www.trenujeme.sk: Interview with Runeller Matej Šemšej about his running journey around the world
(Interview published on 23 January 2019)
Matej comes from Bratislava and the last 10 years he has been living in Prague. He works as an HR Director in one of the American IT corporations. After 15 working years, which started during the university, he decided for a career break and for one year he is literally running around the world. In his early years he played football, after that he spent years in the gym and ended up with running in 2009. In 2015 he started with triathlon. So far, he finished 17 marathons, 2 long distance triathlons, 6 half distance triathlons, 32 official half marathons (a half marathon distance he runs few times a month in his training) and number of shorter races.
What was you most intensive sport experience and where?
If we are talking about official races, I will never forget my first marathon in life in 2010 in Prague (today I am only laughing about the rookie mistakes I did) or my first long distance triathlon in Germany (the world’s famous Challenge Roth in 2017).
If we are talking about my current running journey through the world, I was very happy to complete the half marathon in Penang/Malaysia on the 27th rank or the half marathon in the ancient Angkor Wat/Cambodia on the 43th rank (on both races thousands of people participated). The most emotional so far was the marathon in Singapore, where I wasn’t fit (intestines and fever). After half of the race I was decided to quit but my will said I will continue so I did and finally finished with a time which I will most probably never ever repeat. It was more about finishing it for any price as I had to close one life chapter in this city (with a horrible marathon experience:). Simply, I couldn’t throw the towel after half of the race…
Very strong experience was also running during a Vietnamese sunset, through the Australian forest or barefoot through a never-ending Australian beach, or a run through the temples of the rainy ancient town Bagan in Myanmar. In Indonesia I was lucky to train with pros from Kenya, who just finished a half marathon at the island Lombok. My good training tempo was their jogging. They were complaining about the heat, so we always started after five in the morning. 🙂
Where did you find the motivation about the life style you are living?
In a certain moment of the year 2017 I realized, that I am not happy with my current life, where it goes, what direction. It was too much of stereotype, routine and negative emotions in it. I knew I want to experience something special, an adventure I will never forget. Travelling around the world with the backpack without a vision and trying to „find myself“ would not be for me, I knew that I want to create a project where I will connect all the things I love – travelling, running and charity. I couldn’t imagine giving up on sport for a longer time and the same time I wanted to contribute with my little part to a better world and help those, who really need it. Finally I feel motivated and fulfilled to write about these problems and inspire people back “at home” in Europe.
Perhaps it is the first time in my life, that I don’t have exact plans, which would be organized into the last detail. I know, what countries I want to visit, I have some time schedule, I paid for few races, but that is all. On the journey your life is changing every day. I started on 1 September 2018 and till summer 2019 I plan to run in approx. 20 countries. With running I contribute to the selected local charity organizations, for every kilometer I run I contribute with one USD from my own pocket.
What differences have you seen when participating on different events in different countries?
Most of the time I run for myself, in parks, botanical gardens, on beaches or in nature. Where it is not possible – for example in some of the South-East Asian cities you can be only dreaming about a city park – I run on streets. In every country I try to finish my stay with a half marathon at least, if there is no official race going on, I run the distance alone, during my training. Some of the locals consider me sometimes crazy, on a different day there are few other runners in the terrain too.
I also participated on few races in Asia and Australia so far. The main differences especially in the less developed countries lie in the organization. It can happen, that the start is delayed by half an hour easily, just because the local politician who should shoot from the starting gun, has a delay too. Sometimes they promise you the showers in the race materials and after the race you only find the table “showers” standing under a three, no showers there. Due the high temperatures and very high humidity most of the races start early in the morning, if not just after midnight (I experienced a marathon starting at 01:30 AM for ex.), on the other side there tend to be more refreshing station than we are used to. The weather is unpredictable, I experienced a race with a hot weather in the beginning, which turned out into a cloud-burst (the balloon of the pacemaker for 4 hours and 30 minutes was hit by a lightning and only this saved the runner from death). Especially in Asia you have a better chance to score well, even if you don’t run for your personal best – the weather and humidity is killing everyone. Last but not least, runners are cheerful, smiley and happy everywhere, every race abroad is from this perspective the same great experience as at home.