This weekend’s World Long Distance Mountain Running Championships in Slovenia will be an emotional affair for US runner Peter Maksimow as he explains in this new post.
The safety of the basement
Albina Pintar stirs the cooking polenta on the stove while simultaneously yelling at the children to quickly get into the basement, “Entrare nel seminterrato, in questo momento!” This vineyard region known as Friuli Venezia Giulia, which is typically the epitome of beauty, is made ugly by the situation. Mortar shells fall nearby, shaking the thick-walled stone house so hard that streams of dust descend from the ceiling. The safety of the fortified basement will protect the children in case of a direct hit, yet Albina remains at the stove, stirring away at the yellow cornmeal. You see, while cooking polenta, you cannot stop stirring otherwise the result will be a bottom-of-the-pan burn and the pot will be ruined. Nothing stands in the way of an Italian and their food. Proof.
When World War II was the way of life
The year was 1943 and along the Italian border town of Gorizia, Italy, into then-Yugoslavia, current day Slovenia, war was the way of life with the bloody second installment of World Wars. My mother, Maria, was one of those children huddled in the basement. Albina, my grandmother, was the fearless protector of the polenta. It appears I derive from strong stock but have I inherited some of that strength and fortitude?
A battle of a different kind
I board a plane to Podbrdo, Slovenia, a mere 70km away from the basement that my mother sought protection in some 73 years ago, to do battle of a different kind. One that involves conquering mountains with the weapons of legs, lungs and mental strength, not of guns, bombs and the greediness of conquering land and people. I will do it not with fellow soldiers, but rather with fellow teammates who have put in hours and hours of training, tempering muscles and mind. Sure, the ultimate goal is one and the same: for your country to become victorious; however, once that finish line is crossed, hands are shaken, congratulations are given and causalities are counted in DNFs and not in body counts.
The 13th World Long Distance Mountain Running Championships on June 18th has been a major goal of mine and anytime I am so fortunate to wear the coveted USA across the chest, I want to represent to the best of my ability. It is also a homecoming of sorts, one that holds deep ties to my mother’s homeland, some good, others horrific.
Obstacles overcome en route to the World Long Distance Mountain Running Championships
For me, the past 6+ months has been a collection of frustrations, anger and sorrow thanks to what runners would call their worst enemy: injury. Most of the time, I was highly motivated to put in the time on the saddle of a bike or in the deep end of the YMCA pool and happily welcomed the needles that were stuck into my achilles and calves by Melissa Bryant at Select Physical Therapy, if it would only aid in healing.
Other times, I was at my wit’s end, not seeing this injury healing and just falling back into this dark hole after repeatedly trying to claw my way out. “It’s not going to happen, I should just give up” continually crept into my mind. I didn’t tell anyone but until very recently I doubted racing would even be a possibility. Besides, I began to associate a perpetual sore ass and the permanent aroma of chlorine on my skin a reminder of my injury, not the means to a recovery from the injury. Injuries can literally be a pain in the ass!
Living in the now
Through all of these trials and tribulations, it is difficult to believe that my own situation has comparable significance to that of my mother’s situation those years ago. In these times I think to my mother as a child, her siblings and my ancestors and what they had to endure in life and I can’t help but feel petty in my thoughts. It is possible my uncle would still be with us if he had not discovered that undetonated mortal shell when he was just 12 years of age. My concern is of being healthy enough to run while their concern was preservation of life. A definite pale in comparison.
There is, however, something to be said about living in the now. Think about it: present time really is the most important, no matter what the case. The past remains solidified and unchangeable while the future is a mystery no matter how well you think you have planned it. It reminds me of a scrawling on the wall in my mother’s hometown of Gorizia which read “Laif is Nau”. Although this was graffiti probably penned by some rebellious adolescent, I still find this act of vandalism profound words to live by. It is necessary and prudent to look to the past to remember and learn from, but your life is your life and YOUR current situation should be the most important thing.
Countries, medals and honor
That is why you will always find it a challenge to get me a leave a gathering of friends. Just ask my wife, Nora, how difficult it is to pull me away from a party! I will always give up precious sleep for a chance to share a beer, food and conversation with those I care about. Life is way too short to allow those ever-fleeting moments to pass. My ancestry tells me so.
My mother’s battle was one of remaining alive in a war-ravaged area. My battle will be of pushing my body and mind to great lengths and hoping that my setbacks are not a factor. My motivation to conquer my doubts is their history. Not a battle of life and death, but one of countries, of medals and of honor. Whatever happens, I will try to survive. No, I must survive! To ensure the polenta does not get burned.
* Peter will be taking over our social media channels to provide behind-the-scenes updates from the World Long Distance Mountain Running Championships. Follow his updates on our Instagram and Twitter pages.
* Peter will run the World Long Distance Mountain Running Championships in either our Trail Talon 250 or X-Claw 275 shoes, depending on how wet the underfoot terrain is and what level of grip is required. Both shoes are new for AW16. More details on both coming very soon. He has done a lot of his training in the Terraclaw 220 and Road-X-Treme 220.
* More information about the championships can be found on the World Mountain Running Association (WMRA) website.