Bucharest Half Marathon 2021

Being in Bucharest, with some administrative issues since August I had the chance to participate in Bucharest Half Marathon 2021 on September 5th. This was the tenth edition of this competition and my fourth participation.

Since it was an event during It was an event during the pandemic. The organizers required participants to be vaccinated or taking a Covid test that should have a negative result. I don’t know how many people were at the start. Only that about 1100 finished the 21.1 km race, including those participating in relays.

II was also registered at Poland Business Run. This was a virtual and remote team race of 4 km, taking place on the same day, September 5th. I do not have enough energy to run 4 km fast after a half marathon. The only option was to run both races at the same time. My choice was to run fast the first 4 km stop the watch and record the result. Then continue for the next 17 km to finish the half marathon. Obviously, I did not care about the finishing time of the half marathon.

At the start of the half marathon. I am at the bottom of the image with a blue cap

The weather was good for running at 8:30 AM when the race started. The organizers asked us to run with masks for the first 100m of the race. As you can see, many runners ignored that ask. I ran the first 4 km in 23 minutes. The time was not good. I made another try. I ran the next 4 km 40 seconds faster and used this time for the Poland Business Run race.

During the race, after 8 km

The picture above is taken at 8 km into the half marathon race. I had only one race to focus on at that time. The remaining 13 km of the half marathon. After 14 km I was tired, but that was not a surprise. The 8 km of faster speed at the beginning were taken their toll. I did not force myself at all. I was just having fun for the rest of the race.

At the finish line, in the center of the image

At 10 AM, it was already sunny and not that easy to run. I crossed the finish line after two hours and ten minutes. It was not a good time. Usually, I should finish in under two hours. But given the circumstances, I was happy with finishing both races. A fun fact is that at this competition, they had the heaviest medal I have ever seen. After running 21 km, they put the medal around my neck. My head went in front, carried by the heavy metal. The joke was that the medal was twice as heavy this time. Because last year there was no competition and they doubled the metal quantity this time.

After the race with some of my colleagues and our coach Stefan Oprina. In this picture, next to Stefan is Valeria Racila van Groningen, the organizer of this competition and of the most important running event in Romania (Bucharest International Marathon)

Despite the pandemic, the event was very well organized. Many thanks to the organizers for the opportunity to run again with such a great community. Everything was well prepared. There were hydration points, many bands singing on the way, and an army of volunteers checking that everything was ok.

During my stay in Bucharest, I trained with my colleagues at “Trupa Lui Fane”. It was great seeing them again after more than one year. I was happy that I could run with them. Many thanks to Stefan for giving me the chance to continue training with the rest of the team!

Another thing worth mentioning is that, among others, I am allergic to ragweed (in Romanian “ambrosia”). I did not know because the previous year, I was not in Bucharest during this time. Two years ago, it wasn’t that bad. It is estimated that around 10% of people in Romania are affected by this allergy. The recommendation is to stay at home during the morning when ragweed is more active. Not only that I did not stay at home that day. But I also ran for more than 2 hours. The result was that during that night, I could not breathe and therefore sleep. If people allergic to ragweed are taking Claritine, xyzal, or both, the symptoms will disappear.

If you are allergic to ragweed and plan to travel to Bucharest between mid-August and the end of September, please take care of this.

Ending on a positive note running a half marathon is always an experience to remember. As Emil Zatopek, the greatest runner once said:” If you want to run, run a mile. If you want to experience a different life run a marathon”…or at least a half marathon, if I may add.

INFJ explained

As mentioned in a previous post, my Myers-Briggs type is INFJ. The initials come from Introverted, iNtuitive, Feeling, Judging. Everyone agrees that this is the rarest psychological profile in the world (around 1-2% of the population) with women twice more than men. There is also an agreement on the fact that humans with this profile are misunderstood. In this post I will try to explain this misunderstood profile from my point of view.

INFJ people have an intense internal life. That can’t be observed from the outside. They look calm, and therefore people assume they are very cool inside. This difference makes INFJ people sometimes behave in a different way than other people would expect them. It is not that INFJ will surprise you in a bad or in a good way. They will be just different than what you think about them.

