As I was saying, sunset was at 9:04 PM, but we started running at 9:11 PM and a television crew was with us for about half of that short eastern first leg, stopping in a couple of places and filming us as we ran past. Or maybe it was a little more than half, since I think I last saw them when we were about to get to Pantelimon hospital, so after about a kilometer and a half, that first leg having about two and a half. Either way, a leading group quickly formed and I stayed with it, but just behind the first ones, finding myself thinking that the wedge formation they were running in was just about perfect and taking advantage of it… Which also meant that I continued to follow them when they went past the spot where we should have crossed the road and turned around, not realizing it until the others called us back a few seconds later. Then another picture was taken and we started the second leg, first going back, on the other side of the road, and eventually heading north. It was soon after turning, so only some three kilometers or so from the start, when I started feeling some warnings from the right knee, but if something like that happening so soon was a concern at that moment, it never got worse and soon enough I wasn’t even thinking about it anymore.
In between brief stops for pictures, in front of Dinamo stadium and Herastrau park, the first longer stop was at a gas station on Dorobanti, some buying themselves some things, and that was also when a delivery guy who apparently was, or at least used to be, one of the regulars of the group that organizes this event joined us on his bicycle, and he also bought some bottles of water with his own money and offered them to anyone who wanted any, though nobody made use of that offer at that time. Then we made our way to the end of that northern leg, which also meant the first supply stop, and I first grabbed a bottle of water, only realizing after I started drinking that it was carbonated, so not what I wanted. Still, I drank all of it, and since we were told that all of the small bottles were carbonated, so if we wanted plain water we had to pour from the large ones into something else, I decided to not use that flexible bottle that I had taken with me and keep that one instead, realizing that the loop formed by the running belt, considering the method I had used to make it tighter than it’d normally allow, could be used to hold a bottle if I struggled a little. Otherwise, a box of gels was opened and I took one, but didn’t eat it then, and since some small sweets and some bagels were the only other things available at that point, I grabbed one of the small sweets and ate it, not really looking at what kinds were available, and also had a few of the bagels. And there was, of course, another picture… And a moment that was a sign of what was going to come later, Radu being understandably upset because somebody had thrown a bottle on the ground.
Still, the first notable moment as we headed south, on that third leg, was a nice one. When we reached the part of Kiseleff that was closed to traffic over the weekend, we just took to the street and a wide line formed at the front, covering that wide road almost from one side to the other, that sort of “charge” at the front making it look and feel like we really were reclaiming the streets for people. However, it also meant that we just let loose, ending up far ahead, and after Victory Square, when we got on Victoriei and crossed to the other side, we were told to stop and wait and Radu expressed his anger once he got there, saying that for the first time he found himself thinking that he won’t do this again next year, also bringing up the fact that somebody had littered at the end of the second leg after he had repeatedly asked us not to but mainly lashing out against those of us who had gone ahead, saying that we should stay with the slowest ones, who are struggling and deserve our respect and support for pushing themselves, and adding that he knows that the plan is to run over 50 km, but not at any cost, being safe and staying together being more important. Then he asked for a responsible person to lead and nobody offered, hardly anyone even wanting to move anymore. I kept thinking that a visible cyclist, probably that delivery guy, should have that position, but couldn’t get myself to say anything, and as far as I could tell nobody else did either, so we weren’t any more organized when we finally got going, but the mood had soured terribly, which made Radu try a few different speeches as we stopped for a few more pictures, attempting to change that. And I’ll also mention here that, at the Ministry of Economy, as we were waiting to cross again, I saw a girl wander away and throw up next to the building, though she said that she was fine when I asked.
With the mood having recovered to some extent by then, the second supply stop was in front of Tineretului park and I first tried to pour water into that bottle, though another guy saw me, offered to help and poured while I just held the bottle. Then I drank the water and can’t recall whether I had one or two small sweets, different from the one from the first supply stop, but clearly remember eating a couple more bagels and a protein bar, since those had been taken out as well. But I wasn’t the only one looking for more salty snacks, and the girl who manages these things told Radu that she had worked out the quantities that could be taken out in order to make each kind of supplies last to the end and there were no problems with anything except the bagels, but he told her to just take more out if people wanted them, saying that the point was to finish them, not for him to take things back home, so she took out another bag and I managed to take three more from it before it was finished.
