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Ultra Race Romania: Interview with race director and passionate ultra runner Andrei Gligor

In the face of the global coronavirus pandemic, an already existent kind of race has resurfaced, because of the health developments, which is that of virtual races. In those, everyone can participate from all over the planet, anytime they like, while maintaining the right to competition with a timer and the rest real runners, but virtually in the same route…

• By Charris Manoussis / Editing: Argiris Kritharoulas
Photos courtesy of Legendary Sports


A few weeks ago, the longest in duration virtual trail race, has began. Because of covid-19, the Ultra Race Romania (www.ultraraceromania.ro) is being virtually realized, whereas every runner has the time and opportunity to complete running 250 km from 2 to 35 days!

This demanding mountain race of Romania, requires the mobilization of the runners physical and mental strength, whom has to run, walk, even crawl for 250 km in 6 stages (7 days) in a picturesque Romanian green landscape, where the legends of the past are still a way of living and the blend of history, culture and the beauty of the nature makes it a must do on one runner’s bucket list.

On behalf of Greek free press running magazine “iRun… and i am free!“, what didn’t surprise us at all, was the discovery of the event, by Charris Manoussis, our “commando” editor and runner! He didn’t only encourage us as a team to participate in the race Romanian race on 9th of August 2021, but he also didn’t lose the opportunity to participate in this year’s virtual race!! (www.ultraraceromania.ro/urrv/).

 

Of course, in order to put us in the mood for the race in the land of Dracula, he contacted with Andrei Gligor, co-founder & race director of Ultra Race Romania (Legendary Sports), who gave us this very interesting interview!

 

Charris Manoussis: Andrei is a 43 years old father, IT engineer, passionate ultra runner and enthusiastic fundraiser. After running 9 multi stage races all over the world in the last 4 years, he decided to show the worldwide running community what Romania has to offer. I’m very glad to have been able to talk to him and found out all these secrets about Romania Race!

Andrei, finally, Ultra Race Romania Virtual has accumulated more than 170 participants from 25 countries. Have you achieved your primary goal? Are you satisfied with the participation?

Andrei Gligor: «To be honest we didn’t necessarily set a goal when we thought about organizing it and so we are excited to see that people who are scattered all around the world took up the challenge and make it their primary goal for keeping fit during the summer».

C.Μ.: What makes this particular virtual race stands out?

A.G.: «As many of us agree, 2020 is going to be remembered few generations from now as being the year when all the world seemed to stop. And more or less we are all affected by the pandemic that hit us and changed the course of our lives. The first edition of Ultra Race Romania should have taken place this year in August. The way we envision it was to deliver the runners who would have come to our country an extraordinary running adventure in the raw wilderness of Romania: 250km in 6 stages (7 days) in self-sufficiency, followed by a two days trip to some of the most iconic castles in Romania, a good way to end up a week of running in the Romanian mountains. Unfortunately, with all the worldwide restrictions in place, this was nearly impossible to organize. But we didn’t want to say to the running community a cold “It’s canceled”. Instead, we slightly modified the format to match most of the runners needs and transformed it into a virtual challenge.

What I believe stands out about this race is the people. It’s always about the people, in my belief. The running community we built over the last few months around Ultra Race Romania is the best gain we possibly achieved. The fact that so many people from so many countries having completely different backgrounds will be running together, even not shoulder by shoulder like in a real race, it’s amazing and it’s a proof that people are capable of doing great things when they’re given the opportunity. Ultra Race Romania will always be about the people and a fact that we are very proud of is that we developed over the years a good relationship with Autism Voice, an NGO who is taking care of more than 400 autistic children and so 50% of the URR Virtual registration fees are going to the most needed therapy of those children. It’s our way to being humble and thankful for what we have and giving back to the community.

Inside the Ultra Race Romania Team, we are joking by saying that we are not so sure that this race can be called virtual because:

  • the running distance will be real for everyone (250km). Believe me, it will be felt 🙂
  • the blisters will be real
  • the pain, the joy, the excitement, will be real
  • the medal and the official T-shirt shipped to each participant after the race will be real
  • we will be on the real race tracks these days to provide the participants with pictures and videos make them feel like they would have been here.

The only fact that still makes it virtual is that runners can’t do it shoulder by shoulder. But to stay on a positive note, this pandemic will come to an end eventually and in August 2021 everyone is more than welcome to do it for real, here, in Romania».

C.Μ.: What is the most important motive for traveling to Romania in order to participate in the real race?

A.G.: «From my own experience as a multi stage runner, with 9 stage races done on all continents with distances varying between 250-522km, I truly believe that Ultra Race Romania should be seen as a complete and unique experience. It’s not just about running 250km in one week carrying a backpack with all the gear and food, pushing the limits and sharing a tent with other 6-7 people at night. It’s about making lifetime friends, it’s about telling stories by the campfire each day after the stage is done, it’s about being with yourself and your thoughts, remote and isolated from any devices but together with people who you consider strangers at the beginning but your best buddies at the end of the race».

