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Piotr Ślęzak

1. What do you like best in running and what is your pet peeve?

Most of all I like the fact that it’s a me-time. I never take my phone, apart from days when I plan to take pictures during the training session. So, with no one to call me, I know for sure that I won’t be disturbed. I also like that it’s a very intense kind of sport: you don’t need much time to get exhausted. For instance, after a series of 20 400-meter sprints (I usually run them at 3:10 — 3:20/km), I’m really tired. At such moments I feel very satisfied that I gave it all I had. I must say, I don’t really believe a saying that “you have 365 days in a year for running”, because if you miss a session, you can never get it back.

2. What would ideal running/racing conditions look like to you?

Ideal weather conditions are: spring and autumn, when it’s 5-10 degrees Celcius, no wind and some sun or a bit of drizzle. On such days I can perform at my best. Of course, warmer weather is also good, but in this case it’s next to impossible for me to demonstrate the best result.

3. What running dream do you have? If you had everything you needed, what would be the wildest, most impossible dream?

I would like to participate in the Olympics as a marathoner :) I know this goal is almost unreachable, because I will never run a marathon as fast as 2 hrs 10 mins, but, nevertheless, I would be thrilled to know what it’s like to be an Olympic athlete and represent your motherland at the Games. If we’re speaking about more realistic goals, I want to run a marathon faster that 2 hrs 30 mins and I hope to achieve this in the future. This is my goal as an athlete. But I have also another kind of “running” goal: I’d like to develop my project #ŚlęzakTeam, so that it becomes the largest runners’ group in Poland. I aim to enlighten runners and set a good example for them, so that they in turn will improve their skills and avoid injuries. Therefore, I coach people online and face-to-face here, in Wroclaw.

4. Tell about the toughest training you had. What was the outcome? And what was the most valuable takeaway?

The hardest training session? It’s when you push your body to absolute limit, and in the course of running you push that limit even further and become stronger and faster. In preparing for marathons tempo exercises are the toughest. They’re about constantly balancing on the edge: will I make it through the exercise or will I have to stop? After such runs I usually have a better understanding of what I should work on more to improve my result.

5. What body part would you name that would be the most important when it comes to running? What body part you're most thankful to?

For me, the most important body part is my core: abs, shoulders, ribcage. I feel that this is where most of our energy resource is stored and therefore this body part is responsible for physical fitness. I’m most thankful to my belly which doesn’t hurt in extreme conditions (because pain can usually be the result of stress), so when my belly behaves well, I’m very grateful.

6. Did you do sports when you were a child? Was running among the activities you were fond of? If not, why did you eventually decide to start running and when did that happen?

I was always an active child: I played football. However, I was never attracted to running, so I always got low grades for running at the physical training classes in school. At 17 I tried running, because I wanted to lose some weight and try myself out in a race. I trained for 3 months and ran a 10k race. It was the end of December, the weather was far from runner friendly (it snowed) and the race track was not one of the easiest, with a lot of uphill and downhill running. (it was Bieg Sylwestrowy in Trzebnica). From then on, it got easier, I started training really seriously, and now I can’t imagine my life without this sport.

7. What do you feel when you're at the start line and when you've just crossed the finish line? What is essential for you to have when you're about to run a race and what do you usually do after you've run it?

Right before the start I always feel nervous and I can’t really control it. Whether it’s a short fun run or a marathon, I feel the same fear and restlessness, and catch myself worrying about what’s to come during the race. I can’t predict my result with 100% accuracy, and maybe it’s better that way. I constantly work on my fears, however it can get extremely tough at times. When I’m about to participate in a serious race, I try to spend some time in a quiet place to concentrate. I then come up to the start point at the very last minute, take off warmer clothes and wait for the signal. I usually prefer to be at the very end of the line, because I’m not a fan of crowds. After the race, if I’m satisfied with the result, I’m happy like a child and later go for a beer. If the race didn’t go as well as I expected, I still treat myself to a dessert :)

8. Was there something that changed in your views on running since you started?

One can’t reach one’s goal if the price is too high… Sometimes it’s better to let it go for now and try again later. Once I had to get off track, but all other times I got to the finish line in the end. I always chose to slow down, but continue running up to the very finish line, rather than just walk there. I keep in mind that those who love me are waiting at the end of the track and I need to take care of myself for their sake.

9. What goal that you set to achieve in the beginning of your running journey now seems to be something that's too ambitious or maybe even impossible to do?

I remember my own comments on the biegajznami.pl forum: I wrote about my plans to run 10k within 32 minutes and a marathon faster than 2 hrs 30 mins. Well, as time went by, I managed to get very close to it: my PR for a 10k race now is 32:04 and my PR for a marathon is 2:34:05, so it’s a matter of just another 4 minutes, and I’ll do it within 2:29:xx. I guess, sooner or later I’ll succeed. After 5 years of intensive training I can safely state that I got much stronger and I have all the chances to do well at the next marathon. Apart from that, I intend to inspire my fellow countrymen to run more, and also I plan to introduce such projects as training camps, conferences for runners, competitions and other stuff. You can follow me on Facebook (Piotr Ślęzak) or visit my official site, where I often post various useful info (www.stestuje.pl).

10. What goal do you have now?

Now my main goal is to take a rest. I decided to reduce my monthly running volume from 450-600 km to 190-250 km. I plan to spend more time in the gym working on stuff I often don’t have time for on my running training sessions. I’m happy that now I can devote more time for the running club I lead as well as for my clients in physiotherapy. As a doctor I’m very interested in dealing with common problems and injuries that runners encounter in the course of their training.

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