How I became champion of Bucharest at 1500m indoor running, age category 40-45

The explanation is simple, nobody else competed in my age category at the Municipal Championship.

Happy after my first official race indoor.

There are tens of thousands of runners in Bucharest and the running community is growing fast in the city. Most of the people are running because it improves health and they are not interested in competitions. Besides, people are running long distances, longer than 3km and only outdoor.

To participate in an official competition, as the Municipal Championship, you have to be registered in a running club and to pay a small registration fee, around 10 USD.

This was my first indoor competition. The course has only 180m length and for a 1500 meters race, you have to run 8 laps and another 60 meters.

On Saturday, January 11th, we gathered at the start and once we heard the pistol shot we start running. I knew I was a slow pacer and my target was to finish the race under 6:20. For this reason, I did not start fast. During the race, I had a very strange sensation, similar to the one when I was a child in a merry-go-round. I was seeing the same faces every 45 seconds as this was the time it took me to run each lap.

With our coach Stefan Oprina who won three gold medals at the Municipal Championship

The surprise came when the arbiters asked all the participants to run a lap more than it should have been for 1500 meters. Probably they made a mistake in counting the number laps needed for this race. It was very strange as all of us knew that we shouldn’t have to run that last lap, yet we did it. Of course, everyone contested the result and it proved that we were right and the arbiters adjusted the results. My official time was 6:03 although I am sure I did not run faster than 6:15. As a bonus, since I was the only runner in my age category I got the “gold” medal.

The next day, on Sunday, I ran the 800 m race, which was only four laps long. This race was without special events and I finished it in 3:07, not a great performance. However, I got the “silver” medal because there was only one runner who was faster than me in my age category.

Although not planned, my teammates asked me to join them in a relay race, 4×2 laps. This was a really hard race for me as I am not prepared for running short distances at high speed. The experience was interesting but I am not sure I want to repeat it soon. Our team got the “silver” medal for the relay participation.

With some happy colleagues and our coach

All my colleagues who participated in the races got “gold” or “silver” medals in their age category group. Our coach, Stefan Oprina, won his three races where he participated. Many thanks to Stefan for helping us become better runners!

One could say my first competition indoor was a success. Or, as a friend told me recently, the key to success is the lack of competition.

It was the first time I won my age category in an official competition.

“Ioan Soter” running hall. The only place in Bucharest for indoor running

We train twice a week in this running hall during winter and it is always very crowded. In my opinion, there should be more than one running hall in such a big city like Bucharest. Ideally, a running hall should have a 400 meters lap and not 180. This way more people would be able to train in winter when it’s hard to run outdoor.

Urban Athletics 2019

This year, I ended my outdoor running season at Urban Athletics in Bucharest. It was the second edition of this event. They had three races, 800m, 3km and one mile (1609m). I went for the 3km distance, which is still a short distance for me but it was the best option available. Those were the official races but it was also a family-run.

The event was very well organized and more important it was a lot of fun to be there. They provided water and sweets for the runners as well as diplomas and medals for all the finishers. Kiseleff Boulevard was a good choice for a fast run.

It was a misty day last Sunday when we took the start at 9 am for the 3km race. There were not many runners and this also helped us obtain a good result. The temperature was about 10 Celsius which was also ideal for cooling during the run.

The 3km race started in a misty morning

I have no experience with the 3km distance and carried out by the wave of runners I began running with a pace that I could not sustain for the whole race. When I looked at my watch the pace was 3:40/km, which was obviously too fast for me. I ran the first kilometer in 4:04 and then the last two kilometers in 4:24. I was not able to keep the same speed for the whole distance. But I am happy that I was able to run at a decent speed for the rest of the race.

As it can be seen here, I was obviously suffering for the last kilometer of the race. Yet I am happy I could finish with a good result.

My finish time was 12:53 placing me at 60 position in a list of 136 runners. It was, of course, a personal best for this distance and I am really happy about that.

After the race, I was looking more like a protestant in front of the Government building than happy about my performance.
Bobo also ran a 3km race and obtained a personal best time. He looked happy with his result.

Once the races finished we waited for the prize-giving ceremony to congratulate the winners. A funny moment was when Radu Neagu took us a picture, a very young competitor showed up in front of us.

With colleagues and our coach Stefan Oprina who won his age category in the one-mile race. In front of Stefan is a young athlete, looking forward to future races. The future is his.
Many thanks to Radu Neagu for the pictures he sent me! Here you can see him running a one-mile race at Urban Athletics

Since it’s already November we’ll start training indoor until March. Maybe I will compete in some indoor activities during this time.

My conclusion is that I liked very much the Urban Athletics competition because it was very well organized and good for speed running on short distances. I recommend the next edition of this race for all interested in running either short or long distances.

MIB 2019-Running a half marathon

This year’s edition of the Bucharest International Marathon happened on a beautiful and sunny day in October. This was my fifth participation at MIB. Like every year I ran a half marathon.

MIB is the most important running event in Romania by the number of participants. What makes special this event is that you meet many friends, colleagues and people you would not see in a while.

