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  • Writer's picture Irina

Demons. Miracles. CATHARSIS.

Updated: Nov 21, 2022

“I beat them” is what I whispered in Antigoni’s ear when I hugged her, minutes after crossing the finish line of the 39th Athens Marathon. And by “them”, I meant my demons, especially the Athens ones that I have been fighting against for years. Demons are tough opponents, and every little victory needs to be celebrated.

Before... and After....

That is exactly what we did last weekend. Zara, Urska and I ran (a lot). Tim, Doug and Primoz made it possible. We celebrated , Greek style, with lifelong friends who embraced us and loved us and joined in until we became one big unbeatable group. We walked around modern and ancient Athens, we laughed, we cried, we hugged and kissed, we mixed cultures and languages, Greek, English, Slovenian, we made new friends, caught up with old ones. Our hearts and our minds were heightened and lifted and brightened by the eternal sun as it shines and reflects on the white marble of the Panathinaikon Stadium and the Acropolis and the pavements that I walked for 16 years. Family and friends from back home joined in. Messages, facetime, videos all so precious. It was like they were there. They were there. Love and friendship is the bridge that eliminates any physical distance.


Back to the demons for a minute. It’s an important point for me which is why I put it in the title! I’ve spoken about them in a previous post called “Athens”. I was looking for this marathon to be the battlefield where I would defeat them. They took the shape and form of kilometres and hills, endless hills, a relentless 20km climb which put the whole operation in jeopardy. It felt like I came close to defeat many times. Every time I felt dizzy, every time I got cold sweat, every time my muscles threatened with a cramp, every time my arm seized up, I thought about why I was doing this and I carried on, onwards and upwards. I followed all the advice I was given.”Run this one with your HEART” said Lucy, “Put the pain on a donkey, smack it’s bum and let it run away with it” said Liz.

Onwards and upwards. Slowly, slowly, the blue flags marking each kilometre became beacons, bringing me and all other runners closer to victory. You see that’s another thing. I was not fighting the battle alone. I knew Zara and Urska were ahead, paving the way. I also had an army of 15,000 around me and another 3,500 volunteers looking after us. Handing out the all so precious water. The demons never stood a chance. We crushed them with every step we took. It’s an amazing feeling when you run amongst so many people for so many hours. I felt part of an ever-moving human wave, noisy, alive, powerful and at the same time I felt alone, almost like I was in a vacuum, quiet, my heart beat being the rhythm my legs moved to. “I need a hero…” shouts Bonnie Tyler as I pass through a village. I sing along, but I feel that on this one day, I need to be my own hero.


Onwards and upwards, only another 12km of climb to go. Time for an energy gel. Replenishing energy before you run out of it, is crucial in any long distance race. It’s no good having a gel after you’ve hit the wall. For this reason, my run coach had clearly indicated that I would need 7 gels. 1 before I start and then on kilometres 7, 14, 21, 28, 32.5 and 38.5. I reach for the gels which are wedged in a special belt and quickly realise that I am missing one. It must have fallen off somewhere. I panic. What now? I need to skip a gel. Which one? What if I don’t make it? What if this is the reason I don’t make it to the finish line? My mind is racing. There’s nothing I can do really, so I try hard to stay positive. I can’t let this ruin my run. But why, why did this need to happen? I carry on. Not 3 minutes go by when I see it in the distance. A gel sachet lies on the road just ahead of me. Am I hallucinating? Is this an oasis that will disappear once I reach it? I get closer. It is the same brand as the one I lost. The exact same. It must be used, I am sure it’s used. I kick it gently and realise it’s sealed. IT’S SEALED. IT’S SEALED!!

My made up memory of that moment is even more dramatic. I hear gospel music and I imagine the clouds parting, sunrays coming through, delivering the gel. I pick it up. I thank the runner who dropped it. Hope they don’t miss it. I mean seriously, if this isn’t a little marathon miracle I don’t know what is. Also, it’s an omen. I will finish this race. Any doubts I had are now on the donkey, who runs up the sunrays and hides them in the clouds.

