethe
It did happen to me to hear people talking about their lives, their problems, and the losses they suffered. It was a lot easy for me to understand those who talked about issues I was confronted with and felt the pain myself. Even if someone was talking about greater pains, for me it was easier to understand the pains I experienced before.
“Too many parents make life hard for their children by trying, too zealously, to make it easy for them.” – Goethe
Such a modern saying, we all know cases like this where having the best intentions the parents harm the lives of their children by “helping” them.
Actually, Goethe had many quotes that would categorize him as having a modern growth mindset.
“I love those who yearn for the impossible.” – Goethe
We live only once, so why not try to get out of the beaten path? This is a recommendation for people at any age to move out of their comfort zone. For trying to achieve what they feel would give meaning to their life. Even if we won’t succeed at least we’ve tried and did whatever we could.
Dear reader, hopefully, by going over these lines, you’ve found something to think about.
During times like this, when most of the museums around the world are closed I thought to post something about my art-related experiences. I will mention here only paintings that I admired from close distance in museums or expositions around the world. Of course, there are many others I wish to see. Hopefully, I will have that chance someday. I was lucky to see many of the most important galleries in Europe and the United States and I have a collection of memories from those visits.
I will start with a disclaimer. There is a big difference between admiring a painting at a close distance in a museum and looking at its picture on the internet. The pictures listed below do not impress me and I do not expect to inspire my readers. Seeing them in a museum it’s a different experience. But this is all we can do these days.
This is a subjective selection and it is for sure influenced by my life experiences. Here are the paintings listed in chronological order:
Leonardo – Annunciation (1472) Uffizi, Florence
While visiting Uffizi in Florence I’ve seen many annunciation paintings, as religion was the main theme for painters until the 17th century. Yet, when I saw this painting I was intrigued. It seems to have so many senses and symbols hidden. The characters are surrounded by mystery, it was just different from all I’ve seen before. Maybe I was impressed because it was the first time in my life when I was seeing a major artwork.
Raphael – Portrait of Pope Julius II (1511) National Gallery, London
This painting impressed me most of all I’ve seen at the National Gallery in London. I didn’t know about this artwork before seeing it. I watched it amazed for several minutes.
I did not have the sensation that it was made to look better than in reality. Yet, it was a different reality which I can’t express in words. The artist captures so well the feelings of the character in the painting.
After watching this painting I understood the sense of words written on Raphael’s epitaph: “Here lies that famous Raphael by whom Nature feared to be conquered while he lived, and when he was dying, feared herself to die.”
For reference, Pope Julius II is the one who commissioned Michelangelo to paint the Sistine Chapel. The Pope died in 1513 after he was able to see the Sistine Chapel painted. Interestingly is that before that he was also leading his armies on the battlefield as their commander. He believed in imposing religion by the sword, which was common during his time. If you want to find out more about him you can read “Agony and Ecstasy” by Irving Stone or simply watch the movie.
El Greco -View of Toledo (1596) MET, New York
The contrast of colors in this painting is fascinating. Another example of a painting I did not know and discovered in a gallery. El Greco paints here Toledo, the city where he spent most of his life and where he also died. This is not the only El Greco painting that I like, he was an artist well ahead of his time. The way he uses the colors and his characters (in other paintings) are very modern. Because of his modernism, people in the 17th and 18th centuries did not appreciate his works. He was misunderstood, as it was the case with other artists that had a vision beyond the horizon of his times.
Rubens – Old Woman and Boy with Candles (1616) Mauritshuis – Hague
I’ve discovered this painting in the Hague gallery. I am not a big fan of Rubens. I’ve seen many of his paintings around the world. Rubens created the biggest paintings in terms of size in museums. And the characters in his paintings were also big.
However, this is a small painting where he paints using the “chiaroscuro” technique he learned from Caravaggio.
I was attracted by how this painting looks but mainly because it is an allegory that can be interpreted in many ways. This way it’s like life itself.
