Perhaps that's why Dino has just ordered an Italian bread roll with salmon and is dressed as a 21st century ‘Don Giovanni’. Having a mouth half full of food turns out to be no hindrance to good conversation; his capacity for rapid speech isn't far off the 182 hp of the ‘Dino Ferrari 206GT’. “Growing up close to Amsterdam teaches you to shout loudly, get attention, and stand up for yourself. You have to be a top dog. In Eindhoven the culture is a little different. Here, people sometimes feel I'm a loud mouth. After working in a project group, I've occasionally had feedback during the evaluation along the lines of ‘other people might like to say something too, you know’. To which I reply, ‘Yeah? Well they have a mouth, don't they?’”
Trailrunner and distance runner | Master's student of Manufacturing Systems and Engineering | E.S.R. Thêta | E.S.A.V. Asterix | Tau rhetoric society | Counter staff at Student Sports Centre Eindhoven
As a young boy, Dino was the kid who liked to color as close to the lines as he could get. The pupil the teacher would have to tell to ‘sit still!’ on a daily basis. At primary school he found no outlet for his boundless energy; he managed to get good grades without making any effort. To burn up his reserves before bedtime, he played sport five or six times a week. “My parents weren't particularly sporty, but they did make me take rescue swimming and do judo. Oh, and soccer. For my fifth birthday all I wanted was a soccer ball. When my kick-about in the living room ended with my mother's vases in pieces, they didn't waste any time enrolling me at Legmeervogels soccer club.”
Whenever Dino played sports, his father always got involved in some way. He taught his son all there is to know about the beauty of sport, and in recent years, unintentionally, all there is to know about the comfort it can offer. “My father had the sociable habit of joining me in whatever sport I did. If I took up judo, he did judo. If I took up tennis, he played tennis.” Motor sports was the only field in which Dino followed in his father's footsteps. “My father was an accountant, pretty boring really. But on his motorbike he didn't hold back and he had to surrender his driving license on several occasions. For my eighteenth birthday he gave me a motorbike, so he could ride it himself 80 percent of the time,” laughs Dino. “It was fun growing up in Uithoorn; there was plenty of outdoor play and sport. What more could you want?”
His time at TU/e started quietly enough, but in his second year Dino experienced the classic turning point. It was the age-old story of the sporty student who slowly cuts his ties with his home turf, discovers Stratum and accepts a life of sport that is tinged with rust. “At the age of nineteen I'd had enough of trundling back and forth to Uithoorn. I had a season ticket for Feyenoord, was an active member of E.S.R. Thêta, and was spending a lot of time studying. It all got too much; I dumped soccer and stopped rowing. I was still a coach at Thêta, but for the rest I was going out a lot and enjoying student life.”
With the news that his father had been diagnosed with cancer, Dino’s life as a barfly switched up a gear. Having been somewhere to go for a good time, the Stratumseind became a place to escape to. In bars you could see a Thêta-yellow lightning bolt dancing. His pain and worry about his father stayed outside with the bouncer. “In a bar I didn't need to think and hanging out in bars was an easy step for me. I am a sociable person and there was always someone around asking, ‘What are you doing this evening?’ I'd be propping up the bar at Thêta on Mondays, out in Stratum through the week, and going out somewhere with friends at the weekend. I don't regret those days spent on the town, but it was a pretence of being sociable. I was pushing my emotions to the ‘background’, and later they would come out when I was alone. I'd stopped earning any course credits and was spending hours in bed, crying.”
Thanks to his excessive partying and tremendous will to camouflage his emotions, Dino ended up on a dead-end street, and it seemed like he had lost his way for good. Eventually, a board year for Thêta and some motherly advice got him out of this cul-de-sac. The insecure show-off blossomed into an adult man. “I was a member of a really good board; they put a stop to my running away from things. I had to get actively involved, no two ways about it, and take responsibility. My mom advised me to see the TU/e psychologist. I've forgotten what questions he asked, but for the first time I cried for half an hour in the presence of another person. It felt hugely reassuring. From then on I started talking openly about my emotions.”
