We all know that this is the period in which many tend to ad some must do things in the New Year and it’s very often that we find doing more sports activities among them.
Although many will only create the list and never start out, some do and quit in a couple of weeks. Without any doubt, there is a percentage of these people who will actually become a day to day runners and compete in marathons later, but it takes a lot of discipline to achieve a running career.
This is why we are going to deliver some interviews in the upcoming months with people who have actually crossed the barrier and are now running for +10 years.
First up, we are catching up with Dr. Attila Puskás, an experienced runner who has competed in many marathons and ultra-marathons. I think that this interview should inspire many to keep going even after those hard first months when starting running.
ZT: Hi Attila, tell us a bit about yourself and your runner career.
AP: Hi, I’m 54 years old (male), vascular physician (angiologist) and I run on a regular basis since 2007 (13 years). I’ve completed 41 Marathons and 11 Ultramarathons until now, running on average of 150 Km/month. My longest distance ever was 80Km around a stadium which was a mental challenge also.
ZT: Do you consider yourself to be physically predisposed to be an endurance athlete/runner? What were your athletic capabilities before embarking on this road?
AP: No, not at all. I consider myself a normal man without any special predisposing qualities but living a conscience lifestyle that includes mental health practices (meditation, spirituality) and a whole-food plant-based diet (scientifically considered the healthiest way to eat). Of course, there might be some physically predisposing factors that might aid my performance but I consider much more important the daily lifestyle habits than the genetic factors (in my opinion epigenetic surpasses genetic determinations). Before my running career, I did a little sport, maybe once a week. In school, I practiced basketball (3 years). I’ve never been overweight.
ZT: What was the spark that inspired you to become a multi marathon finisher? What ultimately led you to the decision to make a lifestyle change?
AP: I was inspired definitely by a spiritual teacher, named Sri Chinmoy who teaches meditation and other practices about “inner running toward divinity” and whose philosophy tells us that the “inner and outer running” must go together. According to him, the body is a temple and the soul is the shrine. The body must be kept in a good condition to become an appropriate shelter for the soul. So first I did meditation and shortly after I started to run on a regular basis.
ZT: What was your first step when starting your career as a runner?
AP: I started first with short distances but on a regular basis. (at least 3-4 times/week).
ZT: Tell us a bit about what the running routine involves? Also, can you give us a typical schedule of a week’s schedule for you?
AP: In my opinion, an ideal running routine at one hand involves sufficiently intense and long workouts performed with regularity and on the other hand needs the necessary recovery time for the body. All these have to be built gradually and in balance with each other. It is also important to include other types of physical activities than running (strength exercises, cycling, swimming, etc.)
My schedule includes an average of 3-4 running and 2 other activities (strength exercises, cycling, swimming depending on the season) per week.
ZT: How did your body respond to the training during the first years and how does it respond now?
AP: I suffered a lot because I did not respect some basic rules (mainly the need for recovery and the necessity of a gradual increase in the loading) therefore I’ve had many small injuries (knee, ankle, tendons). Meanwhile, I learned also how to warm up and stretch correctly and my structures adapted quite well so nowadays I have fewer injuries and hurts despite my age. Now I understand much better the language of my body.
ZT: What is the one constant motivation that keeps you on track daily/weekly?
AP: After several years of doing sport and running with regularity, it has become an integral part of my life and that is an utmost necessity for me like excretion. One can say I’ve become addicted to my own endorphins but this is a quite good addiction …
ZT: What was the greatest challenge you faced while starting to run longer sessions?
AP: The long-distance running first of all was a spiritual journey or a spiritual goal to be completed to me (to transcend my own actual capacity, the idea of so-called “self-transcendence” ) so the mental aspect was much better than the physical one. The greatest challenge was always to surpass my body’s struggling and pain.
ZT: Can you describe any diet changes that were necessary to perform at this higher level?
AP: I became vegetarian (since 2008) and then complete vegan (since 2019) but the correct term would be: I consume now a whole food plant-based diet which is more than a simple vegan (which could include also unhealthy processed foods, oils, and refined sugars). My dietary changes first had the spiritual motivation (not to eat restlessness with the animal body) but my switch to an integral whole food plant-based diet had scientific motivations also (major health and environmental benefits from it according to the available scientific literature). After this switch, I feel on my own body a huge positive impact regarding my performance and my recovery also.
ZT: What was your strategy in managing pain during difficult segments of the marathons you have finished?
AP: I surpassed the pain with my mental strength mainly by mantras, prayers, and visualizations. I simply tried to visualize how I finish successfully the session. At the same time, I tried to channel my attention to a topic that was able to redirect my mental status from the pain to something else. Let’s say I recalled some nice and pleasant memories from my childhood or episodes from every year I remembered since I’ve born. Meanwhile, I was changing my pace and was starting to walk for a while. It is very useful to walk a little time to time during a very long run session.
ZT: Do you recommend any books, products or websites that helped you along the way?
AP: The best inspiration for me is Sri Chinmoy and his writings about sport and meditation (you can google it). Of course, there are many ultra-runners, mainly vegans who inspired me like Scott Jurek (and his book: Eat and Run).
ZT: What would be one piece of advice you would give to an aspiring endurance athlete? What is your message to someone who’s about to embark on his dream?
AP: My message is: keep going on, don’t give up, pay attention to your mental health and diet also, do it regularly, and give time enough for recovery. To find an optimal personalized balance between all these -this is your art in your own life. Be your own artist 😊
ZT: Running and spirituality. Do you think these two are connected in any way?
AP: As I told you before, according to my spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy’s philosophy, for me the inner running and the outer running are the two facets of the same coin and are inseparable. In this way, running is not a selfish ego-centered activity practiced only for the sake of physical performance but would become an integral part of your life transformation and self-transcendence process as a whole. If you meditate you run better and if you run you meditate better. This is so simple…
ZT: Could you explain in your own words, what self-transcendence means? It’s a term we often find among runners.
AP: Every human being has always more capacity than the ego-self is aware of. Self-transcendence (ego-transcendence) means for me a conscious awareness about a potentiality with which I can always do (and then I try to do) a little more than I feel I’m capable of at the first glance at that particular moment. It does not necessarily mean that I will increase my pace and distance to the infinite in my life period. No. This means that I am capable to do a little more than I feel I can do at a given moment.
ZT: What’s next for you in life?
As I’ve mentioned in the intro of our interview, we hope that this piece will inspire you in your journey towards self-transcendence and your running activities will not be just merely bullet points on a list.
More inspiring interviews will follow soon as we plan to launch a sports tech segment here on PICANTE.