2016 was not easy for me. I lost my mother in September 2015. My father passed a month later. My grandparents could barely support themselves, so my wife and I temporarily moved in with them for the whole summer to help, and every day I saw how quickly they were getting older.

I tried my best to be busy most of the time to stay sane. But still, some days, I found myself lying on a bed, staring straight into space.

An app saved me.

It was Runtastic.

Ildar on a run.

I’d never run before. A few laps of jogging at most. Or sprinting a hundred yards to catch a bus, that was it.

Just to do something, I installed the app, got dressed and went for a run. After 1.5 kilometres, I was dead. My face was burning red, and I could barely breathe. But at the same time, I felt awesome. I felt full of mental energy, like a switch went on in my brain.

Right after shower, I purchased a Premium account and paid for my first training plan, “Run for 50 minutes after 6 weeks.” Running for 50 minutes straight seemed totally impossible at the moment, but I committed to the plan and did it! Of course, I was slow (I still am), but I could run for 50 minutes without stopping or walking. Yes!

I didn’t want to stop there and needed the next goal. Something tangible. Something big, hairy and audacious.

A half-marathon. In four months!

Training for the first half-marathon was not easy, but I had never felt so good. 10 km seemed impossible, and here I am, doing it next week. A 16 km run coming in two weeks? Insane! And yet again, doing it.

It still feels great. I’m not an athlete. I’m a geek who spends 12-14 hours a day looking at a computer screen. But I could run seven half-marathons and one full marathon since that first day.

As the first class ice-breaker, I often ask students, “If you had to delete all but 3 apps from your smartphone, which ones would you keep?”.

For me, there’s a clear number one app that keeps me sane in the craziest times. Runtastic.