Right after his board year Dino got the news that his father had been diagnosed as terminally ill. Another hammer blow. But the new Dino 2.0 with 200 hp in courage avoided the bars and made tracks for the Student Sports Centre. “After my board year I was really fat, so I started working out and playing soccer at E.S.V.V. Pusphaira. The kilos disappeared and I felt increasingly comfortable with myself. Unfortunately I got all sorts of injuries and I had to go running to aid my recovery. While I was working on the SSC info desk one time, fellow student Michiel de Vries, who I knew from my barfly days, spoke to me: ‘I keep seeing you out running and I want to do the Eindhoven half-marathon in 2016. Want to join me?’." It was the trigger for Dino's running career.
The world wants you to believe that a lot of things are important. They are, but not all are important to you
With his unbridled sense for exaggeration, Dino was soon training six times a week. All according to his own philosophy and strict schedules. He became addicted to running. Was this another form of escapism? “Of course!” But this time, according to Dino, it sprang from consciously choosing for himself: “The guy who was everybody's friend no longer exists. I have said ‘yes’ so often to things I didn't want to do. Now I put myself first, and I arrange to meet up with people who I'm keen to see. When you asked me to do this interview, I thought, ‘It's a good chance for self-reflection, that'll be good for me’ - so I said yes.”
“That's how I weigh up everything: relationships, work, sport, going out. It sounds selfish, but it is self-protection. It doesn't in any way mean that I don't want to help other people, but running offers me so much that I set other things aside for it. While I'm running, I think about everything: how I organize my day, future plans, my running technique… it is a reset-moment. When I'm at my desk, I don't allow myself an hour to stare into the distance and reach a decision. But I do when I'm running, and at the end of a run far fewer things are going round in my head. The world wants you to believe that a lot of things are important. They are, but not all of them are important to you.”
During his father's illness, running provided the ultimate distraction. Now and then he was able to forget about everything, but occasionally death seemed to keep pace with him on the roadside. “Gradually, over time, my father's disease became an ever-present factor. Still, that didn't stop each piece of bad news being another hammer blow. With the knocks becoming ever harder, the remedy was to do more and more running. One time, I'd spend an hour running in tears, another time I'd be able to forget everything for a while. Both are good. Not bottling it up, letting it go. Sometimes it meant having a poor training session, but that was okay too.”
Whereas other runners gain satisfaction from the running itself, Dino is chiefly interested in the result. What is he gaining from a session ? “Often running isn't actually any fun. Training isn't any fun. It often hurts and training sessions are very long, certainly if you don't do interval training. In the woods, thank heavens, you get to run bends now and again, but in the city it's acutely boring. And you often train alone, which is mentally tough. The reward doesn't come until you run a personal record in a competition or perform better than expected. Of course, the entire process is interesting, but for me it's always, ultimately, about the result. How I make that happen is neither here nor there.”
Stanley Verhoef passed away on March 14, 2018. “I'm at peace with his death, his pain is over. I miss him very much, but I had two-and-a-half years to say goodbye to him, and to gain more wonderful memories. An experience I'll treasure was the hundred-kilometer rowing trip I made with my fellow society members to raise 5,000 Euros for the Dutch Cancer Society (KWF). Dad stood on the bank among all the supporters.”
Dino’s sights are now set on the future, including where running is concerned. The great time he ran in the Rotterdam marathon is just the start. “I am never satisfied with my running. I am always occupied with the next goal. Turning in ultimate performances, pushing boundaries, and taking risks are what drives me. This summer I'm doing a 57-kilometer trail run on the Mont Blanc. My ambition is to complete the course and finish among the top ten percent. In December there's the next event, the Valencia Marathon, and then the ‘Sixty of Texel’. When I'm thirty I'll run the ‘Marathon des Sables’ in the Sahara and when I'm forty I'm going to climb Mount Everest. Write that down: I'll be standing on top of Mount Everest,” he says with a mischievous twinkle in his eye and his instinct for taking things to extremes.
But do not doubt Dino’s determination. You never know when lightning will strike, with the exception of 2033 on Mount Everest.
Raymond Starke works at the TU/e Student Sports Centre, in the midst of more than 13 thousand sport card holders who frequently (or less frequently) do sports to their heart's content. Once every four weeks, he interviews a student or employee for Cursor on the topic of ‘the beauty and consolation of sports’.
Top photo: Bart van Overbeeke