«When we first thought about this race, we promised ourselves to bring the competitors in a part of Romania where “legends meet” so that they have the opportunity to run in a beautifully legendary landscape and have the journey of a lifetime. Each stage is designed in such way that instantly transports the runners in places full of stories that can’t wait to be discovered.

At the end of the race, we set up two days of exploring the Romanian history and culture by visiting the Bran and Peles Castles and dive deep into the traditional local cuisine. It’s going to be a great opportunity for both competitors and organizers to connect with each other and share the beautiful stories of the race that will just have finished».

C.Μ.: Αndrei, it is an honor for us, that your first marathon was the Athens Marathon, the Authentic Marathon, in 2011. What made this experience memorable? Would you consider running it again?

A.G.: «Running came in to my life by accident. And when I say this, it’s the reality. In 2010 I had a ski accident which ended up with a surgery at my left knee. I didn’t run a single mile before that. At the gym where I was doing the rehab, I listened the stories of one person who had just finished her first ever marathon, at New York. By that time, I didn’t even know what a marathon was and couldn’t comprehend what was like to run 42km without stopping. But while listening to her stories a spark was lit inside me and I knew instantly what I was going to do next. And so, for the next 7 months I took on serious training running around 3200km and preparing for what was about to become my first marathon, The Athens Classic Marathon, in November 2011. I never thought I was going to love long distance running. At that time, I remember I told to myself: “Ok, you go to Athens, run it, see how it is to run a marathon, then come back and that’s it”. But it wasn’t that way. I was stoned by the sensations and feelings I had during that race and felt so great at the end of it, that I was sure it would only be the beginning. And here I am, 10 years later with more than 30.000km in trainings and races, happier than ever!

Of course, I want to do it again. It would be amazing to visit Greece and not only for vacation, which I’ve been doing for the past 15 years, but for running again in the land where all started.

C.Μ.: A mountain race in Olympus, the Greek “Mountain of Gods”, I suppose that must be surely in your future plans. Are you thinking about visiting Greece again for a race?

A.G.: «I’ve been looking for this race for some time. Many Romanian running friends ran it, so it’s definitely on my list».

C.Μ.: What is your opinion on races in times of the Covid-19 pandemic?

A.G.: «As I said before, this year is going to be remembered generations from now. It’s clear for everyone that running races cannot be organized in a sense that we are used to, at least in 2020. It should be taken as a fact both by runners and organizers. The safety and health of participants should be a priority for everyone and so most of the organizers canceled or postponed their races. And some, put on virtual challenges to keep everyone fit and motivated. Most importantly, the organizers should be now more than ever near their runners by putting in place policies for full refund or at least 80% from the fees paid and leave it up to the runners if they could come to the race next year’s edition. Only deferring the registration fee to the next year is actually forcing the runners to commit to the race even though maybe the plans for 2021 are different. It was a difficult decision also for us to make, taking into account that Ultra Race Romania is at its first edition, but we full refunded all the runners who signed up for 2020 leaving at their choosing what they would like to do in 2021. We know our decision was not business wise, but we took it anyway, because we are runners before being organizers and we know how we would like to be treated if it was about us.

All in all, this year should be about patience, hope, empathy, keeping safe and sound, fit and motivated. Because the pandemic will surely pass. It’s only one moment in our history. An important one, indeed, but only a moment».

C.Μ.: How is race activity in Romania nowadays and how do runners feel after the pandemic?

A.G.: «Romania wasn’t hit that bad at the beginning because of the restrictions put in place in the early stages of the pandemic. Now we register an increase in the active cases, but I do hope everything will be ok in the end. All the running races or events where people come together (concerts, exhibitions, cinemas, theatre, etc) were canceled. We have a strong running community in Romania, and I must confess we were hit hard by all the restrictions that kept us inside our homes. But we’ll be back, slowly and surely».

 

• We’d like to thank so much Andrei Gligor (www.andreigligor.ro) for taking the time to talk with our running-editor, Charris Manoussis. It was such a pleasure to learn more about the ultra race and his team (www.ultraraceromania.ro). Our conversation reinforced the excitement to join the 2021’s edition race, looking forward to hopefully run the legendary landscape and explore the raw wilderness of Romania, where “legends meet”!

𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐫𝐚𝐜𝐞 𝐦𝐢𝐠𝐡𝐭 𝐛𝐞 𝐯𝐢𝐫𝐭𝐮𝐚𝐥 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐲𝐞𝐚𝐫 𝐛𝐮𝐭 𝐛𝐥𝐢𝐬𝐭𝐞𝐫𝐬 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐦𝐞𝐝𝐚𝐥𝐬 𝐚𝐫𝐞 𝐯𝐞𝐫𝐲 𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐥…

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