One possible interpretation is a quote from Rubens: “Light can be taken a thousand times from another light without diminishing it”. In the museum it was written the local interpretation: “The renewal of life with the transfer of light from the candle, soon to die, held by the old woman to the freshly lit one held by the youth.” Then there was the religious interpretation of three hands with a light in the center. Each reader could have his/her own vision of this painting and that’s the beauty of it.
Probably, Rubens himself liked this picture as he kept it with him until the end of his life.
Vermeer – Girl with a Pearl Earring (1665) Mauritshuis -Hague
This was the main attraction in Hague. At the time I’ve seen this painting it was accepted the theory that the girl with a pearl earring did not exist in reality. It was believed that she was created by the imagination of Vermeer.
I did not believe that theory but that was just my intuition.
Later, in 2018, a new study of the painting was done with X-Rays and other methods. This year, in April, they published the conclusions. The examination had revealed the presence of tiny eyelashes around the girl’s eyes, invisible to the naked eye. Research also established the existence of a green curtain in the seemingly empty background of the painting that has faded to black over the centuries.
These are indications that the girl was real.
“Speculating on who the girl was, with her enigmatic expression, wide eyes, unusual blue turban, and huge pearl earring remains part of the fun. The fact that she is still a mystery keeps people coming back and keeps her exciting and fresh.” -The Guardian
In my opinion, this is the last classical masterpiece. It took another 200 years for the art of painting to reinvent and by the creation of impressionism to add new amazing artworks.
Vermeer himself was considered a second class artist during his life and was forgotten after his time. He was rediscovered almost 200 years later.
Van Gogh – Starry Night (1889) MoMA -New York
The most beautiful association between blue and yellow. This painting is one of the most famous in the world. The painting is often associated with the words of Vincent van Gogh: “Why, I wonder, wouldn’t the shining dots in the sky be as easy to reach as the black dots on the map of France? Just like we were on the train to Tarascon or Rouen, we use death to travel to the stars. “
The painting depicts the city of Saint-Remy-de-Provence where Van Gogh was interred in a hospital after his breakdown in 1888 when he cut his ear.
Van Gogh – Wheatfield with Crows (1890) Van Gogh Museum – Amsterdam
Some consider this as Van Gogh’s last painting. I remember it was nicely presented in the museum. Since it was a museum dedicated to Van Gogh it was a perfect way to finish the exposition. The wheat field is located in Auvers-sur-Oise and it was painted in July 1890.
“Wheat Field with Crows remains as Vincent van Gogh’s most contentious painting. The many interpretations of the work are probably more varied than any other in Van Gogh’s oeuvre. Some see it as Van Gogh’s “suicide note” put to canvas, while others delve beyond a superficial overview of the subject matter and favor a more positive approach. And some more extreme critics cast their vision even further – beyond the canvas and the brushstrokes – in order to translate the images into an entirely new language of the subliminal.”- http://www.vincentvangogh.org
“Van Gogh used powerful color combinations in this painting: the blue sky contrasts with the yellow-orange wheat, while the red of the path is intensified by the green bands of grass.” – Van Gogh Museum
The artist shot himself in this wheat field and died the next day in a hospital. His paintings remained to inspire the world for the future.
Magritte – The Lovers II (1928) MoMA -New York
I’ve seen many Magritte paintings in Brussels. In that city exists even an entire museum dedicated to Magritte’s works. There I discovered an interesting artist and found out more about him. Yet, the painting I like most from his creations was in New York.
“Frustrated desires are a common theme in René Magritte’s work. Here, a barrier of fabric prevents the intimate embrace between two lovers, transforming an act of passion into one of isolation and frustration. Some have interpreted this work as a depiction of the inability to fully unveil the true nature of even our most intimate companions.” – MoMA
The painting is intriguing and has many hidden symbols and possible interpretations.
