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  • Writer's picture Irina

137km later…

Updated: Aug 23, 2021

(Written on Sunday, August 15th 2021)

My summer holidays

… I am on the plane flying home. Easyjet flight 8093, Thessaloniki to Gatwick. I have done the pre-travel test, filled in the PLF form, booked the Day 2 test. My 'Out of office' automated email response expires tonight. I have said goodbye to my family and friends and after three lovely weeks in Greece I am homeward bound. The time I spend in Greece has been a wonderful holiday, a break from the everyday routine, in all ways but one: Running, running and then a bit more running in between the running. Running before something, running the next day, running here, there and everywhere. And when I wasn’t running I was thinking, planning or talking about running.

Too much running if you ask me.

I felt challenged. Many days it was like pushing against a giant wall 137km long, in sweltering heat (the hottest heatwave on record since 1987), temperature rising to 40°C or more), alarms set as early as 4.45am, water flasks stuffed in my bra leaving me with painful blisters across my chest, more blisters on toes, bruised toenails, and zapped of energy at random parts of the day. I felt a bit sorry for myself on some pre-run days when I would have to say no to a late night and a drink. I felt sorry for myself when the alarm went off and I was shoving tahini and honey down my throat at 5.30am. And to top it all off I had to face my big running nemesis: new routes, combined with very long runs.

All of that is quite ridiculous of course, when I compare it to what was happening in the real world. Fires raging all around Greece, lives and livelihoods lost, devastation, environmental disaster and sadness beyond compare. I feel I need to say this, because what I talk about loses all significance when compared to super human efforts by firemen and volunteers fighting to stop disasters such as the one we had this year.

The diary I kept

Athens, July 24: Holidays day #1, Marathon Training #18

o 27km, Athens riviera, 4:45am alarm

o 31°C

o Felt nervous

o Longest run to date

o One wrong turn

o Unnecessary hills (due to wrong turn)

Spetses, July 27: Running in Spetses

o 12km

o 35°C

o Felt happy

o Shade from the pine trees and stunning views of the sea

o Free pace (always a treat)

o Loads of baby pheasants (unexpected)

Athens, July 29: Intervals!!

o 6.5km, Northern suburbs

o 32°C

o Felt confident

o Struggled to find 400m of flat road

o Man sat outside his house drinking coffee seemed confused with all the running back and forth. Can’t blame him

Thessaloniki, July 31: Homecoming!

o 14km, seafront

o 34°C

o Home to seafront (15’ drive)

o Felt ready

o Forgot my watch

o Seafront to home (15’ drive)

o Home to seafront (15’ drive)

o Started running 8am, 31 degrees…

o Felt blah

o Witnessed a lively argument between a runner and fishermen. Supported the fishermen

o Have had better runs

Thessaloniki, Aug 5: Seafront Love

o 12km, seafront

o 33°C

o Remembered the watch

o Felt at home

o Enjoyed the run

o Took photos

o Spoke to fishermen (not the ones that were involved in the argument)

Halkidiki, Nikiti, Aug 7: Another seafront, another run!!

o 12km, Nikiti village seafront

o 31°C

o Best run to date

o Felt joy

o Pulled my groin towards the end and couldn’t walk home

o Felt worried I had a serious injury and visions of not being able to run

Halkidiki, Kassandra, Aug 10: Marathon training #25, was 25km!

o 25km, where else? Along the seafront!

o 35°C

o Fed up with running

o Groin injury hurt a lot after the 15th km

o Taverna lady gave me warning on stray dogs

o Tripped and almost fell flat on my face. Cyclist behind was worried he had jinxed me

o Swimming in the sea straight after was magical

o I was happy again

Halkidiki, Kassandra, Aug 12: Morning run

o 7.5km

o 31°C

o Interval training

o Thank the lord for 1’15’’ stops between intervals

o Sea was choppy so no swimming

Thessaloniki, Aug 14: Last of the holiday runs

o 21km

o 34°C

o I am so fed up of running

o I did 25km 2 days ago. This is not right

o Slowest pace I can remember

o Jealous of people walking or cycling, thinking “Do they know how lucky they are?”

Carb loading!

The lessons I learned

1. I am NEVER again running a marathon that requires training during July and August. NEVER, EVER.

2. I like running more than I ever knew.

3. Just keep drinking (water). Running in extreme heat (40 degrees) is impossible without litres of water before, during and after a run.

4. Quality over quantity of food, wins every time. Quality fueling my body and making me feel strong . Quantity making me lethargic and weak. (Eat well, digest easily, feel light, work hard, repeat).

5. I need sleep. I do not function properly without it. (Sleep soundly, dream on, wake up ready to go!).

6. Running outside my comfort zone(s) is not always pleasant but it really builds up stamina, both mentally and physically.

7. I am more resilient than I thought.

8. My mindset is mine to control. Staying positive is up to me.

9. Not everyone understands what I am doing and why and that is absolutely fine.

10. I am more determined than ever to run the marathon and enjoy it.

A very big thank you goes to Antigoni for being an amazing running ‘hostess’. From making sure we had ample supplies of tahini and honey, to cooking pasta at 11pm, to patiently taking me through the routes which I find impossible to follow and remember, to encouraging me when the going was tough and being the best running buddy! We made some lifetime memories and as Antigoni predicted, I have already forgotten the pain and frustration. All I remember is that in the summer of 2021 I ran with my brilliant friend. Together we conquered the distances, we laughed and cried, we watched the sunrise.

Because you see, despite the early mornings, the small sacrifices here and there, the mental struggles, the moments of doubt, the fear and the unbelievable tiredness, I came out the other end, stronger and more determined than ever. I know I will do whatever it takes now. So, bring it on. Bring on the 30km next Sunday, bring on work tomorrow, bring on the good , the bad and the ugly. Bring it all on. I am alive and kicking and I am not planning to stop anytime soon.

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Sep 01, 2021

Love this! Your schedule is making me feel very inadequate! Amazing achievements building up to the big one in 10days time!



Aug 24, 2021

Just amazing Irina. Well done. You will smash this x


Aug 24, 2021

The unknown member is mom....


Aug 23, 2021

My brilliant friend let’s just do it!


Aug 22, 2021

Just reading your running diary makes me feel tired! How you managed to run in those conditions I’ll never know. So much respect for you doing it, especially when you’re supposed to be on holiday relaxing!!

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