After it was decided to go around that park as well, we got to the gas station that marked the end of that southern leg without any other notable events. However, by then I had been feeling a certain pressing need for a while, so I initially meant to take care of it, but when someone else got to the toilet ahead of me, I decided to use the urinal first, to at least take care of one matter, and when that seemed to offer enough of a relief to allow me to keep going I decided to leave “part two” for later and just go back out. And, while that wasn’t an actual supply stop, that delivery guy laid some things out and after another guy eventually took a bottle of water I looked at the vitamin drinks and took one, reading the ingredients, wandering around with the bottle and eventually, after hesitating for quite a while, managing to get myself to open and drink it… Which made me feel quite chilly for a while, since it was really cold. Either way, that guy had also placed a couple of bags of mini croissants there and, with nobody else daring to take any, a girl eventually took first one and then the other, opening them and going from one person to another and asking whether we wanted one, so I took one of those as well when she got to me.
And this, which is unfortunately only about a third of what should actually be in this post, is how far I got before midnight, so I’ll again do what I keep doing lately, posting this part now and editing in order to add the rest later. The first edit actually was before I went to bed in the morning, but that only added the next paragraph, with a second one, going up to and including the last supply break, on what ended up being the final leg, only coming two nights later, so in the early hours of Wednesday. I made the third edit, which included adding a little to the end of the last paragraph added that morning, Wednesday evening, wanting to post something before dad got back, in case he wanted to get on-line. But he didn’t, so it was also Wednesday evening, but about two hours later, when I finally added the last paragraphs as well.
My initial plan was to get to the end of that third leg and then see how I felt, hoping to be able to continue but not being certain of it, yet I felt surprisingly fine, the only issue being that pressing need, and even that had greatly lessened even if I hadn’t actually taken care of it. Drinking that drink which had been so cold and feeling chilly as a result was a reason for concern, but that didn’t prove to be a problem either, so I was quite confident that I won’t even need to spare myself over the course of leg four either, which meant that I once again stayed with the leading group once we got going again… And that I spent quite some time wondering what was going on when, just after going through a narrow alley and reaching Viilor, we had to stop, noticing that the others were far behind and not coming, things becoming even more confusing when a few appeared on the other side of the road, making us wonder how had they gotten there… And I now realize that I never did hear any explanation for that. On the other hand, when we finally regrouped, after quite a long wait, we learned that the reason for the delay had been that someone had gotten sick, and I later realized that it was that same girl who had thrown up earlier, yet she still wanted to continue, even rushing ahead at first. However, when we later stopped at another gas station, the stop ending up being brief because it apparently didn’t have a toilet, it seems that she called a taxi and left without a word before the rest of us continued on our way to Ghencea stadium, where we stopped for another picture… And where the captain of the team I was on during 2020’s Dream Trek joined us, along with a friend, both of them looking like they were coming from a party or something of the sort and serving us with candy, so I had two of those as well.
The break at the end of that western leg was brief, mainly to take one more picture. However, Radu also called out the friend of that girl who had left, because neither of them even let him know about it, and the friend said that the one who had left was very ambitious but had some health problems, so when she saw that she really couldn’t continue anymore she felt awful and started crying. I said that maybe she didn’t want to have to admit in front of everyone that she had to stop, but the friend disagreed, again saying that she just felt so bad about it and just wanted to leave without talking. Of course, that didn’t explain why the friend hadn’t at least told Radu as soon as that taxi drove off, and he pointed that out to her, along with the fact that he’s the one who’s held responsible for the safety of the participants.
