Why the first International Chisinau Marathon could fall apart three weeks before the event, why are the trolleybuses more expensive than a marathon, whether 30 people are capable of paralyzing the city and start a one-day long civil war, how expensive is sports opium for the people, and what takes more: to prepare for a marathon or to prepare a marathon?
The most unusual marathon.
Hey. My name is Dmitry Voloshin, and I’m an amateur athlete. Recently, I participated in a lot of competitions abroad, about which I am gladly sharing with everyone. But now I would like to tell you about the competition I took part in, which turned out the most unusual for me.
Preparation for it began, probably, when I first got engaged with running. And this took place four years ago – in 2012, when I was leading the most boring way of life, which in principle is quite bearing – I led the life of ordinary office plankton.
And then, when I started attending competitions and paying attention to how the cities were changing in the days of marathon, I realized – one day it will have to happen in Moldova. Marathon. International Chisinau 🙂 This one is the one I want to tell you about. Or rather, about how it was organized in Moldova for the first time. Because, for the second time, which took place on April 17, 2016, the marathon became for the organizers something more or less usual. But the nostalgia has covered everyone from head to toes. And after reading the feedbacks from participants, I decided to share the memories.
How it happened. Chisinau Marathon.
During the long period of longer than 30 years, Moldova was finally able to host such a sporting event as International Chisinau Marathon. And not just a marathon, but with international status at once. On April 26, 2015, 10 000 people from 30 countries gathered in one single place – on the central square of the capital of the Republic of Moldova, to start at the same time and run one of the four distances: 3, 10, 21 or 42 kilometers.
But, in fact, all of this could not have happened if … not a bunch of enthusiasts.
Like I said, it all started in 2012. I was 37 and at that time I got a little tired from the daily business meetings, planning meetings and other “charms” of office life, and was somewhere subconsciously looking for a hobby. And this is where I came across a link that my friend Kostya sent me. I clicked it – it was a report about the IronMan triathlon, conquered by one of already succeeded “iron men”.
I read it and… all of a sudden, music started playing, everything flooded with light, I woke up already when I was choosing running shoes at the store. So, I have set a goal – to become an Iron Man in the next few years.
So, I have set a goal – to become an Iron Man in the next few years. What is it? It is a triathlon, during which participants swim 4 kilometers, ride a bike 180 km and immediately after this run 42 kilometers. All this in a single day without a pause. You jump into the water, get out, get on the bicycle, ride the distance and then run. That’s it.
To pass this quite a difficult test, it had to be divided into smaller competitions – half-marathons, marathons, swim races (as for bicycle, I did not really like it in single contests). And I started preparing and traveling to various countries. And from this point it started rolling.
You come to the next country – Marathon, the city is closed, the crowd of beautiful people with a sporty physique, even larger crowds of happy screaming fans at the roadside. Marathon is a real national holiday. That’s when this idea invaded my head – to host a marathon in Moldova. Why can’t we be as good as them?
When I suggested this idea to my fellow workers, they just twisted their fingers to their temple, saying, Dima, this is not possible in Moldova. Firstly, it is likely very expensive. Second, too many documents, preparations, who knows, how the government would react to our initiative. And thirdly, we don’t have some experience, we basically have no experience in this. “We’ll screw it up” – I heard. No, we won’t fail. So, this is how Sporter appeared – the social sports network, the aim of which was the promotion of healthy lifestyle and the development of amateur sport in Moldova. Eventually, 95% of marathon participants are amateurs.
By the way, our first sporting event was called “500 thousand centimeters,” we ran around Komsomolsk lake, it was in 2013, and it was attended by only 50 people. And 2 years later, we managed to gather 10 000 people, and the next year – a whole 15 000. It’s quite a serious result.
We started preparing a year and a half before the event. We began walking through the government agencies, kept writing papers and asking, but we were refused. It did not work for us. We briefly gave up. I thought that the Universe is just hinting to us that we are not ready yet. We rested, exhaled, and again went into battle.
In fact, somewhere six months before the event, we have started a very intense preparation. We knew exactly what we want and were going for it. And, although this time the Universe also hinted, like, wait up, guys, it was already US hinting the Universe that we really really want this. We have been fighting with the state for a long time, pestering the Chisinau City Hall, ministries, doing it alone, in groups, sitting under the doors, replacing each other.
As a result, we received permission to hold the event. And off we go. It happened so funny – we have divided all the preparations for the Marathon by 42 points, it was our kind of marathon.
