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An Endurance Athlete's Favorite Books: Interview with Ultrarunner Robert Hajnal

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What you’ll read next is an interview with one of the best Romanian ultra runners. Robert Hajnal recently had his 28th birthday and, although he’s able to run (and win) races that are 100 miles long, he’ll sometimes be too lazy to take out the trash and rather stay inside his house and read.

Besides his impressive records as an athlete, Robert also has a military career and manages several side-projects linked to running:
His blog, where he shares stories from competitions, details about what training and nutritional plans he follows, but also reveals more personal details, such as lessons he learned or book recommendations.
Trail Running Academy – Robert’s also a running coach, so on this website, besides the services he offers (training plans for runners), he also shares for free lots of educational resources. During the cold season, he also organizes workshops for runners who want to learn more and improve their skills.
UltraFood – this is another project he contributes to. You’ll find personalized meal plans, recipes and nutritional tips for athletes.

However, don’t expect to find any books dedicated solely to running in our interview. While that might seem strange at first, Robert recommends books that will help you develop a stronger mind. Ultrarunning is as much a mental challenge as it is a physical one. If you don’t have a strong, clear mind, able to embrace the discomfort of running up and down mountains, several marathons in a row, day and night (and sometimes even multiple days and nights), you don’t stand a chance.

Read and learn from one of the most self-disciplined and highly focused persons I’ve ever met:

What’s your favorite book and why? Business and non-business, if possible.

Business wise: “Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose“, by Tony Hsieh.

I chose this book because it taught me how important it is that your business represents you and that you passionately believe in it. I also learned from it the importance of organizational culture, and that the endpoint of a sale should always be customer’s happiness, not the money-product/service exchange;

On the same level is “Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future“, by Peter Thiel. From it I learned that the best way to grow a business is by dominating a small niche and grow from there with an ambitious long-term vision.

Combining ideas from both books I reached the conclusion that all you need at first is a happy customer to have a growing long-term business.

And one book that is not business-related?! “Ender’s Game“, definitely!

Was there a moment, specifically, when something you read in a book helped you? Can you tell me about it?

Whenever I need help in any domain, no matter if it’s marketing, running or business related, I go look for it in books.

When I want to build something from 0 to 1, I’ll read books that help me brush my idea.

I think that Jay Conrad’s “Guerrilla Marketing” and Gary Vaynerchuk‘s videos were the best tips that helped me.

What books had the biggest impact on you? (perhaps changed the way you see things, dramatically changed your career path)

Robert Kiyosaki’s “Rich Dad Poor Dad” stopped me from making a mistake and buying a car – because it wasn’t an asset. It also convinced me to invest in shares, while the books “Rule no.1” and “The Snowball” taught me how to choose them.

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What books would you recommend to youngsters interested in your professional path? Why? (no number limit here)

For runners:

For growing a business:

I’m interested in finding out more about your reading habits. How often do you read? In what format?

I read every day. 40% on paper, ebooks the rest of the time.

How do you make time for reading?

I’ll often use reading as a break from my daily tasks. In addition, I also use it as a research tool. I’ll choose books based on what tips I need for the projects I’m working on.

Do you take notes or have any other technique for conquering the torrent of information?

If a paragraph in a book impresses me, I’ll write about it on my blog with a recommendation to that book.

If it’s an idea that I think it might prove useful at some time, I’ll copy it in a document (there I usually keep metaphors I liked, ideas, strategies or techniques).

How do you choose what books to read next?

I have a list where I’ll add all the recommendations I encounter in other books, from persons I appreciate and, recently, from The CEO Library.

Do you prioritize those recommended by certain people? Is there anyone that you consider a book-recommendations guru?

I don’t consider anyone to be a recommendations guru because each of us prioritizes books based on context, how much they influenced them, and if they found themselves in those ideas. If a stranger recommends you a book, then it’s clear that it positively affected them and it’s most likely a good book.

Last question: what book are you currently reading and what are you expecting to gain from it?

I am currently reading two books:

Sell with a story – Paul Smith: my goal is to learn how to create a strong story behind a product that I am presenting to the market;

Trust me I’m Lying – Ryan Holiday: I’m trying to get ideas for online marketing strategy for the project I’m currently developing: .

Links where you can follow Robert Hajnal or find out more about his projects:

All the books mentioned by Robert in this interview:

Published in October 2017.


Robert wants to teach other people everything he knows about running. Throughout the next months he’ll run a series of workshops in the 10 biggest Romanian cities, where he’ll talk about how he became an ultra-performer in such a short time (he started running only 7 years ago) and without getting injured (an outlier in the ultrarunning world). He’ll teach those who attend how to build a training plan that will help them improve their running and achieve their goals.

Here’s the good news: The CEO Library partnered up with Robert for this series of events, so our readers get a 10% discount for all his workshops! Here are the discount codes you can use to signup – just don’t think about it too much, as they can be used only for a limited number of normal price tickets (not the VIP ones). And I’ll see you this Saturday (November 10th) at the first workshop, in Bucharest 🙂

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