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Date : 19th May, 2017
Time : 59’ 29”
Total distance run to date : 1130 km
Run map and details : https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/1746320162
Have you ever thought about combining travelling with a spot of running? I don’t mean the Run the World approach to life where you do 7 runs in 7 countries in 7 days. Or travelling for more hours than you care to remember only to end up somewhere like Papua New Guinea or Venezuela where, beautiful and wonderful countries though they are, you’re scared to put a foot outside your hotel door.
I’m talking about visiting somewhere fascinating where you also take part in an organised run of, say, 5, 10, or 42 kilometres. Somewhere you can combine travel, sightseeing and exercise with meeting new people. Somewhere, for example, like Bucharest, the capital of Romania.
Just be ready to enjoy the local culture. My usual pre-run routine involves plenty of hydration, lots of stretching and carefully controlled food intake in the hours leading up to the run. In Bucharest it involved shots of palinca – an intensely strong plum brandy – the odd interview and chunks of bread with salt. (Picture below.)
And be prepared to run with sporting royalty. Constantina Diță – Olympic gold medalist in the marathon – and Valeria Răcilă – Olympic rowing gold medalist – both joined the run which had been organised by Stefan Oprina who is one of Romania’s leading athletics trainers. (Picture below.)
Including Constantina and Valeria, there were about 40 of us as we set off on our run which started with a gentle lap around the National Arena. From there we ran to Parcul Alexandru Ioan Cuza (picture below) – a picturesque park with a lake, plenty of crowds enjoying the evening sunshine and signs with the names of major cities from around the world. A perfect venue for a run, a chat or two and a group photo in front of the London sign – top picture.
We took it all fairly gently. So gently that, as we got back to the National Arena at the end of the 9th kilometer, I realised that we were in danger of missing the 1 hour time limit I like to set for these runs. I mentioned this to the rest of the group and we started to go faster. And then a bit faster. And a bit more faster. By now we were running at 4 minutes per kilometer pace.
I turned to Constantina to check that she was OK with the pace. She smiled politely ; everyone else laughed. (Not only did Constantina win marathon gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics but she is also Romania’s national record holder at pretty much every road distance between 10km and the marathon.)
We kept going and by now I was starting to feel a bit hung over from the palinca. I could also hear quite a lot of heavy breathing. Which turned out to be me. No-one else was even noticing the pace.
Eventually we finished just under the hour in 59’ 29”. After running the last kilometer in 4’11” – probably my fastest ever Run the World kilometre. To put that in context, Constantina’s national record for 10km (road) is 31’ 59.9” i.e. an average speed of 3’ 12” per kilometre.
Constantina, Valeria – it was an honour to run with you. In Bucharest, if you can’t beat them, then at least you can join them!
More palinca and photos followed before a big group of us headed off to an open air restaurant in Bucharest’s old town (picture below). As I got chatting to Stefan, Valeria – who is President of the Bucharest Marathon – and the others I thought seriously for the first time about ‘running tourism’ and how it’s the perfect way to see a place and meet local people.
So, if you think you might be interested in running in Romania (or any of the other countries I’ve visited) please get in touch. There are great runs to be done and great people to be met, all over the world.
Finally, huge thanks to Stefan, Oana, Valeria, Constantina, Radudonoiu, Daniel, Radu and everyone else who helped organise or joined in the run. It was a fantastic evening and I hope to be sending you more runners from the UK in the future!
Facts & Stats
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia
Romania is a sovereign state located in Southeastern Europe. It borders the Black Sea, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Hungary, Serbia, and Moldova. It has an area of 238,391 square kilometres (92,043 sq mi) and a temperate–continental climate. With over 19 million inhabitants, the country is the seventh most populous member state of the European Union. Its capital and largest city, Bucharest, is the sixth-largest city in the EU, with 1,883,425 inhabitants as of 2011.
The River Danube, Europe’s second-longest river, rises in Germany and flows in a general southeast direction for 2,857 km (1775 mi), coursing through ten countries before emptying into Romania’s Danube Delta. The Carpathian Mountains, which cross Romania from the north to the southwest, include Moldoveanu, at 2,544 m (8,346 ft).
Modern Romania was formed in 1859 through a personal union of the Danubian Principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia. The new state, officially named Romania since 1866, gained independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1877. At the end of World War I, Transylvania, Bukovina and Bessarabia united with the sovereign Kingdom of Romania. During World War II, Romania was an ally of Nazi Germany against the Soviet Union, fighting side by side with the Wehrmacht until 1944, when it joined the Allied powers and faced occupation by the Red Army forces. Romania lost several territories, of which Northern Transylvania was regained after the war. Following the war, Romania became a socialist republic and member of the Warsaw Pact. After the 1989 Revolution, Romania began a transition towards democracy and a capitalist market economy.
Following rapid economic growth in the early 2000s, Romania has an economy predominantly based on services, and is a producer and net exporter of machines and electric energy, featuring companies like Automobile Dacia and OMV Petrom. It has been a member of NATO since 2004, and part of the European Union since 2007. A strong majority of the population identify themselves as Eastern Orthodox Christians and are native speakers of Romanian, a Romance language.
Here’s the latest World Bank data for Romania – with the year 2000 as a comparison.
Population*** 19.8 m 2015 22.4 m 2000
GDP $178 bn 2015 $37.4 bn 2000
GNI per capita $9510 2015 $1720 2000
% below poverty line* 25.4% 2013 24.8% 2006
Life expectancy at birth 75.0 yrs 2015 71.2 yrs 2000
Primary school enrolment** 95.5% 2014 96.8% 2000
*The World Bank notes that the methodology can vary between countries and over time within a given country. (While most of the World Bank data generally follows understandable trends, this number often oscillates wildly suggesting that different methodologies are frequently used over time within a given country.)
**Percentage can exceed 100% due to the inclusion of over and under aged students
***Population decrease due to emigration and negative birth rate
Finally, here’s the data from Greatest Sporting Nation on how Romania performed in the global sporting arena in 2016:
Global Cup – 51st
Per Capita Cup – 52nd
The Global Cup aggregates results from over 1000 events across 80 sports to produce the definitive ranking of international sporting success. The Per Capita Cup uses the same data to produce a per capita ranking.