With my former colleagues before the start of the half marathon. They just finished the 10 km race and got their medals. Behind us is the Palace of the Parliament, the biggest building in Europe.

For this race, I aimed to finish it in 1 hour and 45 minutes. In order to achieve this,I planned to follow the 1:45 pacers. One advantage of this plan is that you don’t have to look at your watch and calculate how fast you should go during the race. You just follow the pacers and if you are up to that task you’ll finish in 1:45.

Everything went according to the plan until at km 17, when I was not able to continue keeping up with the pacers. For the first 17km, my pace was at about 5 min per km then I dropped at 5:15 and finally for the last two kilometers at 5:35. Eventually, I finished in 1:47:32 which is not a bad time, after all, it is my second best time. This result placed me in the first 20% of the 2166 people who finished the half marathon.

Full energy at the start of the 12th edition of Bucharest International Marathon. Near me, you can see a 1:50 pacer helping those who wanted to finish the half marathon in one hour and fifty minutes.
After 4km into the race. Far behind us, you can see the Palace of the Parliament. I am the one with the blue cap.

Once the half marathon was finished we waited to greet our colleagues, from the group “Trupa lui Fane”, who were running the marathon race. On that heat, at above 25 degrees Celsius, it was very hard to run for many hours. Especially for those who finished in 4 or 5 hours, the race was really difficult. Because of that many people abandoned during the marathon. A suggestion for the organizers for the next editions would be to start the marathon earlier.

A small group from “Trupa lui Fane” after the half marathon race.

My thanks and gratitude to my coach Stefan Oprina for the training and the constant encouragement he gave me in many situations. One example, before joining his team I often had injuries because I did no warm up before the training sessions.

Also, warm thanks to Radu Neagu, who after running a half marathon took us pictures, including the photo above.

This was my tenth official half marathon. In 2015 I finished it in 2:15 and now I can run the same distance almost 30 minutes shorter, which is quite ok in my opinion.

Leaving aside these technical details, more important is that running changed my life. I would like to end this story with a quote that has been on my mind since I start running four years ago:

An athlete cannot run with money in his pockets. He must run with hope in his heart and dreams in his head.” – Emil Zatopek

Running a half marathon at Balkan Masters Athletics

This year edition of the Balkan Masters Athletics was organized in Bucharest. It was a competition open to all athletes from Balkan countries aged over 35. It had all the races you can see in the athletics section of Olympic games with some small differences, one being that instead of a marathon the participants run only a half marathon because it deals with people over a certain age.

It was a nice edition with many spectacular races. I liked watching the relays but also the spectacular 3000m obstacles or the 1500m race. Except for the half marathon, all the other events happened on “Iolanda Balas” stadium.

It was a good opportunity for me to see how prepared I am for the traditional half marathon I run every year in October.

Together with my colleagues Bogdan and Ioan from “Trupa lui Fane” before the start of the half marathon. They both got bronze medals in their age category.

There were around 80 participants that started the race on a beautiful Sunday morning of September. We had to run 3 times around the Herastrau lake as shown in the map below where a lap is around 7 km long.

The map of the half marathon race

Constantina Dita, the Olympic champion, was invited to give the start signal for the race and she not only did that but she also watched the whole race and gave water to the thirsty runners after each lap. In the end, she congratulated the finishers. It was very nice of her to go the extra mile and I am sure that as myself all the runners really appreciated this. A warm thank you to all the arbiters and officials who were aligned on the route to make sure everything is ok. They stayed there for more than three hours until the race finished.

We took a picture with Constantina Dita before the race. She is the most famous Romanian athlete for long-distance running, besides winning the gold medal at Olympic Games in 2008 she still holds all the national records for women ranging from 10km to marathon.

As for the race itself, I started with a comfortable pace of 5 minutes and 10 seconds per kilometer and continued at that speed for 14 kilometers when a runner from Greece reached me from behind. In all the races before I focused on my run, but this time I made the mistake to compete with this guy. For the next 3 km, I had a pace of 4:50 which was too fast for me. As a result for the last 3 km of the race, I had an average of 5:24 and finished in 1:48:05 official time ranked 8th from 12 participants. While this is not my best time for a half marathon (1:46:46), I am happy with my performance, an average of 5:08 per kilometer for 21 kilometers. In the end, I congratulated the runner from Greece who finished two minutes ahead of me. Running and sport, in general, is about fair-play.

I would like to thank my coach, Stefan Oprina, the driving force at “Trupa lui Fane”, who is helping me for over a year to improve my running with great advice in cool training sessions together with many other runners.

With Stefan after he finished the 5000m race which he won. This is why he is inside the stadium while I am outside. Stefan got three gold medals in this edition of the Balkan Masters Athletics. His motto is: “Together we are stronger!”

Many thanks to Radu Neagu who made the photos above and sent them to me late in the night so I can write this article!

I liked this edition of the Balkan Masters and I would like to participate next year as well when will be hosted in Albania.

My next race will be at the traditional Bucharest Marathon on October 13th when my objective is to finish the half marathon in one hour and forty-five minutes.