When we were given the permission, we sat down to write the estimate. Well, at least approximate – we didn’t have anything at all, even some simple cotton T-shirt for athletes. We sat, counted and turned gray… We understood that there is no way we will manage doing it on our own, and already with gray heads, went to look for partners. The search lasted a long time, but the result was – zero to none! Nobody believed that we can collect more than a hundred athletes. In general, no one believed, and this was making us doubt. Well, frankly speaking, we are amateur sportsmen, who run in the mornings or evenings in parks, and we weren’t really meeting anyone but us during such jogging sessions, so our doubts grew as well, but managed to stop them right on time.
First, we, of course, addressed to the Ministry of Sports, but there we were politely explained that in the first place, the budget is already set, and secondly, there is no budget. We left with nothing. We started looking for commercial partners, but there we were getting nothing, as well. Of course, you come and say: “Guys, you need a million, Moldova needs a marathon”. Generally, perhaps Moldova doesn’t really need a marathon, but no one was willing to give a million at the mercy of the sports adventurers. We again remembered the hints of the Universe.
But! Seeing how much we try, how we are trying to do the impossible, the Universe has sent us the first pillar – the general partner – the company Petrom Moldova.
Simply wonderful guys, who believed that there is a real opportunity that something like this is possible in Moldova, and gave us part of the required amount for the budget. Oh, there was so much joy! But, at the same time, it has entrusted a huge responsibility to us – now we could not bring our partners down. It’s the same as you cannot take your parents down – they believe in you, invest in you. And the work started boiling. To make it clear, through what we went through, I will outline all of the points. So:
I already told you about the idea and the general partners, then there were the marathon style (ibidem branding, logo, slogan), media partner, agreements with the police, emergency services, purchase of a domain and web site creation, start of the registration form, planning the route and determination of distances that will be available to attend.
Chronometer system and chips – we wanted madly to let the participants be proud with their results, find them on the site and in general, we wanted everything to “get a broom in our tail”. We bought a professional chronometer system (which has eaten a decent share of the budget of the entire marathon).
A huge bulk of questions was facing us: how should the starter packs look like, what T-shirts will we have, where will we order them, and what medals will we hang on the finishers’ necks? What to feed them with? What about the water? How can we offer moral support throughout the race? Where to find volunteers (and they had about 400), which will agree to help us for free? Should we necessarily give out the backpacks, or may be the plastic bags will do for starter packs? The campaign and the way of coverage, the program for all three days of marathon, Sport Expo, scene, equipment, the starting arch, all printed promotional items, gifts, trainings, marathon accessories, road closures (oooh, a huge battle with the authorities!), electrification of the route, how many toilets should be on the road, and many, many, many more. You can read about all that on the website of the marathon – marathon.md (we have, more probably for ourselves, collected the memories of how we have been preparing).
And most importantly – management of all organizational processes. It is a whole lot of parallel work, that entirely (ENTIRELY!) has to be kept in mind. How to keep track of all of this? Here we bow down before Roman Stirbu – my right hand, and, really, the main organizer, the man who held in his head and monitored the entire process of preparation.
Looking ahead, I will say that about two weeks before the marathon there was no one left who would not be involved in the organization in Simpals office, and then we have already had 120 employees. Garbage bins, T-shirts, medals ribbons, boxes of T-shirts, the entire meeting room was occupied by the printed out small city.
Some strangers, everyone is going somewhere, the office is full of people even after 18-00. Everyone has a single topic of conversation – the marathon. The feeling was that we are preparing a plan to capture the city. To some extent, in the end, it really did happen like that. At that time, the office was divided into two groups: those who are preparing the marathon, and those who run it.
However, apart from the problems with the organization, we have faced the fact that people do not understand why they have to pay money in order to run. Participation fee in the first Chisinau Marathon was 100 lei (5 euro) for 10 km and 21 km, and 200 lei (10 euro) for the distance of 42 km. In comparison with other marathons – it is literally free of charge. Take, for example, Bucharest – 40 euro for participation, London – 65 pounds, Berlin – 98 euro, Boston – 150 US dollars, IronMan – 600 euro. It is clear that our people are just not used to pay for participating anywhere. But the entry fee must have been at least nominal – we wanted to pay back at least some portion of the starter packs. Why hide, with their entry fee, the participants were paying for their T-shirt. As for the backpacks, medals and other organization points, we already keep silence – we were not planning to recoup the marathon. After all, we were organizing it not for gaining any profit.
But the most difficult was to inform potential participants that at least 3 months of training are required before the marathon, and for the medal that people get, the third category on the run is given in some countries. It is quite difficult to bring up running in the country of winemakers and hajduks.
