Interview: Samalya

Interview: Samalya
Interview | Aug 4
We talked to Samalya about why Berlin is ideal for running, training for the Berlin Marathon and what running and meditation have in common.
Optimistic Runners launches a series of interviews with Berlin runners. We conducted our first interview with Samalya. Samalya runs a marathon in 2:28 and likens running to meditation. We talked to him about why Berlin is ideal for running, training for the Berlin Marathon and what running and meditation have in common.
Kristina (K) interviews Samalya (S):

(K)        Thank you, Samalya, for joining us today. Tell us about yourself.
(S)         Hi Kristina, thank you, I'm Samalya, and I call Berlin my home. Running and meditation are the core aspects of my life, and they've truly shaped my journey in life. Currently, I run with a fantastic team the BTC and also run my advertisement agency here. Berlin offers so many opportunities for growth and expression, and I feel grateful to be a part of its running community.

             That's wonderful. How did you first get into running?
             It was a bit later in life when I was 19 that I felt the need for a positive change. Running and meditation came together, and I realised they could have a significant impact on my life. Since then, I've been running for over 15 years, and it's become much more than just a physical activity; it's like a moving meditation for me.
             For me when I run, the body is very active, but I try to keep my mind very still. Ultimately a lot of things are happening, a lot of movement, but inwardly it's like a meditation. When I meditate, I just sit there and be very quiet, but inwardly it's like a flow or it's like an inner movement. It's like an inner running. So running is like an outer meditation and the meditation is like an inner running for me. That's how I see it.

“So running is like an outer meditation and the meditation is like an inner running for me”
             I'm impressed by your dedication to both running and meditation.
             How do you prepare for marathons?

             Preparation for marathons is essential to me. I usually start a proper training plan about three months before the event. It involves running a certain number of kilometres and training daily. With my running club, the Berlin Track Club, we have rigorous sessions twice a week. The key is to be in top shape on the day of the marathon and feel ready when the race starts. 
             It sounds like you have a structured approach to your training.
             Where do you usually run in Berlin?

             I love running in Mauerpark and Volkspark Friedrichshain. The Märchenbrunnen im Volkspark Friedrichshain holds a special place for me. Also the long history of this park is just amazing. Both parks have beautiful routes for various workouts. Since I live close by, it's convenient and adds to the charm of running in this city.
             I think Berlin is a perfect place for running. People think, how can you run in a city? But I feel Berlin is a great place. It has a lot of space, a lot of green. You can find really nice running routes, so I have nice routes for every type of workout.

“I think Berlin is a perfect place for running”
            Berlin does seem like a great place for running.
            What was your most remarkable marathon experience?

            The most memorable marathon for me was in 2019 when I ran my fastest time of two hours and 28 minutes in Pisa, Italy. The flow I experienced from the start was incredible. I went through the first half in one hour and 13 minutes and I didn't feel any tiredness. I was totally relaxed, and then I felt, ”Okay, today is the day where I can run under two hours and 30 minutes,” which is like a magical mark in the marathon. Crossing the finish line near the Leaning Tower of Pisa and celebrating with a delicious pizza made it truly special.
             That sounds like an amazing achievement.
             Will you be running the Berlin Marathon this year?

             Absolutely! I already have my starting number, and I'll likely be one of the official pacers for the Paris Olympic Marathon hopefuls from my team. A lot of the running community will be there. I'm excited to support fellow athletes and also aim for my personal best in the Valencia Marathon in December.
             It's great to hear that you'll be part of the Berlin Marathon.
             How do you feel about the running community in Berlin?

             The running community in Berlin is like a big family to me. We have various running crews, and the motto now is "Running is a team sport." We encourage and support each other, bringing out the best in everyone. Running has given me valuable friendships and a sense of belonging. For example, with Vajin (an ultra-distance runner Vajin Armstrong), we travel just to train together and we see a lot of the world because of this running community.

“Running has given me valuable friendships and a sense of belonging”
             That's heartwarming. What advice would you give to beginner runners?
             For beginners, consistency is key. Start slowly and build up gradually. Consistency in training is the best way to progress. And remember, the most challenging part is taking the first step out of the door. Once you start, the rest becomes easier.
             Solid advice! Will you be joining the Optimistic Runners running club?
             Yes, indeed! I plan to join them on Saturdays, between my tough sessions with the Berlin Track Club. It's an excellent opportunity to connect with even more runners in this vibrant community.
“Consistency in training is the best way to progress”
             Lastly, could you share more about your experience with meditation?
             I learned meditation from my teacher, Sri Chinmoy, who inspired us to incorporate physical exercise and running as part of our meditation. He even challenged us to achieve certain running goals, which helped me push my limits.  In one of the races, which he organised for us, he said to us: “Can you run the mile under 4:20?” So we were totally fired up and trained for it.” And then I did it a few years later. And then he said: “Can you run the marathon under 2:30?” So my teacher, Sri Chinmoy inspired me to really train to run under 2:30. 
What else can I say?
(V)        Vajin adds: “Self-transcendence”
             Yes, his philosophy of self-transcendence has stayed with me. Life's beauty lies in stepping out of our comfort zones and continuously progressing, both in running and in life. The goal, the finish line of today, is just the starting line of tomorrow. The main thing is not success, but progress – in running and in life.
             That's incredibly inspiring, Samalya.
             Thank you for sharing your journey with us today.
             It's my pleasure, Kristina. Keep running and keep spreading positivity!

             Thank you, Samalya.
             We wish you all the best for your upcoming marathons and beyond.
             Thank you!
Character: Samalya
Art Director: Max Henri Van Christensen
Photo: Julia Zlateva
Date: July 2023
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