Pozdrav, društvo, da li vam se desilo da već neko vreme poznajete nekoga, a onda vas ta osoba potpuno iznenadi i  sagledate je drugim očima?

Danas vam predstavljam jednu takvu osobu – Majkla Bekera, prvog člana Beogradskog trkačkog kluba koji je istrčao svih šest najvećih svetskih maratona – Tokio, Boston, London, Berlin, Čikago i Njujork!

Pošto je moj nemački dobar koliko Majklov srpski, intervju smo odradili na engleskom :)

First of all, Michael, congratulations on this amazing feat! It couldn’t have been easy. To start things off, please tell us a bit about yourself. How did you end up in Belgrade?

 

After my studies, I was working on international cooperation projects for GIZ (nemačka organizacija za međunarodu saradnju. prim. aut.), spending my working time in countries like Cambodia, Namibia, Ethiopia.

After a successful application for a job on a project in Serbia in April 2013, I became an advisor on land management issues based in Belgrade.

It took me some time to get settled, adapt to my new working environment and develop a routine at work.

How come you joined BRC ? What made you do it?

 

Before I landed in Belgrade, I had spent most of my time working in tropical heat, where exercise is difficult, so I got out of shape and gradually gained weight. I had over 96 kg at the time.

Medical examinations had shown that I was heavily overweight, and that I had elevated blood pressure, so I felt that I was at a turning point.

I had to decide, whether to further endanger my health or opt for a healthier life.

 

On 31st of May 2014, I joined BRC on my first run up and down Avala mountain. It was the most intense sport experience for me after a long time.

I remember that I had spent that entire Sunday recovering on the couch, feeling my stiff legs.

Though I had to (and still have to) overcome the language barrier, I enjoyed the welcoming atmosphere of BRC with their charismatic coach and trainers, and the holistic concept of warming up, running, stretching with yoga elements and socializing that made me feel well taken care of.

Do you ever feel tired of running and how do you keep yourself motivated?


Like any other person, I had some ups and downs in my motivation, but never seriously thought of stopping to run.

It took me about a year, until I put running as a top priority in life, except in very exceptional cases, when my work made it impossible.

Ever since I joined BRC, I stopped asking myself if I was in a mood for running. I would have come even in the worst of moods, as I felt attached to my “running family” and wanted to see my friends again.

After all the trainings, I got rewarded with great memories and a healthy sense of exhaustion, which made me feel balanced, sleep very well and be even more resilient at work.

How did you go “from zero to hero”, how did your running evolution look like?


I would never call myself a hero, but I did get a lot of positive effects and progress from continuously running ever since I started. I still feel like I am learning, though.

I guess I can separate my running evolution into several phases. They start with exercising to just feel better to devoting a lot of resources as time, energy or money to achieve greater goals.

Phase one is realizing that I need exercise on a regular basis to better manage my health.

Phase two was when I joined my first running competition, the 2014 Ljubljana Half marathon.

With the aim to finish it in 2:15, I was taken by surprise when I realized that I had managed to run it in 1:51, which created even stronger euphoria for running.

In phase three, I just wanted to enjoy half marathons, soak up the atmosphere, learn about my limits and continue training to get faster.

In phase four, I decided to run a marathon. I started with the long slow runs, and since it was summer, sometimes I was running early morning or even during the night.

Since I wasn’t satisfied with the results I have achieved on my first two marathons, I decided to invest even more time and energy.

This is phase five and it including regular physiotherapy massage, personal trainings, and daily morning exercises to strengthen the body core. I also took up trail running.

Phase six was last year, when my goal was to run more marathons without any injuries.

In phase seven, I completed the series of world marathon majors, in Boston (one of the coldest) and London (the hottest ever since) in early 2018.

It was a challenge in itself to run two marathons within one week, which, with thorough preparation, I survived quite well.

What made you run the Majors? Was it hard to find your spot in all of them? What was your strategy?

 

It was at the fair of the NYC marathon that I first saw the booth of the Abbott World Marathon Majors, and their six-star finisher medal.

I felt like this was a goal a person could strive for as a life time achievement.

At the time I felt it was an impossible goal for me to reach. I could not picture myself ever running a marathon in 3 hours 20 minutes, which I would have needed to qualify for Boston.

However, Lady Luck smiled on me, since I was able to find an agent who was offering entries for Boston without qualifying times.

As for the London Marathon, I had to sign up for a long waiting list, but I got in eventually, in summer of 2017.

Which one was the easiest and which one the hardest between the 6 of them?

 

I guess running NYC as the first marathon after an injury, was the hardest. I call this marathon the longest and hardest 5 hours of my life.

This year’s Boston was also hard. Though I love cool weather for running, and I am able to resist a certain amount of rain, this run has stretched my physical and mental strength to the limit.

I was already completely soaked when I arrived in Hopkinton before the start.

The continuous heavy rainfall and strong head wind dropped my body temperature dangerously low so my stomach started to rebel from the extreme cold.

Since I could not take an energy gel to boost my metabolism, I struggled after km 30 through the wind, completely frozen.

With lots of walking breaks, I managed to get to the finish line, picked up my medal and turned to the hotel aiming for warm shower, which made me recover well.

This experience did not discourage me, however. If I ever get a chance to run Boston and New York again, I will do so, to prove myself that I can do better.

The easiest marathon I ever run was Tokyo. After the intense preparations, I managed to run through a marathon for the first time without walking breaks.

My BRC trainer Spartak offered me a perfect incentive besides his very professional training: he promised me 2 beers for each minute I ran below 4 hours.

This bet gave me a great incentive, and I earned 12 beers easily :)

You have run all across the world and the Balkans, did you notice some major differences between countries and regions in terms of running culture, running habits, and the way people live in general?

 

Let’s start with Serbia, since I have tried to run as many half marathons as possible here.

I feel that local municipalities have a great chance to promote local businesses and products by bringing lots of visitors to their hotels, restaurants and shops.

I remember having had great runs in Belgrade, Novi Sad, Šabac, Kragujevac, Veliko Gradište, Zrenjanin, Apatin and Subotica.

Other places are still on my list, if not this year, then possibly next year.  But I also enjoyed running in the region: in Austria, Croatia, Italy, Slovenia and Romania.

There are only minor differences in their organization, culture or life style.

I think that attending running events is a great way to learn more about other countries and cultures.  It creates a better understanding between the nations and contributes to peace in the region.

I am always surprised by how many things runners from all over the world have in common.

Any plans for the future, new goals?

 

In the near future, I will continue running some nice marathons like Berlin 2018, Paris 2019, later maybe Athens, Copenhagen, Dublin and half marathons like Brijuni, Ljubljana or Plitvice.

For the time being, I will put more focus on running trails in the region. Jahorina and Cappadocia are planned for this year, collecting my first ITRA points.

As I am also curious about learning more from other runners, so I plan to attend a 2019 training camp in Iten in Kenia, to learn from experienced professional runners like Herbert Steffny or Jan Fitschen how to train and prepare for a marathon or triathlon.

I also like sharing experiences with other fellow runners, so I hope to meet some of the BRC runners in Tara later this year.

I enjoy supporting and encouraging other runners to travel, see and learn about other countries. Running is indeed a great opportunity to connect people.

 

Veliko hvala Majku što je izdvojio vreme za ovaj intervju, a našim čitaocima želim da budu jednako istrajni u ostvarenju svojih trkačkih snova!

Uživajte u letu, do daljeg čitanja,

N. R.