Tell us more about yourself Irina, how and when you started to fall in love with ultra running and with sport in general?
As a child, I ran away from any kind of sport because I saw it as an activity that demands a lot but offers nothing.
When I was a student, I started to flirt with the idea of running because it was the most accessible sport and I saw it as the most efficient way to keep fit. In the meantime, I discovered a super nice running community which kept me inspired to run my first half marathon in Bucharest. After that I realized that the limits can be exceeded and beyond them – there is infinity.
I’ve got more from running than I gave, this sport put me in touch with many great people, with absolutely extraordinary life stories that far exceeded what I imagined to be possible. Inspired by these people and eager to know more, to live more intensely the experience that running can offer, I discovered ultra running and I fell in love.
Running became for me a lifestyle, I run through heartbreak, disappointment, fear, happiness, success, joy, for fun, or training – is my way of finding a new Irina.
What were the toughest races you’ve ever been?
Every race is a new challenge, I never had the same experience twice. The hardest running race was the ultra race S24H, where I ran 24 hours in a 1222 meter paved asphalt loop.
We can imagine that ultra running means difficult moments during the races. How you manage to overpass them?
Overcoming difficult times brings me the greatest satisfaction, but these moments take their toll, especially emotionally. I simultaneously feel proud and beat up.
The training plan helps me tremendously. It is like a lighthouse when everything is moving around, when everything is shaking in my inner world when I feel lost and nothing is stronger than the pain, the plan holds in my reality and shows me the direction. I also help myself with a mantra that I repeat endlessly, over and over, something like “you can do it”, “you are stronger than you think you are”, or “keep going”.
From all the endurance experiences you’ve had so far, why you decided to embark in the adventure of running a multi stage self supported race? What do you think it makes these kind of races so special?
The curiosity to discover a new world and the desire to go beyond other limits. I don’t have a background with many difficult races, don’t have even a competitive attitude I just run against and towards myself. And that’s what my life is: facing down my fears, living my dreams, and realizing that I am more capable than I could have ever imagined.
I like what Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said: “If your dreams don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough.” I want to find the courage to live my dreams beyond fear and to live a life without regrets. At this type of race I find challenging all the logistics of the event, it seems to me that it is extraordinary to find the power to start from the beginning by going over/through the physical and emotional pain and maintaining your motivation.
If you are to chose between 200 miles multi stage and 200 miles non-stop what’s gonna be?
Since this is the first multistage race I do, I don’t know the answer to this question. Not yet 😊
What’s the mileage you often put into preparing an ultra race?
I prefer to gradually increase distances so that long runs become something natural. Usually, I’m looking to find a mentor, a person who has completed such a race to help me draw up a plan.
Training for a race is a roller coaster of emotions, there are wonderful highs and frustrating lows. For me, it is worth having a coach/mentor for both physical and mental/emotional support. When my “why” does not work, the respect and admiration for the coach, the power of his story is stronger and help me to move on.
For ultra marathon I had a Heart Rate Monitor Running Program, I trained 5 days per week, long runs in weekend, sometimes back to back runs. Because I don’t have a fix working schedule I run when I have free time, it can be morning, evening or even night.
Have you had a moment during a race when you were about to quit? What was you motivation to continue?
I never wanted to quit, but at S24H I had a moment when I started to cry and wanted an unplanned and unjustified break because I felt like I couldn’t anymore, that I had consumed all my resources. I was lucky to have in the support team a very good friend who told me that “I have all my life to cry but I only have 24 hours to finish this race”. It was that moment when I became friend with the pain. It seems strange, but I started to talk with the pain, to bring gentleness in my race and to continue step by step, I promised myself that I don’t stop until the finish.
David Goggins, an endurance athlete is my favorite author on seeking to conquest pain. He talks about pain as a weapon you can use to improve yourself – and this is what I am learning to do, as an amateur runner I want to train my mind against other pain that might arise in the future, even outside of endurance sports.
Why Ultra Race Romania? What do you think sets this race apart from others?
First of all, because I know one of the organizers, Andrei Gligor – an extraordinary person whom I have been following for a few years and who inspires me. I remember that when the CaliVita 7 Deserts project started I thought how wonderful but how inaccessible is such a race to me. In the meantime, I made some progress with the run and now Andrei has brought such a race home.
Thanks to the Ultra Race Romania organizers! I have the opportunity to make from 2020 a remarkable year in which I will discover the multi-stage self-supported running.