The 7th edition of the Krakow Half Marathon took place on October 17th. The Krakow Municipality organized this event. Due to Covid restrictions, this year, organizers allowed a maximum of 5000 runners at the start. They did a great job. The highlights were: running on both sides of river Vistula, in Krakow city center, and impressive finishing on Tauron Arena, the biggest arena in Poland.
The weather was cold that morning, around 10 Celsius, but great for running. It was the 7th year in a row when I ran a half marathon in October (starting from the MIB edition in 2015). For this race, my goal was to finish in under two hours. Since I was familiar with the half marathon distance, I started slowly. According to the statistics, after 10 km, more than 3000 runners were ahead of me. From 15th km, I increased the pace to faster than 5′ 30″ per km.
For the last 2 km, my speed was above 12km/h, which means running less than 5 minutes per kilometer. Indeed the finish on Tauron Arena was spectacular. There were lights and excellent visual effects in the vast hall. During the last 5 km, I went from place 3007 to 2478. The reason was not necessarily my increased speed. It was because many people ran too fast in the beginning and got tired. That happens every time. This race made no exception.
The official time was 1:56:53. This is 10 minutes below the personal best. However, this time is much better than the result at Bucharest Half Marathon. Given the current situation and my training, I am happy.
One important aspect is that one week before the race, my coach, Stefan Oprina, suggested running 15 km in less than 1 hour and 25 minutes. I told him that I couldn’t do that as this year I am not in great shape. In 2021 I could run 15 km only in 1:27 or longer. Stefan said: “That is fine. Run whatever you can and let me know how it went”. That day I ran 15 km in 1:24. That made me believe that I could run this half marathon in less than two hours.
Stefan’s recommendation relied on the fact that I trained with him and the team for six weeks in Bucharest. During the first training, I was not able to run a kilometer in 5 minutes. Before leaving Bucharest, I managed to run 3 km in less than 5 minutes each.
I’ve learned one lesson from the Krakow Half Marathon experience. Often your brain sets the limits for you. In my case, it was 1:27 for 15km. Once you overpass that limit, you will feel free and boost your self-confidence. For example, last weekend, I ran 15 km in 1:21.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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“.
December 1st is Romanian National Day and a running competition is organized each year in Bucharest to celebrate this occasion. Last year on December 1st it was snowing and the temperature was -10 Celsius. I went to see people running that day and I thought I’ll never run outside at that temperature. This year the weather was much better, a +4 Celsius and I decided to run a half marathon.
This year’s edition of December 1st Marathon celebrated the memory of Alexandru Ioan Cuza. He was the first ruler of Romania from 1859 to 1866. He was born exactly 200 years ago and became ruler of Romania 160 years ago. Another coincidence, the competition happened in the “Alexandru Ioan Cuza” park in Bucharest.
As a side note, this April, I was visiting Heidelberg, the city where Alexandru Ioan Cuza died while in exile in 1873.
As for the race, the course map was a 4.2 km circle in the park which we ran five times by the half marathon runners and ten times by those running a marathon. It was not the ideal circuit, it had ups and downs, climbing and descending on stairs. With this in mind, I thought it was not a race for achieving a personal best time. Therefore having fun was more important on this special occasion.
During the race, I had a constant pace, except for the first km when it was very crowded with all the participants it was slower. I completed the half marathon in 1:53:38 and placed 147 from the 375 runners who finished the race. It was not my best time this season but not the worst either.
Many thanks to Radu Neagu who took the pictures above and sent me quickly as always! He did run an 11 km race which started after we finished the half marathon and had time to take us pictures before his run.
The MC for this event was Bogdan Nitulescu, my colleague from “Trupa lui Fane”. Bogdan does this job every year for this competition. Last year he stayed for more than 7 hours outside at -10 Celsius. This year the weather was much better. Many thanks, Bogdan, for encouraging us through the race in a cold December morning!
This race was the first half marathon for my friend and colleague Bobo. It was a great result for him finishing in 1:56 such a race as the course was difficult and it was cold outside.
The December 1st half marathon was a nice way to end the competitional season outdoor by running on a special occasion.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.