Because of their long-term thinking, INFJ can make predictions of how things will look in the future. It is not about guessing lottery numbers but rather making assumptions based on a system current state and the internal forces. Whether we talk about a political, economic, or social system.

INFJ’s most important value in life is love. This is why you can see this feeling mentioned in this blog. Love is something that resonates with such an individual and makes him go further in life. Casual relations are not possible for this type of people.

To give a personal example, more than twenty years ago when I had a problem one friend advised me to learn a poem. As you can imagine, learning a poem would not make any difference. It would not help my situation at all. Yet this was a turning point in my life as that recommendation was in line with my personality. I learned “Ballad of Reading Gaol” by Oscar Wilde. Of course, it was of no help in the short term, and I knew it. But in the long-term, it made a big difference for me.

Banksy – Escaping prisoner in Reading – March 2021. Probably a drawing of Oscar Wilde imprisoned in Reading. He wrote the “Ballad of Reading Gaol”. In my opinion, the symbol is that through literature Oscar Wilde was able to escape prison. Oscar Wilde himself said, “We are all in the gutterbut some of us are looking at the stars”

Let me give another example. Pablo Neruda once said, “If nothing saves us from death, at least love should save us from life”. For an INFJ this sounds like an absolute truth, you just feel like that is powerful. For other humans, it is not. They can replace the word love in the above sentence with whatever motivates them: money, power, glory, etc.

Banksy – Girl with a pierced eardrum, Bristol 2014. A parody of one of my favorite paintings “Girl with a Pearl Earring” by Vermeer

INFJs genuinely care about other people and want to help them. They are glad of the success of other people. Envy is not part of their life.

INFJs avoid corrupt people or people who lie to them, for example. Often this avoidance is seen as a conflict by the other part. It is not a conflict, no hate or negative feelings are involved.

Because of their rich inner life, INFJs don’t drink coffee. In software companies, most people begin their day by drinking coffee. Instead, every morning I start by solving chess puzzles for a few minutes to get my brain up and running.

INFJ people do not talk about their personal life and what problems they might have. They never complain and give everything they have in relationships. They ask for nothing in return.

Banksy -Girl with ballon, London 2002. The most famous Banksy artwork

Music is an important component of INFJ life. You can see that most of my posts end with a musical moment. The music videos were not randomly chosen.

Every human being is different. A lot of the things that happen in our life are related to our previous experiences. Everyone is free to live their life as they want. However, some behavioral patterns do exist.

Why did I choose Banksy’s artworks for this post? We do not know who Banksy is, but I feel he is an INFJ. I found out that I am not even original in this opinion. Someone else already said that.

Banksy illustrates very well INFJ behaviors. He does unexpected things, he is misunderstood, he is very discreet about his life, has artworks about feelings, has a sense of humor. He is an idealist who does things and does not just talk about ideas.

Hoping that things are more clear now in case you’ll meet an INFJ somewhere in this world.

6700 km – Running in Krakow

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.

My improvised office while working from home in Krakow

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.

Last October. View from my window in Krakow center.

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.

View from Wieliczka Salt Mine

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.

View of Zakopane from surrounding mountains

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.

Krakow International Chess Festival 2020

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.

The most famous chess scene in a movie

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.

Before entering the playing hall. Arbiters making sure that I respect the tournament rules. On the table, you can see the device for checking the temperature.

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.

This is how the tournament B playing hall looked like

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.

The only image from the tournament hall where I could identify myself

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.

Children section of the tournament. The future of chess is in their minds.

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.

I had a dream in Washington D.C.

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.

The speech “I have a dream” was not prepared. It was improvised by Martin Luther King when Mahalia Jackson shouted to him “Tell them about the dream”.

Goethe’s lessons for life

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.

The first time I’ve heard about Faust’s story was during my childhood. I was impressed by the movie “La beaute du diable” with Gerard Philipe and Michel Simon. Faust signing the pact with the devil.

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.

Egmont was a play by Goethe. Beethoven composed the music for this play. Celibidache conducted it in a destroyed post-war Berlin in 1950.