“People will not remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel! I’m sure you will do great. Sleep well and…don’t turn the music loud!” – Dean Karnazes quoting a bit from Maia Angelou while saying good night.
These were the last words I heard today, before entering my room.
They didn’t come from my parent, although they sounded so full of care in showing encouragement before doing something that it’s really big for me (my first public speaking conference in English). Well, I must admit they also sounded funny, as the two hotel rooms that are hosting us are right near each other, so…there is a direct interest at stake: sleep!
After a long, beautiful day I’m laying in a king size bed, with an open window that allows fresh air to nourish my body with oxygen. Although my eyes can barely stay open, I feel like writing down this experience of fitting in, combined with that kind of responsibility feeling that is best described by this Bible verse in Luke 12:48: “To whomever much is given, of him will much be required; and to whom much was entrusted, of him more will be asked”.
I was invited to speak this Saturday to the annual meeting of the runners in Bulgaria, Fizkultura, an annual event at it’s second edition, organized by Begach Running Club.
If I would see the emails sent to the speakers, how well structured they are and how they are paying attention to each little detail, you would be amazed. I worked in the marketing department of a top 10 bank for years, but I don’t know if I can say that the result of the efforts invested by my team when a visit from the top management of the Mother Bank was expected was succeeding to meet these standards. Everything that I see here amazes me! Literally!
And it is not a matter of material things.
It is the human side of the people I met that it is impossible not to touch me! And it is the education and the culture of their day by day life, in all its aspects (family, career, passions) that creates an aura of respect, community, appreciation, that for sure will have a lifetime impact on me.
The main organizer of the event is Elenko, who after working in the IT field has started now his own projects. I haven’t had the chance to communicate with him too much until now, but I have felt his enthusiasm. And when I say enthusiasm I talk about that energy that animates you to do the things with passion and excitement! If you look around yourself, how many people that are living their life and doing their stuff with passion and excitement do you know? Well, that’s exactly what I’m talking about.
And then, there is Alexander. Alexander is a passionate runner who runs for less than 7 years. And when I say passionate I mean that his Personal Best in marathon is 3 hours 15 minutes. And Alexander is also involved in volunteering work and has offered his help with this event, so he was designated to take care of my arrival. I felt that his kindness was special in a way, but I didn’t quite realized how and why. I found out today. It started in the morning, when after thanking him that he will come and pick me up from the airport, he answered that it’s really his pleasure. To confirm it, he wrote that he could have sent a driver instead, but he really cares a lot about this event, he wants everything to be the best it can be, so he does what it takes in order to get the things done. You may think that he has time to do it so why not? Well, this man is 35 and he is really busy. At 35 he is happily married, with two beautiful daughters of 10 and 5 years old, and he is running an IT company with offices in London and Sofia. After showing me around a little bit the city and then taking me to the hotel, he went to give the opening speech to an educational project event and then joined Dean Karnazes, Sean Conway, Elenko, Vladi and me for dinner. I forgot to mention that he has graduated from Harvard. So, how could education, manners, kindness and passion for running not impress you? No answers needed.
And my appreciation does not stop here. Elenko, Alexander and Sean went for a drink after dinner, while Dean and I came back to the hotel to rest. And while walking for about 15-20 minutes, because as ultra-runners we wanted to give our body some help for the digestion after dinner, I had the privilege to talk to Dean.
I don’t know if you can imagine what a sponge of information I become when I find myself in the presence of a person I respect and I feel I have something to learn from! It happened to me before, in sports also, when I had the chance to talk to Constantina Dita and ask her questions related to the marathon performance running.
When I compete in running I metamorphose myself in a wild beast with all its sharp senses at their peak. In the same way, while I was at this dinner, I was all ears on what Dean and Sean were talking about diet, training, competitions, and absorbing everything while my brain was connecting the information on how could I use that in my training, nutrition and lifestyle to become better.
