The beginning of a beautiful journey. How we became runners.

None of the two of us were heavily involved in sports activities during school. However, I believe that if our PE teachers had more interest in the future of their young students, they might have motivated us to pursue an athletic career.

The turning point for our lives was the moment when we quit smoking. We were already doing some other changes in our lives (saving money for example) and we understood that by doing nothing out of the ordinary, we will achieve nothing out of the ordinary. So we had to take control of our lives and fill the void left by the missing pack of Marlboro Lights with something special. We love a good challenge, when we’re out of our comfort zone we feel more alive than ever.

We stopped smoking in October 2011, so we were talking about starting running, but it was already kinda cold to actually do it (we had proper winters back in Romania). Andreea went a step ahead (as usual!? :P) and acquired a gym membership for the first few months; not me, back then I was too proud to show my arse in a gym. Well, the gym phase didn’t last very long anyway.

We also decided to stop driving to work – we used the car only to stock up from the supermaket and to travel outside the city to see our families and visit places. By doing that, we were walking a lot more. Just a small detail made such a big difference.

Spring came and we started running. 1 km back and forth near our home, almost every morning. I had a pair of 5 years old sports shoes, heavy as hell, not made for running, and Andreea had a similarly old one, but in a better shape. Now, don’t laugh (we do), but after 1 km, we were taking a 5 minutes break to catch our breaths. These 2 km took us more than 20 minutes. We were in terrible shape, but we knew things will get better if we keep going.

We didn’t want to invest a lot in running gear – we were also saving money 😉 – so we went to an outlet and bought proper running shoes, dry-fit t-shirts, shorts and sweat bands – on a budget. Yes, just these, we didn’t believe we needed more at that time.

Summer came, the runs went on and we reached the next level: running in a park (around lake Herastrau, for our friends in Bucharest). 5k was insane and it was taking us 40 minutes with long walking breaks, but we were doing it!

Our usual run in Herastrau. In our BRAND NEW running shirts.

This went on until the following year. We were enjoying it so much that Andreea came up with the idea of running the Bucharest Half Marathon, the 4 x 5k relay. So we found two running buddies and there we were, in May 2013 we competed in our first official race.

2013, Bucharest Half Marathon – before the start, with our relay team

We still have and use the t-shirts we got at that race. And not only that. We still have and use the t-shirts we first bought at that outlet in 2012. They mean a lot to us!

2015, London Duathlon, wearing that cheap first running t-shirt

2015, London Duathlon, Andreea wearing the t-shirt from the Bucharest Half

But let’s move on. In June 2013 we moved to the UK. Andreea needed to be trained for her new job, so that same summer we had to travel to San Francisco, where we stayed for 3 weeks. While she was in the office, I was out running. I realized that I can explore the city in this way. Much faster and more exciting than just walking.

Foggy day, but you can still see a little bit of the Golden Gate bridge in the back. I was still using an old Nokia phone to track my runs

We came back to London, I finally got my work permit and, at my new job, I couldn’t believe: there was this thing called “running club” where people gathered twice a week during the lunch break and ran together. Andreea also joined a running club in the city and we started to run more – with the clubs during the week, in our local park during weekends.

The next stunning discovery was this thing where people gathered in specific parks on Saturdays at 9am and the results are displayed publicly on a website so you get both acknowledgement and fun. It’s called parkrun and it is still one of the greatest things runners do across the UK and other countries. This really made us feel part of a community, something we really needed 1 year after we left all our friends back home.

I never liked the usual things technology companies use as relaxation benefits for their employees, like the ping pong table, the table football and the Xbox/PS/Wii. I always wanted more outdoors activities like running and a bit more hitting the balls, like snooker :). I got none of these while in Bucharest, I got all of these in London.

The second turning point for our running “career” was the decision to get our weights back to the lower normal of the BMI scale. We started to cross train and eat better, but this deserves another blog post :).

We also added the bikes and we soon hope to add the swim and the mud, but the run itself is going to stay our main motivating hobby. We are not “heavy” runners, our improvement over time was not that fast, we will not become the fastest runners by any means. There are guys out there that burn 50km weekly without even feeling they’ve done something special, there are guys that run a marathon every day. But we will try to continuously improve and challenge ourselves, because running defines us more than many other things. And most importantly, we’ll continue to live, write and tell you about our running story.

They say that ordinary people, when asked about what they do, they describe their job; runners speak about their PBs and marathons.

Update: Since we first published this blog post in January 2016, we ran 1 full marathon (London), 3 half marathons, Alin’s 5k PB got to 18:04 and we increased our mileage in ways we couldn’t think possible. It’s all about progress. What’s your running story?

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