It was in August 2009 at the seaside when my friend Jerry told me, while drinking beer, that he had heard about a street race in Warsaw, some 10k called Run Warsaw. When he proposed that we would take part in it, my first thought was that he had really lost it – although in our opinion we were sportsmen and still quite fit in our thirties, but in the back of my head there was a thought that I had last run 10k in high school, and all sports I had previously practiced were more strength or speed, not endurance sports. Besides, I was 190cm (6’4″) tall and weighted almost 100kg (220lb) and in my good old days of Judo I had been fighting in weight limit of 79kg (174lb), so I was not quite in my best shape ever. All in all our fantasy and cold beer outweighed common sense and we made the decision to run!
Unfortunately, it was difficult to back away from once made decision, especially one made in front of a friend and my just married wife, so I had to start running…
Generally I like my world to be in order and under control, so first thing I did after coming back home from summer vacation was searching the web to gather some information about long distance running practice (at that time what I really wanted was a simple plan with information on what, how long and how fast should I run). Back in 2009 internet was somewhat less sophisticated than today, but I found a place as I thought perfect for my needs. I had less than a month and a half until my first competition so, without giving it any thought, I cut the first few weeks out of my first training plan and I started running. I found my old running shoes, took out my even older shorts and a cotton t-shirt and equipped with a watch I went into the Las Bielański forest in Warsaw. My running loop was 1,7km (just over a mile), but my three weekly runs were not exceeding twenty-twenty five kilometers (15 miles) altogether, so I did not complain much about monotony, actually I wasn’t even aware of the beauty of free running without having a precisely set route. There is nothing much to tell about my training – the only good thing was that I learned to run slower and further than before. At that time for the first time in my life I covered 12 kilometers in one run, which was out of my reach before due to the lack of regularity and properly adjusted pace.
Finally the big day arrived… I woke up, had a light breakfast, took a subway to the start zone, left my stuff in a deposit, warmed up a bit and there I was at the start of my first road run. We were both standing with my friend Jerry somewhere along with the mid-pack runners and we grinned nervously at each other, as neither of us had an idea about what we had got into. Luckily we managed somehow to asses our capabilities and we decided to try to make it in 50 minutes, so we started off in that pace. I have to tell you – if you have never run in the middle of a main street in a big city, that thing alone is worth paying the entrance fee – it’s just few meters off the pavement, but it makes a really huge difference and gives a completely new point of view. For me this vibe has not faded even after tens of big starts…
For the first few kilometers I was just looking around imbibing the atmosphere of the run, and enjoying myself. The first crisis I had around the sixth kilometer. My whole body started telling me to stop or at least to slow down, my internal voice was shouting at me that I would not become a runner, that it was supposed to be fun, that nothing was chasing me… I was in pain and I mean everywhere, I couldn’t breathe, I was hot and it was getting worse. I even thought to stop to pray a little while I was running past a local church… (it is really incredible how one’s brain works just to master the rest of the body). There was really only one reason that I did not stop – Jerry was still running. For the next few minutes I was thinking that he was not as heavy as I was, that maybe he has prepared himself better, and so on… finally we reached a long downhill preceding the finish line – it was then when I started to think that I would really make it till the end – there I found out another phenomenon that in the worst moments of the run your head gives you a signal to speed up. Some two hundred meters before the finish line Jerry started sprinting and I followed him, clenched my teeth and focused on only one thing – to keep going faster and faster. I crossed the finish line in 0:51:04, Jerry was right behind me with the same net time – this run has finished me off completely, only my stubbornness developed during martial arts workouts has made me going and not giving up.
My first thought when I was lurching past the finish line was “I will never run in a street competition – it is not for me, I will never force myself to go through so much pain and suffering”
… than someone put a medal on my neck, someone else gave me a bottle of water – I couldn’t open it for a while – someone talked to me, but I don’t know who it was and what it was about – only later I realized that it was Jerry talking about something (as usual). I started breathing calmer, I got my chocolate bar – the best I ever had – and after first bite another thought came to my mind: “I have to start preparing for the next race”.