How is possible to get 14 medals in 3 days, what are smoking the organizers, why to slaver the booklets, how much is possible to run in 50 hours and how the seed is germinating in the brain?

Imagine this race:

Here, nobody will be in advance.

Here you can run as long as you want.

Here you can get any number of medals.

Here you don’t need to think about the tempo.

This is an ultra-marathon but you can forget about the backpack and snacks on the run.

And here you run every time on a new route for yourself, and in three years you will see whole the country.

It sounds unreal. But such a race exists now in Moldova and is called RUBICON.

And it’s begun six months ago in Africa.

– It’s incredible! I thought while running the 70th kilometer in South Africa, at the Comrades race.It seemed that the whole country came out to meet the runners, each citizen went out on the road, to support these “miserable persons”.
Someone brought a brazier and fries sausages, someone gives out water, and someone just screams, that you are a superhero.  

The children run a race with us, the old people sit under the trees and wave their hands, and women boil potatoes with salt. I remember that, it made a very strong impression on me, Comrades- a holiday not only for runners but also for the population of this country. I saw this on other marathons — in  New York, London or Parisbut here I was struck by the scale. It was Comrades who planted the seed in my brain:  it would be good if even at us, in Moldova, would organize something like that, but something else…

And this seed grew up so imperceptibly, that I thought, I forgot about it, until one day, during a long and difficult for me swimming ten-kilometer race Oceanmanamong the tortured circumvolutions of my brain appeared the first shuts ­ – It is necessary to run without stopping with the flag through whole the country. But the participants must run in bunch. But what about the competitive part of the race? And who will be able to run 500 km? Or maybe we will hand the flag to each other? Maybe break the entire distance into segments of approximately the same length and just pass the flag on each segment to other runners? Relay race! Of course!

In the evening of the same day, before going to bed, I realized that the essence of competition won’t be the speed run, but the distance – who will run more segments, that one will be the fine fellow. I realized that is important to make the emphasis on the strategy of the race. For example in such way: I am running every second segment and I sleep 5 hours at night, and then I run three consecutive segments in the morning, and I sleep until the lunch, and after lunch I run one after two. The most important thing here is to distribute correctly your forces.

And what about the medal? What to give it for? After all, the whole distance is not overcome by anybody… Although, why the medal? Maybe – the medalS? Maybe give a medal for each stage? Not solid … One minute … Why not give a medal for a district. For example, I ran in Anenii Noi – take a medal. Yes, and the medal is with the emblem of the district! Yes! Run all over Moldova – collect the emblems of all districts!

From Mexico, I came excited with this new idea and immediately ran to the team of the Sporter to voice it. In general, the guys are afraid when I am in such an excited state. When I am coming to them and informing them that I have a new idea, they usually get under the tables, urgently get sick and go on vacation, because that’s a bad omen :)

After speak my piece about that I had on the Rubicon, being pleased, I was waiting for reaction. It followed immediately:
-“What did you smoke?”
– It is impossible, how will we organize it?
– You are crazy? Who, except you, will run this crap?

Well or just nervous laughs. As Dima, the project manager, told me later, in that moment he thought about how to write “dismiss me” or “please dismiss me”.

But the field was plowed, the seeds planted and, having promised to come in a month with a detailed plan, I left to think out the details.

A month later there was OtillO  – an eerie 75-kilometer race running and swimming, on which I thought up the details, thank God it was almost 14 hours of free time :) The temperature of water was then 12 degrees; I became numb and realized that the baton should be done in winter, during the coldest period. On arrival, with the team squeezed all the details, and that’s what happened:

The title: The Race of Heroes – the first thing that crossed my mind. But, after a search on Google, I discovered that such a race in Russia exists. Therefore, I began to think further. Several brainstorming sessions with the team did not work. And ones I was looking a new film “Long live to Caesar!” and suddenly I remembered about one famous river in Italy, which was crossed by Caesar with the words “The die is cast!”.

I said the same thing and I decided to name the race RUBICON. Pass your Rubicon, go your Rubicon – something was in it :) So we left things as they were, and then we bought the domain – rubicon.runAnd we started to make a website.

The Logo: I wanted something heroic, something connected with the defenders of the country.  The idea of a flag suggest itself.

After several iterations, the designer and I found the very one:

The artists immediately drew an icy version:

Description: The annual ultra-marathon relay race on the territory of the Republic of Moldova, passing through the whole country. The annual route is constructed in such a way that within 3 years it will pass across all districts of the Republic, including the territory of the TMR.