And since Dean and I were the only coming back to the hotel, while Sean was going with the boys for a drink, I kept asking on and on the things that were unclear to me or things that I wanted to find an opinion about. The naturalness with which Dean has answered to all my questions was absolute! He was so kind and generous in expressing his opinion and he was doing so in a way that I felt like we know each other for a long time. My soul smiled at this sharing experience, because I recalled how I feel and how I answer when other runners that are at the beginning of this beautiful journey are asking me things and how I start to share my experience with them in order to smoothen their way.
You may think that this was all of it. That the beauty of the personality of this “God of running” was about how he reacted to people, by kindly answering and sharing his experience.
No, that was not all. He also has reminded me of a lesson I have learned from another amazing human being. That you are really present not when you only speak about yourself (which I wanted so much to hear about, because I see it as gold information), but when you show interest to the other person and do the active listening by also asking questions and really participating to the conversation. Now, imagine how I felt when Dean Karnazes started to ask me when did my love for running begin and how it evolved. And when he listened while I was telling him about my running accomplishments and dreams. And when he told me that my story is powerful. And that he is sure that I will make it because of my determination. That what I dream is very daring, that it will take hard work, but I will definitely make it. And he was listening to me and telling me these encouraging words for couple of more minutes after we arrived the hotel, although he didn’t sleep at all for 2 entire days because of travelling and jet lag. Not to mention that today he was running for 4 hours in the mountains! Imagine this kind of kindness. It exists and I have lived it tonight.
Tonight I felt like a child in the candy store. It’s just that my candies were the conversations about nutrition, foods that produce or reduce inflammation, recovery techniques, high intensity interval training, body fat percentage, doing what you love and being authentic.
I must have done something very good on this Earth, if God allowed me to live such a beautiful experience. Or, as I began this story, maybe this is something that it is being given to me to see how I should improve, receive and spread the light I saw during today. Whatever the situation may be, I feel I have the responsibility to be(come) better. In relationship with me and with the others. Because life it is more beautiful not only when you climb your way, but when you also give your hand and help others climb together with you. That’s why I’m writing this now instead of sleeping. Because my heart is so grateful, for me being so fortunate to live this experience, that I want to at least show to other open hearts how human the Super Humans can be!
Nothing of this would have happened if in August 2016, when I was already preparing for the Athens marathon for months, I wouldn’t have injured myself in a high intensity interval training because I didn’t listen to my couch’s indications and I ran my intervals faster. I was devastated at that time because I wanted to run that race for a higher purpose than myself. However, if that accident wouldn’t have happened, I wouldn’t have run the 1.000 km Balkan Charity Challenge in 2016 and, if I wouldn’t have ran 1.000 km Balkan Charity Challenge, I wouldn’t have lived the wonder of today!
Remember that things happen for a reason! If there is no sun today in your soul, this only happens so that when it will shine, it will shine in all its greatness! Just have patience and the good will follow!
PS: in the plane today they offered us a sandwich and a small bag of peanuts. I thanked the stewardess for it, but I kindly refused it saying that I wouldn’t eat it and it would be a pity to waste the food when someone else could enjoy it. She asked if I am sure that I don’t want at least the peanuts. I said no. I answered that I would have liked the small Milka chocolate, as they usually have on Tarom flights, but she said that chocolate was not available. She smiled at me genuinely and tried to compensate somehow with the drinks.
Little did I know that she will come back to me in 10 minutes with a small Milka biscuits package. I smiled, looked at her surprised just like a child and said “wooow, you have the Milka”! She answered “No, this is my lunch, but don’t worry, I won’t eat it because I am fasting. It’s just that your energy and smiling made me feel so good today that I want to share it with you”. Can you imagine how I felt?
PPS: Waiting for the plane and then waiting for the luggage, I made another friend. A stylish, beautiful lady, Alina, who was coming to Bulgaria for an executive coaching training. I had a very nice conversation with her and I must admit I felt like I would have wanted to attend an event such as the one she will join this weekend. I wonder now if what God gave me today, from the beginning to the end of it, wasn’t one of the best coaching experiences one could ever receive!