Dali – The Persistence of Memory (1931) MoMA -New York
Surrealism at its peak by Dali. This painting is at MoMA since 1934.
The general interpretation of the work is that the soft watches are a rejection of the assumption that time is rigid. This idea is supported by other images in the work, such as the wide expanding landscape, and other limp watches shown being devoured by ants.
“Three of the clocks in the painting may symbolize the past, present and future, which are all subjective and open to interpretation, while the fourth clock, which lies face-down and undistorted, may symbolize objective time.” – http://www.dalipaintings.com
“Those limp watches are as soft as overripe cheese—indeed, they picture “the camembert of time,” in Dalí’s phrase. Here time must lose all meaning. Permanence goes with it: ants, a common theme in Dalí’s work, represent decay, particularly when they attack a gold watch, and they seem grotesquely organic. The monstrous fleshy creature draped across the painting’s center is at once alien and familiar: an approximation of Dalí’s own face in profile, its long eyelashes seem disturbingly insect-like or even sexual, as does what may or may not be a tongue oozing from its nose like a fat snail.” -MoMA
For someone who doesn’t run at all, running 6000 km may seem a difficult task. On the other hand, we have the world’s best runner, Eliud Kipchoge, who runs around 10000 km every year. He is not alone, many of the world’s top long run athletes are running similar distances every year. It took me more than 5 years to run a total of 6000 km. Therefore at this moment, I am not a great runner but not a beginner anymore. Hopefully, before the end of 2022, I will reach the 10000 km milestone.
But, besides huge performance differences, Eliud Kipchoge and Zheng Churan have something in common. They both run for a cause. In the case of Kipchoge, he runs to prove that no human is limited. To demonstrate that, last year, in Vienna, he did finish the marathon distance in less than two hours for the first time in history, thus breaking a record that was considered impossible for humans.
In my opinion, running for a cause makes this activity less painful and gives you more motivation. Somebody may follow your example and the quality of their life will improve. Happy people will make a better world.
Since my previous blog post, and until mid-May, in Romania, like many other countries, we had a lockdown. The good part was that you were allowed to run around your home if you carried with you a declaration about where you live and where you run. This helped me keep running although there was no normal training.
I would like to share here two personal stories from the time of lockdown about health and running, maybe they will help others in the same situation.
I have an allergy for pollen for many years, each spring I start sneezing and I have difficulties in breathing. The treatment is to take for 10 nights XYZAL or Claritine and I feel very well. Unfortunately this year the treatment did not work although I tried both Claritine and XYZAL. I am not sure why yet, I have a few possible reasons to test next year. As a consequence mouth breathing was my only available option. Because of that, I was not able to sleep at all during the nights. However, I noticed that after a 10km or an hour of running I was breathing normally for two days. Then, I had to mouth breathe again. The change after every run was really impressive. It did happen all the times and it had the same effect. I’ve tried to find something similar over the internet. Similar problems or about running helping in case of allergies but I failed to find relevant information. I shared my experience with various runners but they did not hear about that either. Except for a friend who said that he experienced the same behavior in a similar situation. If someone knows about the problem I mentioned here or wants to find more information about this you can send me a message. After a few weeks, the problem totally disappeared. I took no other medicines than the ones mentioned above.
The second problem was that I got a painful callus on my left sole. I’ve never experienced that before. It seemed that I had a small grit in my flesh in that area. Every step I made hurt me. It was more painful when I walked barefoot at home than when I ran with shoes on. The running shoes were Adidas Energy Boost and were looking really well although I have used them for more than 600 km. It was hard to suspect that they caused the problem since I had no issues by using them for so long. It did not hurt me much when I ran with those shoes on.
I’ve tried changing the running shoes with a new pair of Energy Boost which I bought for some time because I was very happy running with the current ones. Nothing changed, the pain was there and kept staying with me. In the end, I chose to use two pairs of shoes: Adidas Adizero 3 for running less than 10km and Adidas Boston 7 for long runs. In time, the pain went away and I feel well now.