Either way, nothing more could be done about that at the time and that leg had taken far too long already, 4 AM approaching when Radu’s estimate when we started it had been that we’ll get there around 3:15 AM. That obviously meant that the planned sixth leg, which should have consisted of running around the Old Town and, if time allowed, continuing to Romana or even Victory Square before returning to University Square, had to be completely canceled, but Radu also said that we won’t even do leg five as planned, finishing at Unirii Square, but instead go straight to University Square, at most making a detour through Cismigiu Park in order to ensure that we’ll cover the distance of a marathon. I’m quite sure that completing the fifth leg as planned and then rushing straight to University Square would have also been possible, the distance being similar, while on the other hand it seems that we’d have just covered the distance of a marathon even without that detour, but it was, of course, his call.
Before going anywhere else, however, the plan was to make a long stop at the gas station that’s across the road from the park, so quite a few of us charged forward once we got going again, one guy even shouting that there’s no more room for niceness because it’s a race to the toilet. And, after putting it off at the end of the third leg, I definitely had to go, so I made sure to be among the first who went in… Only to find the toilets closed, so we had to go right back out. It’s possible that the toilets were being cleaned, but the way in which the employee said that they use “their” toilets when another guy asked where do they go if they need to greatly added to the discontent and even made some think that they had closed the public ones on purpose, when they saw us coming. But we couldn’t exactly do much about it, so we waited around for a while, some expressing their discontent more clearly than others, until Radu figured out what to do next, and during that time that delivery guy made two triple Snickers bars available, three people finishing the first one. But when the girl who took the second piece did so, she asked who wanted the last one and that made me want some as well, so after another guy got there first and took that last piece, I ended up opening the second bar and taking one piece. I left the others there, but didn’t ask who wanted them and nobody took them before we got going again, so that guy had to put the rest of that bar back as it was, opened, which made me feel rather bad.
Even though we were wondering whether we won’t face the same problem, the next target was obviously another gas station, which Radu said was about 1.5 km away, so I again stayed with the leading group, assuming that they knew where we should be going, because I didn’t. Despite just following one guy by that point, everyone else being left behind, I wasn’t even aware that we reached the street where that gas station is when we stopped at a stoplight and some of the others, including Radu, caught up, and he told us to go ahead, get there as fast as we can. So the two of us and a couple of others rushed ahead and when that guy pointed the gas station out to me I overtook him as well and was the first one there, the employee who had been at the door, gathering trash, following me in and asking what I wanted. And, fortunately, she pointed me to the toilet when I asked whether one was available, so I rushed to do my business… Which included loudly releasing a lot of gas, one of the guys using the urinals at that moment making a joke about that, which prompted another to jokingly chastise him for making fun of someone taking a shit, which led to everyone laughing out loud… And to my muscles contracting and not letting much else out, and I had to hurry, considering how many others were also waiting, so after a few more farts and likely not wiping as well as I’d have wanted, I had to consider it good enough. And it was, having apparently managed to get enough out to make it to the end without that pressing need becoming a concern once again.
Considering how many needed to use the toilet, that was clearly going to be a long stop, and indeed it was, but more than merely not causing any problems, the employees from that gas station took pictures and even cheered. And that was also the last supply stop before the end, so plenty of things were taken out and, besides filling that bottle with water again, that time without help, and drinking it, I rather stuffed myself, having bagels, some other salty snacks, a protein bar, I think three kinds of small sweets, though there’s a chance that there were just two, another kind of bagels… And I’m quite sure that it was also when I took another gel, I think keeping that one and eating the one taken at the first supply stop, though I’m not entirely certain of that. Yes, taking so many things again made me feel bad, but they were there, clearly more than enough for everyone, and despite still feeling so well I had clearly used a lot of energy, especially since I kept staying with the leading group and occasionally sprinting to catch up if I fell behind a little, for example after not starting again immediately when a light turned green or when I was more careful than others in spots that were narrower or where the pavement was damaged or there were other such issues.
