Pop's up for the Race

Entoni Šeperić Start Date: Oct 3, 2019 - End Date: Jan 30, 2020

My Travel Story

by: Entoni Šeperić Start Date: Oct 3, 2019 - End Date: Jan 30, 2020
In the preface to a book of first-class travelogues, an author recounts a tale of a local bey complaining to his friend that he has never traveled more than 20 km outside his small town. While the friend sighed in disbelief, the bey simply added: “You know, my friend, there is no greater mountain than one’s doorstep!”

I can scarcely conceive of a more reliable description of the misery of our modern, sedentary lives. On the other side, there was hardly a time when it was so comfortable and easy to travel, and yet the mountain persistently remains where it always was – at our doorsteps. Threatening and intimidating.

I began passing over that mountain several years ago. Beginnings had been hard as any other beginning; I could barely cycle more than 20 km per day, after which I always needed a day or two for complete recuperation. My muscles were often sore from stinging discomfort, and my brain refusing to collaborate with the extremities. My physical abilities and my objectives at that time were rather limited and abysmally corresponding. Only I am not born to be an average loser.

I was born in Sarajevo 41 years ago in to-day Bosnia and Herzegovina. Some of you may recall the name from the evening news since it was a war-zone couple of decades ago. Still, the older ones might even recall it as the venue of the 1984’ Winter Olympics. However, and contrary to popular judgment in my hometown, there’s nothing in the air we breathe that makes us destined to become athletes. 

I was spared from direct misery of the war. (Losing a grandparent and most of the childhood memories certainly does not make one a martyr.) Warring, however, is such a commonplace in the Balkan history - of which even Churchill wittily remarked to be “an area in excess of historical memory per square mile” - that we ordinarily think it as a routine. As far as I can recall, there was not a single ancestor in my family that has not attended at least one war; it is not solely a historical, but also a family curse. And cycling is my war.

Through my theological and philosophical studies, I amassed a plethora of socially undervalued and mostly irrelevant knowledge. References to Virgin Mary as Theotokos or Christotokos most certainly won’t jeopardize your physical integrity as it used to in antiquity; it is only one among the most obvious benefits of the Enlightenment, which is certainly not underappreciated. And yet, a myriad of its less obvious disadvantages – such as Friday evening sitcom overdose – pass under the covert of a life drugged by commodities. The fact that we humans are trained to prefer the very facticity of our lives over their quality is demonstrated by every serious philosophy worthy of the name, apart from nihilism. But we humans also yearn for a deeper sense of meaning and purpose.

For most of my “grown-up” years, however, I was unaware of capitalism’s gimmick: your worth is in your earnings. However, the optics changed when I admitted to give up my career and support my wife in getting a job that she always longed for. Our family had to move from Sarajevo to Zagreb in 2014, and I suddenly found myself wedged between the washing machine cycles, cooking and tending for our two minors. Housewifeliness indeed creates a deeper bond with your kin, but it does leave a quite bit of scars as well. I felt like I needed to reinvent myself.

My first trips traversing the doorstep mountain, to be honest, were simple shortcuts to mental sanity. I had no previous cycling experience whatsoever, let alone in long-distance, unsupported travel. One day I snatched the opportunity and announced to my family that I intend to cycle from Zagreb to Peljesac peninsula, at the southernmost corner of the iconic Adriatic coast, instead of driving with them. At that time, those funny words like audax, randonneur, bikepacking or similar, sounded pretty much Klingon to me. But the first time I tasted it, it just clicked with me, and I was completely amazed and absorbed. 

Prepping for my first unsupported bike travel was abysmally funny; whatever I got along, I simply couldn’t make it weigh less than 40 kilograms! I was fast learning the meaning of the word – rookie. As I was reinventing myself along the way, I slowly progressed and grew in experience and determination. Nowadays I tour between 800 and 1000 km per year, which is not that much at all, but I feel ready for a more serious challenge. Long-distance cycling is not only a real test of one's physical strength, but it is also an utmost adventure, and a test of resourcefulness, wittiness, and mental strength. It offers an opportunity to challenge ourselves in numerous new and exciting ways, reminding us that the real human strength is to be sourced from within, as well as from a recovered sense of unity with nature.

Thus, I decided to go for the Atlas Mountain Race in February 2020 – an unsupported, single-stage cycling race that begins in Marrakesh, crosses the Moroccan Atlas before taking riders through the Anti-Atlas and on to Agadir – it's an 1145 km long trip, with about 20000 m climbing! And that is quite a challenge! The clock does not stop and there are no prizes for completing the race, apart from the finishing itself. Aside from the obvious roughness of the terrain, it is very hard for me to fund the trip since I will have to fly from Zagreb to Marrakesh and back, buy some specialized bike equipment, and pay for the insurance and race fees. I already have the bike, and most of the other equipment needed for such an adventure, but I will most definitely need a new set of dedicated bike tires. And this is way too much for our limited family budget. 

But I am not fundraising just for myself. We may all be equally precious and valued, but we simply do not start from the same starting position; some are simply more privileged or more entitled than the rest. In an unsupported, long-distance bike race, however, it all boils down to your strengths and weaknesses. Therefore, I resolved to act as an ambassador for a non-profit Centre for Culture of Dialogue from Rijeka, Croatia (check their Facebook page!), and their program “Moje mjesto pod suncem” (My Place Under the Sun). It is a program of social inclusion for children from socially marginalized and deprived families from the urban center of Rijeka and Primorsko-Goranska county in Croatia. Their staff and volunteers work on a day-to-day basis to identify and hold up the talents of scores of our youngsters, who were simply denied the chance they needed to shine in the fullness of their true potential due to socially conditioned opportunity gaps.

I’ve set a conservative limit for this campaign. My expenses, as you can see from the budget, are limited to the essentials that enable me to participate in the race, and the rest I will donate to the “My Place Under the Sun” program. Upon successful completion of the race, hopefully, I will spend some time with the children and share my passion for long-distance cycling, as well as my experiences from the trip. Each donor, if so desired, will receive a personalized thank-you note with more substantial info about the program itself and the use of donated money. However, if I do not succeed in collecting enough money for participation in the race, or if I am not approved for the race by the organizers, I will cut down my costs and set up an alternative bike trip to raise awareness and collect the money for the program. That much seems fair: I need not go unless the program gets enough support.

I am grateful for each of your donations!


  • It Started Rolling...

    It started rolling...
    Dear friends, I probably didn't think this through... But it is better that way! I am already thrilled with the response so far, and I just wanted to thank you all for your help and kind words of support. However, I have to share with you a story of my old high school friend that touched my heart... Thank you, Iva!
    "I just donated to my friend's travel. I think it's crazy brave to go for such race. I also admire his courage in life. Just read his text even if you don't plan to donate, it's a nice read.
    Here is our story. In high school, I was a creative kid in a classroom full of maths, chemistry, and physics whiz kids. I felt a bit discouraged and wanted to do something meaningful. My classmate Entoni Šeperić felt similar. While our families were being glued to TV and papers looking for the news from the battlefield in our war-torn country we designed and ran one week art event in our school. We wanted to be included. We wanted meaning. We wanted equal opportunity to express. We were not thinking much, we were doing it. We got funding, principal's endorsement, school facilities, media support, one week off classes, and named it Footprints. The whole week creative kids from the basements and garages were standing in the main hall doing theater performances, visual arts, poetry evenings, and rock concerts. We were 15 years old and we were brave. It is so hard to be that brave now. Entoni found a way. Pushing your human self to hardest limits to show the power of dedication and responsibility for a good couse. Donate to his travel now and help make some meaningful footprints."