My advice for junior runners is to change the running shoes whenever they see a small problem with their feet that might be caused by the shoes. If you run more than 600 km with that pair of shoes consider replacing them even if they still look good.
I would like to end this post in a positive manner and mention that in June I ran 195 km which would translate to an average of 6.5 km/day or 4 miles per day during a month. This is my best distance in a month ever. I have no pictures for this article but I added pictures from my runs on Strava.
The best thing is that my health problems were left behind and I can continue all my activities.
Since we’re all staying at home and I achieved the title mentioned milestone by running while we were still allowed to run outdoor, I thought to share here about how running changed my life.
On May 17th, 2015, almost five years ago, I left home with the goal to run for as long as I could at a low pace. My weight was over 90 kilograms and there were almost 20 years since my last one-kilometer run. That day, I was able to run one mile at a 7:30 min/km pace before I lost my breath. The next days the muscular pain was hard, I could barely walk and I was able to run again only one week later for two kilometers.
From that moment, for every run, my goal was to stop running only when something in my body couldn’t continue. I was either losing breath, or my feet couldn’t keep the pace, or my liver or other internal organ told me to stop. In two months I reached the 5-kilometer mark. One month later I could run 10 kilometers. And in September, four months since I began to run I was able to run 18 kilometers. Very happy with my achievements, I registered for a half marathon (21.1 km) race in October 2015.
I was reading about other people’s experiences running a half marathon, how difficult it was for them during the race and how well they felt after they finished it. For me, it was a great experience only the first five minutes after the start. Until then I was running alone for five months and suddenly around me, there were ten thousand other runners. Because I was very excited I began to run too fast for my abilities and soon the energy left me. That race was a very painful experience and I felt no satisfaction once I finished the race after two hours and fifteen minutes of run.
I’ve learned from that painful experience and kept training. Next year, in May 2016 I finished the half marathon in two hours and four minutes, a considerable improvement. I was finally happy after a race. In the same year, in October, I finished it in 1:54, reducing the time by another 10 minutes.
In 2018 I joined “Trupa lui Fane” and achieved my current personal best time in October same year 1:46:46 based on the guidance I got from Stefan Oprina, our coach.
Here are some of the things I’ve learned during these five years of running.
It’s better to run in a group than only by yourself. I’ve been running three years alone and two years in a group. While I was running alone, my posture was incorrect and it took my coach a lot of time trying to adjust my running posture, which is better now but far from perfect.
While running alone I did no warm-up and as a result, I had many injuries which kept me from running for long period of times, even for one or two months.
Let’s say you can buy a book and start reading about how to properly train, but the experience of a coach weights a lot. He can see what is not ok with your running and can make recommendations based on his experience.
Running in a team is a really fun experience. In a team, people will encourage you because they all know how hard it is to run a half marathon or longer distances. They will also congratulate you on achieving your results or on finishing your races.
Running improved my health very much. Before running, I used to get tired easily. I also got cold easily. Since I go to the dentist every year I noticed a big improvement in my teeth’ condition due to running.
When you are running long distances you learn not to give up. As a chess player before I started running once I lost a game I used to lose other games as well. I couldn’t focus well. Running taught me to keep fighting and after a lost game to be able to come back. I would say that running long distances is a boost for self-trust.
If you run for, let’s say, 20 kilometers in the morning, you will feel great for the rest of the day.
I did lose weight, about 20 kilograms, you can see it from the pictures above. The best part of it is that I could still eat anything I wanted without any diet.
I met many people and learned about interesting life experiences and this enriched my horizon.
If you are a middle age person with no experience in running and you want to run there are many books and posts on social media about how to create good behavior.
