August 21, 2014

Running With the Best – My Run With Piotr Kuryło

By Marek

“Dream dreams, but live the impossible” goes my motto. And on this occasion, these are not only empty words. I can honestly say, I had the privilege to live it! Less than 4 months ago, I pickup the book by Christopher McDougall, Born To Run. That triggered several events which led me to learn of my fellow countryman, Piotr Kuryło, and his amazing feats. This is the man who finished only second to Scott Jurek in the Spartathlon in 2007, and in 2010, ran solo around the world, covering over 20 thousand kilometres in 365 days (that’s an average of more than 50 km per day). He has many more ultra achievements to his name, but these two really stand out. What is even more amazing, he does not have any lucrative sponsors. He simply runs and counts on the kindness of his fellow man.

Spartathlon 2014

The race is set for late September. Most runners will be arriving in Athens a week or two before the race. Piotr Kuryło plans to arrive 5 days before. Unlike the others, he will not be flying in or arriving by train. Piotr will be arriving on foot. Piotr KuryłoHe has set off on August 7th from his home town of Pruska Wielka in northeast Poland, which is nearly 2500 kilometres from Athens. Being a humble person, Piotr says it’s 2000 km. Not only is he running to the starting line, he is pulling a trolley with all his supplies in it. This trolley also serves as a bed at night. That’s right, not only does he run on average 70km per day, most of the nights he is spending in a bed which he pulls behind him. Piotr Kuryło took the same approach in 2007 when he ran the Spartathlon. This time, he aims to win it.

My Dream

Having read about the Tarahumara, Caballo Blanco, Scott Jurek, Barefoot TED, Eric Orton and Piotr Kuryło, I though it would be awesome if I could have a chance to run like they do, learn their techniques, better yet, have a chance to meet them. I kept toying with this notion and started believing, that one day, I will get this chance. It’s like imagining playing one on one with Michael Jordan. Everyone who grew up watching him play dreamed of meeting him but very few actually did. The closest I came to meeting Michael Jordan was seeing him play once live in Toronto – Jordan scored 36 but the Bulls lost one of only 10 games that season against the Raptors in Toronto. But now, I believe in the impossible. Set your goal, keep it in clear view, and the impossible will happen!

The Chance Came

Wohyń Piotr KuryłoIn his sport, Piotr Kuryło is like Michael Jordan, hence I use the comparison. Not only did I get to meet “Michael Jordan”, I got to play one on one with him as well.
As I started reading more about Piotr, I started following him on Facebook. I soon learned that he was planning to take part in the Spartathlon. Once he qualified for it by running in the Ultrabalaton, Piotr announced that he will be running to Athens, like he did in 2007. I had already booked my holidays from July 30 – August 13 to be in Poland. However, I thought it unlikely that his route would go anywhere near where I lived. Finally, in late July, the route was announced. One of the towns where Piotr announced he would be spending the night was only 7km from our home in Poland and he would be there the day before my departure. Now that is not coincidence. That is destiny!

The Big Day Came

Although the route was announced, I had no way of knowing the exact route Piotr Kuryło would be taking. His approximate starting and finishing points were known, but in between, I could only guess. On his Facebook page, Piotr informed that he usually sets off at 7am. As he had nearly 70km to cover, I set off around 10am to find him somewhere on the road. I wanted to first find the exact route so I could join him for a 10k stint. I drove for nearly 2 hours with no joy. Again, I set off around 1pm and drove for over an hour. No luck. As I was about to give up, I noticed in the distance a man on the road with another on a bicycle. Could this be him? I slowed down as I approached them. As I came nearer, there was no doubt, I was going to run with Piotr Kuryło that day! What really struck me as I drove nearer, was the aura surrounding the man. He had run over 50km at that point but all I could see was a smile on his face and the overall joy running brought him. Running with Piotr Kuryło It’s like in McDougall’s book, where he describes the Tarahumara and all the great runners. Upon seeing them, you sense there is something special about them. I like to say, if you think running is about running, you have not been running. What I witnessed before me, was the epiphany of these words. Quickly, I rolled down the window, asked Piotr if he was running through my town, turned the car around, and drove home to change. He was 5km from my house and would be passing through our village – literally 500 metres from where we live. Things like this do not happen by coincidence!

My Run With Piotr Kuryło

We met in the town square. Really, the town consists of 2 main roads crossing and that is where I joined Piotr and a friend of his who joined him for the day on his bicycle. They needed to recharge and eat, so they grabbed a few rolls and yoghurt and we sat in the town square together. Although we had met a few minutes ago, talking to Piotr Kuryło was like talking to an acquaintance whom I knew for years. A very warm and open guy. My wife and daughter joined us as we sat and talked before setting off. I’m not a very fast runner, so I was a bit worried about the pace, but I figured, this guy has a buggy to pull, so I should manage. And I did. We ran for nearly 15 kilometres together. Piotr talked most of the way. He told me of his journeys and we touched upon other topics as well. All the time, I observed his form, how effortless his stride and movement was. I kept his pace, but then again, I did not have a buggy to pull and have not just completed 60km during the day. I knew that Piotr sometimes sleeps in his buggy, but I thought that for this night, he had something organised. This was not the case. As he did not have a place to stay, this meant that we could extend our run. To be honest, I could probably run a marathon along with this man. Just being around a person with such achievements makes you a better runner. We finally came to the end of our journey. Piotr found a sheltered bus stop where he could park his buggy for the night in case it rained. We said our goodbyes. As we parted, he asked for my wife’s name, as he makes notes of his day and the people he met. I told him I hoped our paths will cross again in the future. He invited me to visit him whenever I was near his home town. A short run with another human being, yet how rewarding.
The next morning, as I drove to the airport, I passed by where Piotr was sleeping. Piotr Kuryło & Marek Rejak He was up already preparing for the day. I brought him a sandwich and a couple boiled eggs. He told us how the previous evening he was visited by people who would be running with him the today. They brought him dinner. Another lady in the early hours of the morning gave him a small pizza as she drove past. It’s amazing how small gestures can help in achieving greatness. Piotr has dedicated this run to people who are fighting diseases, so that they don’t give up the fight. He is a real inspiration and has made a great impact not only on my running but on my perception of life! Thank you Piotr!