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I know it’s been a while since I last posted something, but it takes time for wounds to heal. While some never do. I tried to find the perfect topic, but nothing seemed good enough. At the end of the day, I realized that sometimes it’s not about what you’re writing about but what you’re trying to say. Today I want to talk about my story, about what I’ve learned, and what I’m still learning.
Since I came to the States, Mondays started to become enjoyable. It’s all thanks to those 15 minutes in which, before a new week of training begins, we sit in the fieldhouse and listen to coaches and athletes talking about different topics – confidence, commitment, and probably my favorite: “why?” Why are you doing this? Why are you here? Why are you waking up every single day, even when you don’t want to, and drag yourself to practice? Why are you not giving up during hard times? Why?
Ever since I was a child, my parents taught me what it meant to love what you do. They would leave me alone for hours so they could run, and I would look out the window, dreaming about the day when I will finally join them. Despite the sacrifices, whether we talk about money, injuries, time, they never stopped doing what they loved most. Even till the last breath…
My dad passed away on February 28th, 2019. Although there is not a day that I don’t think about him, knowing he died doing what he loved helps me find peace. I don’t know what his “why?” was, but what I do know is that when your very last breath, last thoughts, and last steps all happen doing what you love, there is no reason to explain yourself. His “why?” was sincere, his passion genuine, and no words could describe what running meant to him. Somewhere on the streets of Ravna Gora, Croatia, where the sunsets take your breath away, and the sounds of nature bring you peace – a man with a big heart, a loving husband and father, an annoying but protective brother, a son like many would wish for, a passionate athlete – taught me a lesson I will never forget. As I said, I don’t know what was his “why?” was, but ever since, I’m trying to discover mine.
Six years ago, I decided to give running a try, but I never thought I would get where I am today. I never thought I would love a sport this much. In 2016, after I started mountain running, I got my ass kicked multiple times. I understood that if I wanted to succeed, I had to put in a lot of work. I realized mountain running was what I loved and was ready to give it everything I had – change old habits, rethink my priorities, focus on myself. Since that day, I haven’t looked back once, never regretted my decision. I only looked at what was ahead of me, a life full of opportunities. I have found my first true love. And now, thousands of miles away from home, from my mountains and my beloved mountain running, I’m starting to understand the meaning of “first love is never forgotten.” Neither is what you learn from it. You might ask yourself, what does this have to do with your “why?” Well, there is something about mountain running that changes your life forever. It made me the person I am today – both on a personal and athletic level. It taught me that I’m not the type of athlete who sets goals based on somebody else, whether it is a teammate, an idol, or a competitor. I want to be the best version of myself. I want to conquer mountains, prove I’m capable of anything I set my mind to – I want to shoot for the stars and go past them. I think my best races were those in which I forgot about everybody else and focused on my love for the sport.
The day I found out my dad had passed away, I forgot what my “why” was. I forgot everything. There were no mountain tops, no love, no passion. I lost my confidence, my will to put in work. There were days when I thought I would never be able to run again. I thought I would never be able to focus, train, or set new goals. The only thing I knew was pain, an endless amount of pain. There was nothing I wanted more than to wake up from the nightmare my life has become. Running became the source of my pain and the one thing keeping me alive. Days, weeks, and months had passed by before I finally found myself again and understood why it is so important that you do the things you love and love the things you do. When everything around you starts falling apart, when things seem hopeless, and you can’t see the light, remember why you started. Remember the tears of happiness when you were on the world podium, singing the national anthem with your team. Remember the way you felt hugging your coach at the end of a race. Remember the mid-run talks, unlimited amounts of post-race cake, how proud your grandma was when you told her about your win. Remember why you love this so much. But most importantly, remember to love yourself. I’m still working on that part, but I would like to hear your stories, your “why?” We might have different paths, different goals, and different reasons, but beautiful stories need to be shared. You are never alone. You are enough. Remember that. Remember your “why?”