But, more important, you need motivation. In this aspect, the trigger is very important and it will differ from person to person. Some run for fun, this is the smallest percentage, but they do exist. Obviously not the case of someone who starts running in the 30s, 40s or even later. For others it’s the competition, they like to compete and to win. For some it’s because they want to stay healthy, many runners are in this category. There are people who run to brag about it: “I do run marathons”. For some, it’s about their dreams, for others their demons. Some run to deal with grief and some to avoid life. Some people run because they want to learn how to fly, others are put in motion by the last verse from “Divina Commedia”.
Running it’s a fight with yourself, it’s about how you can control your emotions and a way to know yourself better.
Dear reader, find your inner motivation and running will help you deal better with life. Running it’s not an easy journey but it’s a beautiful one and it worth trying it.
This was my story and it still continues. If everything goes well, I will reach the 10000 km run milestone in less than three years from now. Since this post was a personal story about running, I thought it’s appropriate to end it with the soundtrack of the movie “Running“.
The National Masters Athletics Championship Indoor took place on February 22nd and 23rd in Bucharest. The only difference compared to the senior championship is that in masters everyone is competing for their age category and there are winners for each age category. The limit age for masters is 35 years old and people are grouped together in a race depending on how old they are. The first age category is 35 to 39 years and then 40 to 44 and so on from every 5 years. This is the standard that applies worldwide.
The national championship has all the track and fields of indoor disciplines. The running distances are ranging from 60 meters to 3000m. Besides running, there are also competitions of high jump, long jump, triple jump, pole vault, etc.
Initially, I wanted to run in the 1500 meters in my age category and I registered for that. However, when I saw the starting list I realized that all the other 9 competitors were about to finish the race under 5 minutes while my personal best time stays at 6:00. In these circumstances, I thought a lot and decided to skip this race. It is not common for me to change my mind after announcing that I will participate so I was not happy with that. However, this race was with people from a different league.
On Saturday, I went to the “Ioan Soter” athletics hall only as a spectator to watch the masters races during that day.
I even recorded using my phone the race where I was supposed to run that day. The winner in the 40-45 age category was Marius Busca who won it with a time of 4:07 which was a new national record for the age category. The previous record was 4:17. One week later, I saw Marius Busca running in the 3000m seniors championship final where he was the only runner over 35 years. Yet he finished 5th in that race also beating the M40 masters national record for 3000m.
As you could see in the above race, all the runners finished under 5 minutes except for the last one who did it in 5:18 but nevertheless, he would still have finished with one lap ahead of me.
Since I am writing about 1500 meters races, that day there were other two national records beaten in the same race distance. Stefan Ciochina at M60 surpassed the previous record held by Ilie Cioca by almost 20 seconds and finished in 4:59, a great time. Yet, Cioca Ilie responded the same day by beating the M75 national record with a time of 6:05. This is the beauty of running in the masters series. Every five years you enter a new category and aim for your best performance according to your age.
On Sunday, the second day of the championship, there was amongst other races the 3000m run. This is the longest distance to run in indoor competition. In this competition, there were again two new national records. Stefan Chiochina has beaten the M60 record previously owned by Ilie Cioca by 40 seconds. And Cioca Ilie replied in the same race by beating the M75 national record. This sounds like “Groundhog Day”, right?
The most spectacular race of the day was the 800 meters run at M50 where our colleague Victor Bratu who owned the 1500m record in M50 tried to beat the national record for 800m too. But in that race, it was also Gheorghe Romascanu who owned the 800m record.
Better to see the race and convince yourself that it was a nice competition. Victor Bratu had the white shirt and Gheorghe Romascanu the orange one.
Victor Bratu won the race with a new national record of 2:16 for 800m!
I would like to congratulate all my colleagues from “Trupa lui Fane” who won the titles of National Champion for their age category: Bogdan Nitulescu M45 3000m, Laura Panaitescu F35 3000m and 1500m, Gloria Suciu F50 1500m, Cristina Ciobanu F55 1500m, 800m, 400m and, 200m, Victor Bratu M50 800m, Gil Popistasu M70 800m, Vali Puzderica M50 400m, Dan Constantin M45 60m, 200m and, 400m. Many thanks to our coach Stefan Oprina who helps us becoming better runners!Congratulations also to all the athletes who participated in this event!
