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The Freedom of Wind

A few years back, the life of a young man who was on the free path of running turned upside down. The dream collapses. The smile goes, the freedom goes. An unexpected diagnosis leaves the running shoes in the cupboard forever and turns all familiar forest paths into an unattainable goal.

The human spirit hides unexpected strength! Within ourselves, we keep a spark that can revive us like a phoenix from the ashes.

Immerse yourself in the story of Damyan Nikolov, who will tell you about his journey – from taking part in running competitions; through being stuck on a hospital bed, until now, when for the third year in a row he is one of the main initiators and organizers of “Tour around Tryavna”

“Hello! My name is Damyan and I am one of the organisers of the event “Tour around Tryavna”. In the next few lines I am about to tell you my story and why organising this event became a mission for me.

My first run, I did not take seriously, this was during the first edition of Tryavna Ultra back in 2015. Then, without any issues, I ran the distance of 3 km. I decided to stay and wait for the runners doing the 65 km to cross the finish line. What I witnessed that day got me truly excited and motivated to start taking running seriously. I signed up to for the next year’s edition of Tryavna Ultra 2016. I chose a distance of 21 km. I started training. At the time, I also started reading a lot of motivational literature on the subject. It was hard. Gradually I increased the distance I ran and reached 15 km, however I knew that to  be able to complete 21 km I had long way to go. The day of the competition finally arrived. Early in the morning on my way to the start line, I met so many runners. I felt like being part of this community and somehow much more special than usual. I was convinced that committing to running was the best decision I have made in my life. With a steady paste, I finished within the control time and received my first medal. It was great. I met so many people, one of the amazing advantages when running. This was the only race I took part that year. I kept running. I was getting faster and more resilient.  I was not afraid of cold, snow, rain, sun, weather it was day or  night. I ran when I could. My favourite were the night runs. I was very motivated. I was preparing for the next year’s series – 2017. That year I participated in a number of events: Tryavna Ultra, Ludogorie Marathon, Via Pontica Cross-border Marathon, Black Sea Marathon, Tour around Tryavna. Despite my efforts, I was not a good runner. Although I was always among the last runners, I did manage to finish all the competitions I had signed up for. This motivated me even more, running and becoming part of this community felt so rewarding.

I continued running, but at the end of 2017 I started getting pains in my chest and back and felt short of breath. I was not feeling well. I went to see a doctor. They did an X-ray of my lungs and diagnosed me with pneumonia. I had to drop running and start a treatment. Despite the therapy, I was not getting better. I felt tired. At the beginning of 2018, I started running again. I was feeling unwell. I went to the doctor. New X-ray.  Once more – pneumonia. Again antibiotics. Another 2 weeks went without me feeling any improvement, so another X-ray and once more pneumonia. I continued the treatment with antibiotics. The weather out there was getting nice and warm so I started running again. My symptoms seemed to worsen. Despite the discomfort, running was my drug, so I joined Tarnovo Ultra and finished within the control time. I started to worry that I might have tuberculosis. Therefore, I went to a pulmonologist. He looked at the results from previous X-rays and said, “Boy, you’ve never had pneumonia!” I was shocked. For the past six months, I have been under a treatment for pneumonia that I never had! People around me started to disbelieve something is not right with my health. I was referred for a scan to double-check the X-ray results. The scan came out clean. The doctor analysing the results reassured me it was all fine but I was convinced that something is wrong. We agreed that I need further tests so he referred me for a CT scan. The results were staggering. It turned out that I had an ascending aortic aneurysm and a damaged valve in my heart. The aorta is the largest blood vessel in the human body. If it bursts, you die. I managed to book an appointment with cardiologist for the following week, as there were no time slots available any sooner. However, I did not get to attend that appointment at all…

One day before my scheduled visit to the cardiologist, I woke up with severe chest pain and shortness of breath. I called an ambulance and was taken to the hospital in Tryavna. Then transferred to the hospital in Gabrovo, where the doctors found out that the aneurysm was about to rupture. I was transported to Sofia where I had an emergency heart surgery. I had part of the aorta and my valve replaced.  Later I was diagnosed with rare genetic disease called Marfan’s syndrome. It is known to damage the heart and blood vessels as a result of connective tissue weakness. This happened in early July. I came home 1 month later. I could feel I was getting stronger day by day, but I was not allowed any physical activity … for the rest of my life. I wanted to continue being part of the running community.

At the beginning of autumn of 2017, I contacted one of the organisers of the “Tour around Tryavna”. I wanted to take part in setting up the event.  That year a dozen people came along. With my own funds I made little fridge magnets as a souvenir from the event. For better or worse, this is how I got involved in organising the “Tour around Tryavna”. My aim today is to show everyone, sick or healthy, that there is a way to be happy. Do not give up!

“Tour around Tryavna”

is a non-commercial event. There are no fees to sign up. Since 2019, there are also support points, thanks to sponsors. By its nature, the tour is 24 km trail running or cycling. The event is not competitive and mandatory. Everyone participates at their own risk. Thanks to sponsors, this year again there will be a souvenir from the event and support points. Join us on October 10 at 09.00 for the hiking route and at 10.00 am for running and cycling and become part of the adventure “Tour around Tryavna”.


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