Maratonul Pietrei Craiului / Piatra Craiului Marathon

Posted: October 2, 2011 in Competitions, Marathons

Yesterday was a great day … I’ve manage to finish the famous MPC – Piatra Craiului Marathon. It was a great experience, one of the most thrilling of my life. Before going into details I would like to say a few words about this marathon.

First of all, we are not designed(normally) for running ~42 km (through the mountains). You know what happened to the Greek guy who ran from Marathon to Athens to announce the victory? He died after saying “We won!” So this competition in general is very hard. Another thing is that normally you don’t have enough energy/resources to finish this race just from food/gels/bars that you eat in that day. So the body will consume the fat/muscles to keep you going till you reach the finish line. So with this thought in mind the next natural question is: Why the hell would you want to do it? This is a tricky question. Although the number of participants has grown lately in this type of competitions, a small number a people is willing to participate to a marathon. The reason (in my opinion) is that they enjoy the mountain, the nature and they want to push their limits to the extreme. This was my motivation anyway. I never run more than 18 km in my life so it was quite a challenge for me. Also another motivation (at least for me) is to be able to cross the finish line. I will never forget that feeling. My whole body was shivering as I was approaching the finish line, the crowd was encouraging me and with a final push I’ve did it.

MPC has around 2150 m in height difference, with two major climbs. This is the profile (taken from MPC official site)

As you can see the climb to Diana is the steepest and after 25 km will really kill you :). While approaching Diana the climb I think is around 45 degrees …

The marathon was beautifully organized. On 1’st of October, in the center of Zarnesti, 478 people were anxious to start running in the sixth edition of MPC. While AC DC was singing Highway to Hell we’ve started to run at around 9.15 AM. This melody will turn out to be very true for me. The first 2 km are for warming up until you reach Gura Raului and than the route goes on a rocky road. After we’ve reach Botorg the route takes a slight left turn and than most of the people will stop running because is a bit steep. After 10 minutes thorough the woods  on small roads we were approaching the main road from Magura village. The main road is a sequence of ups and downs till you reach Casa Folea than I remember we took a right turn and we’ve started to climb. I really enjoyed that all people were encouraging us, making a lot of noise and applauding. Maybe that’s why MPC is so special ? 🙂 I thing its only part of the story… but very important. My problem was that from Casa Folea I’ve begun experiencing a very common ache on my right knee. Its common for me because since 2009 it became a constant problem in my mountain related activities. Its called ITB – Iliotibial Band Syndrom. This year I had problems only in February and I thought that I’m through with this shitty problem … but I was wrong. Luckily I’ve bought 2 Ketonal pills and I took the first one there. As we were approaching Saua Joaca my left knee begun to hurt also 😦 . It was the first time in my life when I was experiencing this problem on both of my knees in the same time… and what timing. My first thought was: “Ok, shit happens I will abandon at Plaiul Foii”. As I was approaching La Table I felt a powerful sting on my right ankle, I’ve stopped right the way … wtf now my ankle is giving up. Luckily it was a wasp :). I’ve removed it and start running again. Thoughts were crossing through my mind: “Will I be able to reach Plaiul Foii, why I’m so unlucky, fuck it I didn’t had problems on Mont Blanc and now I can’t finish MPC … hmm maybe this wasp venom will help me … will it have anti –  inflammatory effect? ” In a couple of minutes I’ve reached La Table, refueled and started to run again … the pain on my knees increased a bit but I was determined to continue. I can’t stop now, I have to continue, I’m not a quitter. Slowly I’ve started the climb towards Saua Funduri, the first serious climb of the day. My heart was pumping hard, I had also some gel from Sponser (which is reaaaly helpful) and although my knees were not pleased I’ve started to pass a lot a people. The climb is steep and is almost impossible to run it, but I was climbing hard and constantly. Close to Saua Funduri I took the second Ketonal pill. After 2 h and 20 minutes I was at the highest point of the day… but now I had to go down and my knees will start to shout. And I was right :(. But I can’t stop now, I will not quit now, I can’t … I can go to Plaiul Foii on my feet. From Saua Funduri there is a dangerous section with fixed ropes, rugged terrain and a lot of rocks. Maybe the pills were making their job and strangely I was enjoying pain. I was running like a mad man… I was looking forward to jump like a deer on rocks, to climb, to descend … my knees were hurting but strangely I was enjoying it. Maybe that’s what MPC is all about enjoying the pain ? 🙂 , for me it was anyway. I was passing a lot of competitors and I was behaving weird, it was like I’ve eaten  something else … kerosene maybe? Its strange…. how I can run like this? Its not normal for me. Shortly I’ve reached Spirlea, drink 3-4 cups of water, isotonic drinks and everything it was available on the table and started to descend. Again I was behaving weird. I was going down reaaaly fast, my knees were screaming and I didn’t care. I was certain that I will reach Plaiul Foii. I didn’t stop at all … I was in another dimension. I reached Plaiul Foii after 3  hours and 30 minutes. I had a few refreshments and started again. There was the perfect place to have another Ketonal but I’ve bought only 2 :(. Big mistake. After 1 km the route takes a slight right turn and the piece de resistance starts 🙂 … the climb to Diana. When climbing my knees were not as painful as on flat ground or when descending so I didn’t stop at all. A nice guy from Valea Jiului was in front of me… we had some short conversations just to keep our mind not thinking about this awful climb. Eventually we’ve reached Diana and it was a big relief. Another problem that I was having since I was running like a mad man on Marele Grohotis … cramps on my lower legs. There were times when the muscle was literally blocking … but again I wasn’t stopping. I was stretching it and continue. From Plaiul Foii to Diana it took me and my companion 🙂 1 hour. The time was really good for me. Normally you can reach from Diana the finish line in 1 hour because is mostly going down …. but I was not a normal guy. My knees were screaming at me on descending. Why we cannot climb till we reach the finish line??? Why ???  Finally I had to stop running. My knees eventually won… I was really sad. The competitors that I’ve passed when going up to Diana now were flying besides me.After 20 minutes I’ve reached Coltul Chiliei and the slop was a bit mild so I’ve started to run again … my knees were shouting again but the pain was almost bearable… Soon I saw Zarnesti city. What  beautiful sight. My torment will soon end. The route was pretty much flat with mild descends and I knew that if I stop I will not be able to continue…. but I was really thirsty and I slowed up a bit the rhythm to reach my water bottle… it turned out that it was enough for my knees to win again. 😦 This time it was for good … I could have finish the marathon with a much better time, but now I just wanted to finish. After a few km I’ve reached flat ground … should I try to run again? Hmmm… they hurt really bad. Lets give it a try though. One step, 2, 3, … hmmm I think I can do it. And I did. I’ve reached the finish line eventually. The people from Zarnesti probably saw  my ridiculous grimace which was hiding the pain and they encourage me big time … thank you. It was very important. So important that in my last few hundred meters I’ve accelerate a bit (probably 1 km/h 🙂 ). And I’ve crossed the finish line … what an experience, what a feeling. Its unbelivable. Against all odds I’ve finished. Wow. I still cannot believe it as I’m writing right now.