Often I am asked – why 3 years? I am answering.

Firstly, it’s impossible to run all districts of Moldova at once. That’s why, it is necessary to run several times. It means that if the race is annual – several years. And secondly, we divided the map of Moldova into three parts in the color of the flag – our tricolor with an eagle (Chisinau) in the middle – it’s beautiful and patriotic.

In the end, we wanted to get as far as possible from the political anchorage – it’s a sport, it unifies. This is what we wanted to bring to everyone – run through Moldova, visit every corner, check yourself and get over your Rubicon.

The route of each year is divided into DISTRICTS, which are divided into STAGES – the minimum indivisible segment that a participant can run. The length of the stage varies from 7 km to 18 km. The division into stages is made so that each runner chooses for himself a segment of the route that is suitable by difficulty, which he is able to run.

This year, on the eastern route, there were 14 districts and 43 stages. Each district included from 1 to 6 stages, depending on the hilly nature of the route and the area of the district. Each stage has a name – for example RZ14 – this is the fourteenth stage in the account, it takes place in Rezina district. The stages are day and night time, and each is assigned a difficulty category from 1 to 10 depending on the length, terrain and time of the day.

The awards: After running through at least one stage, the participant receives a badge with the emblem of the district through which he ran the past stage. The badges are divided into night and day type ones, depending on the time of day in which this or that stage is passed. And what kind of badges will they be? Well, of course the emblems of the districts – it remains to find out them and redraw. Finding them turned out to be a nontrivial task.

Excepting Wikipedia, there are also opinions of officials of the districts, God forbid to offend people and make a mistake with the image. In each district you need to call, and approve it, to make sure that all the parts are in place. This took a month. And only then it was possible to draw everything in one style:

We estimated the size of the badges and the method of attachment on the jacket.

The goal of the runner is to collect as many badges of the districts as possible in order to collect all the emblems of all regions of the country in three years. As a result of the race, runners will be rewarded, who collected most of the badges and ran the longest overall distance.

The speed for all stages and participants was planned to be the same – 6:30 min / km. For what? In order that everyone could run, and more experienced participants do not fall asleep on the road. As practice showed later somewhere all the same (in the hills), the pace was falling, and somewhere we caught-up lost time. But in general – the average rate was exactly this – 6:30 min / km.

We even developed an application for the phone that displays the current and average tempo, as well as the distance, on the big screen in the bead. In theory, the pacemaker sees the average pace of the group, the profile of the stage and decides how to properly decompose the forces.

In order for us to be sure that the speed at the stages will be the same, pacemakers were chosen, they are flagships, who, in addition to the flags of Moldova and the district in which the column is currently running, were equipped with a walkie-talkie for connection with the bus, and with the satellite tracker for tracking the coordinates of the group. The pacemakers were changing every stage. The flag changed at the border of each district.

Regarding the logistics of the event, we stated, that every runner before the start of his stage gets on his own (and from the finish – also himself). Before the column of runners at a constant speed without stops, a Sporter bus travels with operators, light and music (for a cheerful mood). Ahead and at the end of the column is a police car. Between the start of the stages is moving the registration car, where you can register, get a number, fix the finish and, of course, get the medal you have earned.

All these thoughts I voiced to the running community of Sporter Awards:

THE PREPARATION

Preparation began in November. We have invented a route on the map. Immediately for all three years. We decided that the first year will be conducted through Transnistria. It was recklessly, but we have decided – we will do it. We have marked on the map, except the districts, all the stages. And we drove off. We literally drove off. The whole route, from north to south, the guys traveled several times, collected information on the ascent and descent.

The work was not just a lot, but over the top. Because in late January, we traditionally had to pass the Wine Run, and the start of the Rubicon is scheduled just two weeks after it. That’s why managers, programmers, designers, and everyone else simply worked without holidays for 2 months with a break for the battle of the chimes :) As a result, Wine Run was well done (thanks to the huge team for it! Well done!) and we were ready for Rubicon .

We stated that before the start and after the finish the runners get to the house by their own way. And for those who want to run the whole Rubicon, we rented a bus for 50 people, which had to follow us all three days and two nights and … at this time to become a house for many. At that time we were sure – this bus will be more than enough.

We bought a super modern quadcopter, which didn’t disappoint, but gave us amazing video quality.

We decided that in addition to the continuous live broadcast (which will also be a test for us – Internet coverage across the country, even if the operators are denying, is unstable), we will display information about the specific location of the runners and their number on the main site of Rubicon.run.