And since we managed to sign a contract for general partnership with the largest player in the media market of the country – Casa Media, we thank them very much for the partnership, and namely with Publika TV channel, we have developed a series of commercials (we already had were to stream them, in addition to the Internet), in which decided to share the idea that running is cool, and in general, who and why does it. Then, by the way, the marathon slogan was born – “Run, because you can.” We have long thought, what can we tell the audience, why you should run, and held a small poll. In short, each of the respondents was running for some of his personal reason. But we agreed on one thing – we are running because we could do it, it’s just natural and opens a lot of new levels.
We made the advertising, launched it a month before the marathon, and saw that, even in small portions, people running in the park were getting more and more. Or we were just looking more attentively, who knows.
And then, when the number of running people got bigger, we have proposed Liviu Croitoru (trainer who prepared me for the IronMan) to take newcomers and teach them the basics. He agreed. We launched Sporter Run group on Facebook and began attracting friends, and so the trainings went on.
Later, we came with the idea to develop the corporate spirit – we offered our partners trainings for the staff, they were going out into nature, Liviu showed them the correct technique, and some of them really got all hooked after running – there were a lot of companies on the marathon that were starting in their T-shirts.
But we would like to return to the group in facebook – a few days ago, just before the second Chisinau Marathon, we held a final training for long distances, and we (runners that conquered more than 30 km), were already more than a hundred people. Two years ago, there were just me and Liviu running. And now, when you see this crowd, you realize that everything that has been done was not in vain.
But no, the training was very similar to the real war. And most of all we fought with the City Hallfor the track. We just could not get an approval for it! We have already launched the registration, and the advertising campaign was rolling as a hotshot. And the website of the marathon didn’t have the most important thins – the route! Ridiculous? No. An adventure crazy as hell, let me cut it straight.
Somehow, the city administration has resisted. We were offered to move the marathon out of the city. Arguments that the marathon is the face of the city and the country, that something like this has not been happening in Moldova for decades, did not work at all. What image are we talking about, the city’s budget will lose some money, on which they count, if they trolleys don’t circulate half a day. (no one knows about the country abroad – no problem, but the fact that the trolleys don’t circulate – that’s a disaster).
We were fighting for a long time. All this, of course, not due to the fact that bad people work there, but because these people simply did not understand, how cool it is – to hold a Marathon in the city. This year, everything was easier. Much easier. Thank you, City Hall.
It’s unbelievable, but we managed to get an approval for the marathon route three weeks before the event. Of course, the center was closed most of the day. How else? And that was a breeding ground for discontent. They were complaining for the traffic jams because of us! Run in the parks or at all, get out of town! But really, is it impossible to bear one day of the year for the purpose of reaching an outstanding goal? I think, everybody can. After all, in other cities people are sensitive and even meet the needs. Any way, all social networks were filled with pictures of medals, wearing T-shirts, with happy smiles on their faces – someone was running, someone was cheering for the one who was running. Overall, we were able to organize a big celebration.
Besides, how often people gathered in such a quantity on the central square for peaceful purposes? I do not remember anything like this to happen in a long time.
Of course, not everything went smoothly. There were slip-ups and shortcomings. Many slip-ups. But it was important that the participants did not notice it. And if they noticed, we eliminated these problems quickly enough.
In the end, it was a hot day. We had to move the start because of the march in memory of the victims of the accident in the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. We started at 11.00 – too late. We did not know, how much water may be needed, and in view of the scorching sun, there should have been so much more of it.
In addition, the bottles, provided by our partner – brand OM – were of the volume of 0.7 liters, which turned to be not a very convenient packaging for a run. As a result, the water was simply not enough at some point. Although, why at some point. This happened exactly in the middle of the race – three hours after the start. Where did it go? Firstly, the runners were not drinking the whole bottle, someone was throwing them on the pavement, someone – was pouring water over them.
Secondly, the volunteers were forced to distribute water to passers because of the heat – the burning sun spared no one. Thirdly and fourthly, we did not know how much water is needed in fact, did not prepare the right amount, and at some point managed to lose a part of the water reserve in the middle of the square – in one of the tents. Found it later, but got really alarmed, of course. Thanks to the volunteers, who did not panic and were buying water from the nearby supermarkets. For example, at the turn of the street Toma Ciorba water was not available for sale in any store within a few blocks. We bought it all.