I know the universe is vast, beyond comprehension. I know our planet is a dot, humanity is a blip. I know all this. But in that moment, I felt that the forces of the universe worked their magic and joined me on my mission. Respect and humility for all that we do not know and don’t understand.

Onwards and upwards. Again. How is Zara doing? Has she finished? Urska must be over the line. I think about about our special journey and how we got here. It's a strange race this one. We were running the original route. The one Pheidippides ran all those years ago, to alert the city of Athens of their victory in the battle of Marathon. He ran barefoot and he died after delivering the news. I think about him. Hope he had better weather back in 490 BC and not the relentless heat we had in 2022 AC. Talk about global warming. I remember watching this race in previous years, in a big jacket, gloves and a woollen hat. Not covered in sun cream and risking dehydration because of the heat. Over 25 degrees in November? The route starts in the town of Marathon and it’s a 'straight' (inc)line to the stadium in Athens city centre. In that sense, It’s helpful knowing that each kilometre you run is left behind. There are no loops, or going back and forth. On the other hand, running through fields means there are very few crowds, little music, it’s rather quiet until you get close to the centre.

Start is on the far right... The only way is UP!

Our support groups were more important than ever. From kilometre 19 where my muscle spasms started and I felt I was going to pass out, all that kept me going was knowing I would see my Doug and my good friends on the 23rd. And then again, I knew I would see my friend Anna around the 30-32nd and again more friends around the 37th. Priceless help and wings on my shoes when my godson ran with me for a few minutes at kilometre 35... He now wants to run a marathon when he turns 18. I will be there to cheer him. I knew family and friends were tracking me via the app. I was a little blop moving along on their screens. I thought of them every time I passed a check point and got a boost knowing they were cheering from afar.


Tracking the blob!


Onwards and upwards. The blue flags suddenly seem so close to each other. 38, 39, 40… it’s almost over, how did I get here? The crowds thicken, the music is loud, I hear drums. I love a good drum band on a race. I see someone holding a sign “REMEMBER, YOU PAID TO DO THIS”. Did I? It doesn’t feel like it. 41, I see friends with their young baby, I see the stadium. 42, I am in the stadium. I see the finish line. Tears are running down my face. I can’t see well. I can’t breathe at all. What does it say on the arch? I can’t make it out. 42,195, I see it clearly now. It’s written all over the finish line in black and white: CATHARSIS.

NIKE (Victory) is the first thing you see as you get off the coach in Marathon

Catharsis (from Greek κάθαρσις, katharsis, meaning "purification" or "cleansing" or "clarification") is the purification and purgation of emotions through dramatic art,[1] or it may be any extreme emotional state that results in renewal and restoration.[2][3] In its literal medical sense, it refers to the evacuation of the catamenia—the menstrual fluid or other reproductive material from the patient. But as a metaphor it was originally used by Aristotle in the Poetics, comparing the effects of tragedy on the mind of a spectator to the effect of catharsis on the body.[4][5]
In psychology, the term is associated with Freudian psychoanalysis and specifically relates to the expression of buried trauma, bringing it into consciousness and thereby releasing it permanently. (Wikipedia)

In the end, it's all about LOVE.

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8 comentarios

21 nov 2022

What a lovely blog! Very inspirational, informative and motivating 🥰 Well done you!! X

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21 nov 2022

It was an amazing event all round, you were brilliant, the girls were brilliant, the support crew was brilliant, the setting was brilliant, the weather was brilliant (for spectators!), and the blog is brilliant!!!!

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21 nov 2022

The best blog !!in the end I was reading and crying……it was so good running with you all the way……love you for sharing all your feelings with us!!!👏👏🎈🎈❤️❤️😂

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21 nov 2022

Well this post got me good 🥹🤗(& Ian was obvs 😭)!

Inspirational story, amazing memories & an Awesome achievement of my favourite ‘blob’ 🔵 xxx

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21 nov 2022

A brilliant and emotional blog. So proud of you. This was a physical and emotional battle that you overcame with amazing strength. That hug at the end will be one of my most cherished memories forever. ❤️❤️❤️

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