Michael Popov, you know who I am talking about, right? An amazing athlete and a gentle person left us earlier this month He took his last run in Death Valley, and like Caballo Blanco, he found his maker doing what he loved to do; running that is. I learned of his death and I simply couldn’t believe it, this guy as fit as one can be, as strong as he was… was… no more. It took me a little while to absorb the news, we weren’t close friends, but the times we interacted he showed to be a gentle giant.
I first met Michael at the end of a race back in 2007, he had crushed the course. And then, when he took over co-management of PCTR, Janet and I were very keen of the sweeping of the courses. We enjoyed being out there on our own, and sweeping the courses was something we enjoyed to do. Many times we cursed Michael since we found way too many ribbons out of our reach, us being vertically challenged. We brought that up to him, and his big smile was a sure indication that he was playing with us.
Michael lost his life after he miscalculated the distance of his run and the amount of water he needed. He and Sara Spelt went to Death Valley on a reconnaissance trip to scout their next event, a 100 mile race they were planning to stage next year. According to Sarah, he said “So, I may regret it, but I’m going to run from West Side Road to Badwater today. You can drop me off and drive to Badwater and pick me up.” According to Sarah, this was unlike him since he was a meticulous planner. Unfortunately this particular run was his last, Michael miscalculated the amount of water he would need to complete the “short” run in 120 degree temperatures. He was found lying on the asphalt after he actually completed his planned run, he was delirious but conscious. Unfortunately his condition worsened rather quickly and all resuscitations efforts failed, he died at the end of his last adventure. The cause of his death was “heat related, including asphyxiation due to pulmonary hemorrhaging”.
Michael was an amazing athlete, and it put in perspective my own mortality. I always told my friends, if I am going to die, I rather die running. Michael had no intention of dying that particular day, but it happened. And so recently, thanks Michael, I am faced with the growing awareness and acknowledgment that life isn’t forever and this day could be very well be my last. But instead of wallowing in fear and sadness, I am driven to make good choices, and focus on living (like Michael did). I rather “go” running.