38How to do it? Take a GPS-tracker, turn it on and throw it into the pacemaker’s backpack. We parse the coordinates on the site. We were getting the number of participants that are currently running, from the admin panel. As a result, information was received from two sources, and outputted in a single picture. Apart from that, on the main, was shown live. It looked good.

The program for registration and metering of runners we developed specifically for the Rubicon. In the program was entered:  the name, surname and serial number. Before the start and at the finish of each stage, the participant simply called his number. We tried our best to facilitate the registration process. I we don’t want to freeze the Rubicon   participants once again :)

In the  Sporter bus, which led the column, we shoved the 220 V converter, to assure a constant power supply, several laptops, a camera for live broadcasting, a spotlight for the track lighting, a monitor for displaying information on the stage (and the average pace  group) and speakers, a microphone :) Well, it’s simple – for music. And in the bus was installed GoPRO, that was displaying the image directly on the tablet for the bus driver, in order to move with the same  speed of the column (somewhere faster, somewhere slower)

To make it easier for participants to get acquainted with the stages, we have developed booklets, in which all the elevation profiles (or terrain) were visually displayed, the GPS coordinates of the start and finish of each stage, scores, duration, etc

As a result, the booklet became the most readable literature on the bus. Everyone planned, drew, argued, holding in hand a littered, dirty booklet with the stages. The numbers decided to make on an elastic band, because in my deep conviction, pins are out of date Uncomfortable and spoil the clothes.

And now the most difficult – the badges. After that the design was approved, we began to look for a man who would make us a metal billet, on which we will paste the emblems – this was the only way to guess how many people would run through each district. As a result, we paste the emblems even during the race, right in the car. We ordered 1300 pieces – yellow for the Moldovan stages and white for the stages in Transnistria.

And this badge we decided to give for overcoming 100 km:

Further. It was necessary to prepare people – morally and physically, naturally. Therefore, we timed Sunday long-runs to trainings for Rubicon. And, by the way, correctly done – so we were able to determine who would become a pacemaker (aka flag bearer). Plus, we ourselves have tested the applications, logistics, duties, checklists and other organizational trifles :) And the rehearsals turned out to be cool :) See for yourself.

After the rehearsals, we organized several meetings with the flag bearers- the stages were distributed. At some stages (complex, very complex), the people refused to take on this responsibility. It was necessary, as somewhere on some TV I said, put ” the supplementary people” :) Sorry, friends. But you understand everything…Maybe many of you have noticed on our site a table where were calculated even calories, which will remain on the battlefield after passing the Rubicon. Scary formulas. Even is terrible to retell, how we have calculated them.

Two weeks before the start, I realized that it was wrong to reward for the kilometrage – 7 km down in the day is not the same as 7 km up at night. Therefore, we introduced a system of points, which are added for each stage. The formula calculates scores, based on the set of heights and time of the day. There have appeared also bonus points for the stages, passed in a row. + 2 points for two consecutive stages, +3 for three, etc. I was convinced of the necessity of such bonuses when Dubossary 12 + Grigoriopol 18 ran without stopping – it was unpleasant.

Also there are bonuses to flag-bearers – 1 point for one stage with a flag. This is also true – I ran both with the flag and without. And I want to say that responsibility and constant control of the pace are exhausting. Just running after the crowd, not thinking about anything and burying your nose in the ground, is much easier. I think any flag bearer will confirm this. Well, finally, 5 points for the Rubicon – passed 100 km. Overcome the Rubicon – it’s like proving yourself that you overcame yourself and ran a hundred.

We have planned to carry the flag of Moldova and the districts across the country. As it is impossible to carry it in the hands, we have decided to carry it behind the back. Initially it was a handle, but it was made for one person, and  pacemakers were 43. We did not planed to sew 43 handles, so, it was necessary to search for a more ergonomic solution. We have found a backpack, to which were fastened long “fishing rods”, to which we have clunged already  the flag of Moldova and   of the district.

Well, when almost everything was ready, I suddenly realized that there would be nowhere to hang up the badges :( There are no tapes, there’s nothing to clunge, then we decided that we will make a large board in the form of a map of Moldova, on which will be possible to attach all, all, all the badges that have been earned for 3 years.We have got the hump and we’ve made the coolest (but expensive in production) board of several materials. Here it is , our beauty:

Generally, the first part of Rubicon we have passed – the race is ready, but how much it is ready, the time will show. Now it remains to overcome the Rubicon :) and to believe that there will be no unsolvable problems during the holding.
Well … 
The long-awaited day came – February 10 …