Arc over the carpathians

/ December 1, 2017
Andrei Soveresan almost did not make it to his first birthday. The ambulance rushing him to the Children’s Hospital broke down. He barely made it in time for a successful surgery.
Photo: 1leu.org – Give, Volunteer, Charity

Twenty-five years later, Andrei ran across the entire Romanian Carpathians, from the northern Ukrainian border to the southwestern border with Serbia, to raise money for a new Children’s Hospital. The project is supported by 1leu.org.

Andrei labeled his fundraising campaign the “Arc over the Carpathians” to signify the rounded curve of how the Carpathians Mountains cut through the center of Romania. He started his run on July 1st in Sighetu Marmatiei, home to Nobel Prize winner Elie Wiesel, and finished the race 22 days later, in Orsova, along the Danube River.

His run covered 1,300 kilometers through the mountains and the massifs of Maramureș, Rodnei, Giumalău, Rarău, Bistriței, Ceahlău, Hășmaș, Ciucului, Nemira, Brețcu-Vrancei, Penteleu-Podu Calului, Siriu-Tătaru, Ciucaș, Baiului, Bucegi, Piatra Craiului, Făgăraș, Cindrel, Șureanu, Godeanu, and Cernei.

Remarkably, Andrei literally ran along the rim of the Carpathians Mountain tops. For centuries this mountain trail was a military road marking the dividing line between the Habsburg and Ottoman empires.

As he finished his run just before midnight on Sunday, the 23rd of July, Andrea arrived at the Danube River and proclaimed: “That’s it, this is the end of my vacation.”

Two days later, visibly thinner, but with high hopes of a quick recovery so that he could participate in the Retezat Marathon on the 5th of August, Andrei spoke to PressOne about his unique summer vacation.

THE RAFFLE

Sovereșan never thought of running when, in 2013, he bought two raffle tickets for 5 RON at a 2013 fundraiser to restore an old fortress.

As fate would have it, he bought the winning ticket which gave him a pair of running shoes and free registration in the Apuseni Marathon. He opted for the semi-marathon and ran the whole distance in two and a half hours.

Since that date, Andrei has run over 15,000 kilometers and is one of the most well-respected cross-country runners in Romania. He’s run over 15,000 kilometers and already completed 4,000 just this year. He has won a number of races and wet his appetite for mountain running at the prestigious Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc in southern France.

He experienced his first disappointment last year, dropping out halfway through a 170 kilometer race in Croația.

“I felt completely demoralized, upset for having abandoned the race. For three weeks, I didn’t want to hear about running. My girlfriend hounded me and helped me get over it. That’s when the idea of running across the Carpathians, from one border to the other, came to me.”

TRAVERSING THE WILD CARPATHIANS

On the narrow mountain ridges, danger lurks at every corner, ranging from capricious weather, wild animals, attacks from shepherds’ dogs and everything inbetween. Andrei came within 50 meters of a female bear with her cub. That reminded him of the Transylvania Trail Traverse, where volunteers made the mistake of leaving food on the hood of a “food station” vehicle. Bears arrived as Andrei was refueling his body, forcing him and a marathon organizer to lock themselves in the car.

The Arc over the Carpathians started splendidly for Andrei Soveresan. On the first day he ran 107 kilometers. He settled into a daily rhythm of waking up at 5am, packing a few sandwiches in lunch bags and heading up the next mountain peak.

The feeling of fatigue accumulated and waited for the perfect moment to strike in the Fagarasi Mountains.

“We had already covered more than 800 kilometers when we made it to the area. I had stopped setting my alarm clock and was sleeping in as much as I needed to. Well, this mountain tricked me. It was the most beautiful, yet the ugliest I’ve ever come across. It took me a total 31 hours to get from Plaiul Foii to Turnul Rosu,with only five hours of sleep in a shelter.

I was tired and felt alone, but needed to be constantly looking out for animals, especially on the eastern side. I had moments where my only goal was to put one foot in front of the other and walk,
or run. On top of that, there really aren’t many marked trails, so orienting myself to using GPS added to the exhaustion.

But I saw a lot of the wilderness and unreal beauty that still makes Romania so unique.

I would talk to myself, tell myself stories and encourage myself by whistling, yelling or singing the refrains of songs that would get stuck in my head.

“Despacito, quiero respirar tu cuello despacito”

I couldn’t get the tune out of my head for the life of me. But I didn’t really want to. The songs somehow made me move. I even had manele in my head, even though I’m not a fan of the genre. Somehow I had picked up a song at a bed and breakfast in Moldova and it got stuck in my mind.”

Hunger pains were even harder to deal with. It turns out that the fresh lard and grilled bacon produced by peasants in the mountains is a very good source of fat for endurance athletes.

A technical support team was with me for the duration of the marathon. They arranged overnight accommodations or were waiting for me with a pitched tent at predetermined locations.

Honestly speaking, I thought only my mom, dad and maybe my grandparents would be contributing to the cause. It ended up being a lot more people that supported me. That sense of community really meant a lot”

THE PIATRA CRAIULUI MASSIF

Andrei’s dream is to participate in the Western United States, the world’s oldest mountain race. This year, 6,000 athletes registered for only 370 spots. Luck was not on his side during the draw but he’s sure his time will come.

In the meantime, he will keep running so the ambulances keep running.

Image from Valea Jeppi Mici, in the Bucegi Mountains. Photo: Personal archive