Either way, some time after we finally got going again, I think just before reaching Cotroceni Palace, though I’m not entirely certain of that, a foreign guy on a skateboard started talking to us and ended up joining us the rest of the way. I think he said he was Portuguese. And, whether that was right after that moment or not, running past Cotroceni Palace definitely felt really nice, since that’s a steep slope and going east meant going down. But I kept feeling really well even after that, still making a mental note of how easy it was to catch up again if I fell a little behind the leading group for a moment. And when we reached Cismigiu park, one guy pretty much sprinted ahead, nobody shouted after him and Radu, who had actually been staying close to the front for a while, was also with the leading group, I assumed that we were being “released”, went after that guy… And, for the first time that night, found that I couldn’t catch up, my body refusing to run faster. But I could pretty much maintain the same pace and therefore the distance to him and was quickly pulling away from the rest, with just that guy on the skateboard staying around me. However, instead of turning where we had been told to, I decided to go just a little farther, adding what seems to have been just about 100 meters. That gave the others time to catch up, so I saw that they were still there, but obviously made me fall farther behind that guy, so after leaving the park I was pretty much in no man’s land, with that guy almost disappearing ahead and the rest once again dropping far behind. And the cyclist who was at the rear was at the entrance when I left the park, along with a couple of others, so I guess that they waited there for the others, possibly meaning that the group stopped for a moment when the rest got back there.
Well, I didn’t think about that possibility at that moment, so when that guy just crossed the road and vanished out of sight while I went to the stoplight and waited for it to turn green, and then I looked behind after crossing and didn’t see anybody there either, I didn’t know what was going on and hesitated, at first continuing haltingly, then stopping for a moment, then jogging back to where I had crossed. When I still couldn’t see anyone from there either, I was worried that they had either changed the route, possibly making a little detour through the Old Town after all, or stopped for another picture that I won’t be in, making it appear that I had perhaps gone straight to the end from an earlier point, no longer being with them at that point. But the only thing left to do at that moment was to get to the end on my own, so I ran the short distance that was left… And was surprised to see a few others ahead of me when I approached. I have no idea how they had passed me, but at that point they were walking, so I overtook them and was still the second one to reach the statue that marked the finish, that guy who had sprinted ahead obviously already waiting there. Unfortunately, after managing to always remember to start and stop the stopwatch whenever I started and stopped running until then, starting to panic when I found myself alone and didn’t know what was happening made me forget to start it again when I resumed running towards University Square. I realized it and started it again after a while, and then compensated by leaving it running for some two minutes after I finished, but I couldn’t tell how much time I spent running with it stopped and that state of mind meant that I couldn’t even really remember exactly where I was when I started it again, so I couldn’t find out the distance I had covered either. Still, I’m quite sure that I overcompensated a little, but not by much.
I’m quite sure that it wasn’t even 5:25 AM when I reached the finish, since I know that the others arrived at 5:28 AM and that was after a few minutes that those of us who arrived first spent mainly congratulating each other. I was also asking the others whether they knew where the rest were and why were they taking so long, but they didn’t. So I can say that, between 9:11 PM and most likely a little before 5:25 AM, I ran what seems to have been just about 44 km, if I remembered everything correctly and Google Maps can be trusted to measure distances accurately, since I ended up with 43.8 km when I charted the route, including the few places where I went a bit farther or back and forth a little, and a little more should probably be added because I also jogged through those gas stations, plus that there may be some spots where we couldn’t cross a street exactly where I assumed we did. That’d make it the same distance as last year, but with an actual running time that was about 11 minutes longer, since I had 4:52:43 when I stopped the stopwatch, after those two or so minutes. And the only damage was a bruise under one toenail.
Either way, that time means that the pace was slower while we actually ran as well, even for the leading group, explaining why it was always so easy to keep up, or catch up if needed. But, of course, last year I covered that distance in much less time, so it’s definitely true that the main reason why the planned distance couldn’t be reached this time around was that the breaks were longer, mainly because the number of participants and, more importantly, finishers was much higher than ever before. I even heard a discussion about this, I think as we were approaching Ghencea stadium, with one saying that we were so much slower because those still running at that hour used to be those who could keep pushing and were no longer slowed down by the others, who tended to drop out earlier, and the other saying that the main problem were actually the breaks, which didn’t just mean the supply or toilet ones, which were obviously longer when more people had to drink and eat and do their business, but also when we had to cross a road and needed to regroup and wait for everyone, which at stoplights often meant waiting for the light to turn green two or sometimes even three times before everyone made it across.