In addition to water, we have not thought the Fun Run finish – a 3 kilometers distance. Participants started at the same time from a single point, and the finish line was planned in the same place – the archway on the square. But some Fun Run participants finished at the same time with some of the 10 km race participants (difference in training level), and a confusion produced. In addition, after the finish, Fun Run participants just scattered all over the square, and our volunteers were not enough to protect the t from the. We were so nervous then.
There were cases when, due to communication problems, there were reports that someone has died on the track. Oh, there was panic. And what happened in fact? An elderly participant fell because of the pressure, he was brought back t normal state (ambulance arrived in time), and he himself, cursing at people to stop interfering, finished (we were unable to insert this point in the official marathon movie, watch!)
Now, I would like to make a small digression. Ten thousand on the square were mentioned ten thousand times, and those who worked for this – never. So.
I am the one telling all these now, but, in fact, a few dozen different people are standing behind this story, who were working around the clock to provide these ten thousand people with the opportunity to come to the square and get a starter pack, to go to the starting line with no problems, and to run one of the distances, getting a medal for this. You guys are cool!
At some point, work in the office became around the clock. I remember that they were setting racks in a narrow corridor, pulling the protective tape and running through to check out, whether the racks fall from the air flow or not (we lacked fences). I remember walking around the office and everyone, from directors to couriers, were communication via the walkie-talkie-application (were testing the application, searching for the opportunity to keep in touch during the marathon).
I remember how you could not pass the corridor because of the series of huge garbage cans (and where else could people keep them?).
How the guys were going early in the morning at the square for the registration, and then, were coming back and continued preparation – there was so much work. How new words were starting to be heard in the office, such as fan-point. And, from a certain angle, the meaning is clear, but the way it will work – not everyone knew.
And how many positive feedbacks we have heard later, that it is so cool when you’re on the road supported by other people, how invigorating the music is, how cool it is when they elementary give you a “five”! And almost every person, standing on the track, was called by the guys and offered to go in person to support the runners (for Moldova it is something brand new, they do not do that in the world. By the way, 90% of those offered, refused to take part). So, I’m really proud of the team! Simpals, Sporter – you’re extremely cool guys!
The fact is that the marathon for Moldova is not the same as the Marathon for another country. We had to step over the mentality of our people, and to show that you can have a good rest not only at a traditional feast, but also through an active way of life. And this, seems to us, has played a huge role in the development of amateur sport.
In our opinion – this was a great start
New things at Marathon 2016
There is something I want to discuss in conclusion. I run marathons in various locations around the world, not only for the sake of results. While running, I spy on all sorts of different useful things. I am thinking on which we could adapt. Here, for example, from Tokyo I brought the idea with tomatoes for marathoners, and from Jerusalem – the sprinkler, which was standing on the track. In addition, we organized a massage in the relaxation zone – participants over long distances often have cramps.
And most importantly – we have implemented humidification points. We organized the points, where participants could get a sponge, dampen it with water and wipe their face and body. This was sorely missed in 2015, so this time wetting stations along with feeding ones will become an integral part of the International Chisinau Marathon.
Marathon is one big body, and it grows and develops every year. All three days, while it lives, we have tried to diversify it to the maximum.
For example, Sport Expo has become twice as larger, and now it is not a couple of tents, but a full-fledged city, where visitors could see any sport clothing and accessories, listen to presentations, participate in workshops
And, again, we had conducted the Kids Run Day, for the youngest “marathoners”. Let them start preparing already now. And, if in the first Kids Run Day was attended by a total of 50 children, in 2016 it was already 300.
Remembering some of the funny stories – this year we will strengthen security. It’s funny, we have not thought about it last year, and the area was flooded with people of no fixed abode, who filled relaxation area and did not want to leave the ottoman, prepared for the sportsmen’s rest. So, this year we have taken this into account.
We changed the starter backpacks, slightly mutated medals and T-shirts, we now understand how much food and water we need for the entire event. Well, in general, it was somehow even quieter in the office this time – apparently, there is nothing that can scare the guys now.
The most important thing is our desire – to make the marathon a national holiday, and believe me, we will. The marathon will be held every year and become one of the symbols of Moldova, like wine, Old Orhei, and our hospitality. I stress, the marathon will always be apolitical. We do not promote any party, and we will not allow them to promote their interests through sport. People are tired of politics.
Our people need now to feel like citizens of the same country. And such events allow us to feel a united nation without distinction by sex, nationality, language attribute, without division by social status. All we need now is to stand shoulder to shoulder with each other at the starting line. And let this start be the start of the International Chisinau Marathon.