Now a few words about the marathon as I felt it. I believe that the marathon is a constant battle between the mind and the body. If the body wins you abandon, if the mind wins you cross the finish line. There are numerous stories about the famous wall that marathon runners hit after some time. The wall is said to be the point when your body starts to burn fat instead of carbs. The fat is less  energy efficient and its much harder to process … so you hit the wall big time. The body will tell you to stop, the mind though will push you forward. The body will hurt, but you continue, my knees were screaming 30 km at me, I’ve continued. My muscles were blocking from time to time, but I’ve continued. I strongly believe that 70% is the mind and the rest is training. No matter how hard you train (as an amateur) you will eventually hit the wall, or you knees will hurt or your muscles will block… but with a strong mind YOU can continue. And I strongly BELIEVE that THIS is the greatest ACHIEVEMENT that you will win after this experience. I think now that this is the best answer for the question from the beginning of my post. Of course its healthy to run, but you can take this ACHIEVEMENT and use it in your daily life. You are not a quitter, you can do even the impossible against all odds, so what stops you to do an impossible task in your daily activity?

Before going to the pictures session (I will update this post if I will retrieve more pictures) some words regarding this activity. Although I have written in an optimistic way this post, be advised that its dangerous to run in the mountains. Now as I’m writing, my whole body hurts … I can barely move, I can’t bend properly my legs and 2 nails from my legs will fall. So that’s also what I’ve got after this run… But… in 2-3 weeks I will be as good as new so if I knew what it will happen after, I will do it again without even thinking.

Its hurting really bad 😦

My lucky number

This is really demanding so it can happen to you also … its a bit grouse I know 🙂

A great atmosphere…

I could barely climb down from the stage 🙂

And my achievement,  my proof that even the impossible is possible if you REALLY want it.

That was MPC for me, a great competition… a battle that I won, a wonderful run in a beautiful mountain,  a great atmosphere. In the end I would like to thank Lucian for creating this event and to his team and all the volunteers that made it possible. Great job you guys and I will definitely be a competitor next year.

  1. Stefan Savu says:

    Felicitari Alex, ai obtinut un rezultat foarte bun !

  2. elwing says:

    congratulations!! it sounds like a really demanding experience, I’m sure it is!

    I hope I’ll be able to run a marathon one day… still finding it hard to find the time needed to train.

    PS. Are your toenails OK? :-s

    • alexitu says:

      Thanks, its a demanding competition… or more like an activity rather than a competition. Regarding the training, any beginning is hard, but it worth big time just to participate. If you plan like 10 km\week which is around 6 miles/week you can be a participant and finish the marathon. But as I was saying in the post, you might be infected by this virus so be prepared :).
      My toenails are Ok, they still need to grow back but I’m happy that it doesn’t hurt even when I put my climbing shoes on … and they are 2 numbers smaller 😀

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