This was a nice championship and I am looking forward to my next race, this month on March 22nd at Baneasa Forest Run where I will run 11km.
It’s been a while since I haven’t written about chess on this blog, and I think it’s time to cover a chess tournament.
In Romania, if you are not a chess grandmaster, international or FIDE master you have to play in a semifinal tournament to qualify for the final phase of the National Chess Championship. The Federation chose five cities in Romania ( Timisoara, Cluj, Iasi, Bucharest and Braila) to stage semifinal tournaments in February. The players finishing on the first ten places in the semifinals have the right to participate at the National Championship Final in April.
Because I live in Bucharest, I played here in the semifinal tournament. The venue was the new building of the Polytechnic Library on the University campus. The library was an excellent location because it’s quiet and has lot of natural light on the last floor.
There were nine rounds played during two weekends full of two rounds per day and one day with three rounds. It would have been nice if instead of having three rounds in the second Saturday we could play one round in the Friday evening and two rounds on Saturday.
At the start of the game each player has one hour and a half on the clock and gets an additional 30 seconds for every move he or she makes. This way one round could last for four hours or even more in some cases. The thirty seconds increment is to make sure that if a player reached a won position he or she has enough time to convert that position and not to lose the game because the time has run out.
The only unpleasant thing to mention was during the first Saturday when in parallel with the chess tournament there was a robotics competition in the same Library on the second floor. This was very nice and the young people participating there were very enthusiastic. The problem was that the Library had open space between floors and we heard all day screams and loud announcements from the second floor making our concentration difficult.
To qualify for the finals a chess player needed 6 points out of 9 games. There were no prizes and the only thing at stake was the qualification for the next phase of the National Championship. It was natural that all the players who were at 5.5 or 6 points made quick draws in the last round.
As for myself since I only had 4.5 points before last round and a win would not be enough to qualify I decided to play a nice game.
In the last game, I had the white pieces and we played a Sicilian Najdorf variation in which I went for a classical English attack on the king’s side. Twenty moves have passed and we reached the position below with white to move.
I spent a lot of time thinking about whether the sacrifice works or not. If it doesn’t work, and I would move something else, the white offensive on the kingside will end and it will be black to counter-attack on the queenside.
Looking into the defensive resources of the black player I noticed that in the mainline he can protect his king with the bishop from e6 moving to g8, but I thought I can manage that if I bring my rook to h7.
The complexity of the above position is above my power of calculation. However, my intuition told me that the sacrifice is correct hence I did sacrifice a rook on h7.
To answer the question I asked my readers above I will tell you that the sacrifice is indeed correct. The sacrifice works only if white at the next move diverts the black queen from defending the e6 bishop. The move order is rook takes h7 pawn, the king takes the rook on h7, knight to a5, attacking the black queen and black queen goes to c7 then white plays queen to h2 check, the king takes the pawn on g7 and white rook from d1 to h1. This way the white queen penetrates the black defensive lines winning the game.
Unfortunately, in the game, both I and my opponent made serious mistakes. Once the rook was taken I played Queen to h2 and then Rook to h1 without diverting the black Queen. My opponent played Rook takes f3 pawn which gives the advantage back to the white player. I played Queen h7 check and after king to f8, I moved the white Queen to h8 allowing the defensive Bishop g8 and the game is lost for white. Instead, if I moved the knight to d2 I would have had a won position.
It’s not common in chess to have so many ups and downs in a few moves. This is an example where the intuition is far better than the calculation power of a player.
It’s good and very helpful in life in general to have a good intuition. The calculation power can be improved by solving many chess problems and this where I can do better.