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  • Writer's picture Irina

I AM ALIVE

Updated: Oct 11, 2021

Hello, my name is Irina and on the 12th of September I ran a marathon.



I have been dreaming about writing this phrase, since the 9th of January, when I wrote my first ever post.

And now it’s done. I ran the marathon. During the last month a thousand thoughts have crossed my mind. I want to write about this, oh I mustn’t forget to mention that, and say how I felt about the other. And as I actually sit down to write about it, all one thousand thoughts are so entwined and without a start, a middle and an end that I am not sure this post will meet my expectations, let alone yours, which are potentially high, especially as it’s taken me so long to write the bloody thing.


Where do I begin?

I’d like to take you back to the week leading up to the race, but honestly I remember few things about that time other than pasta. Being forced to eat lots of it without being hungry and refusing to weigh myself to see if I’d met the target of gaining 2kg in 6 days. Seriously, a few months ago I would have bet a million dollars that no one would ever set me such a target. But such is life, full of unexpected twists and turns and though I never got on those scales, my jeans felt tight by Friday morning which was utterly annoying proof that the goal had been met.


Friday was the day that we collected our race pack. The marathon village felt quiet, like the calm before the storm. Antigoni, Zara and I met up with Lucy, picked up the bags and then wandered around the various shops. As we were leaving, I got the first sign of good luck: we ran into Vicky. Vicky would be running the 10km on Sunday and was there picking up her pack. Seeing her was an amazing coincidence and it really brightened my day and gave me faith that all will go well. Friday evening we had more pasta. No surprises there.



Saturday was a strange day. I felt happy but also numb. First order of the day was a little, gentle run to stretch the legs and take photos in our super funky race vests that Doug had ordered for us. Second sign of good luck: through a series of fortunate events, Liz happened to be just a few metres away from where we finished our run. We met up, she took pro style photos, we hugged, kissed, she wished us luck and we went home for more pasta. Later that day, the Mandrinos family descended from London, and we were safe in the knowledge that our support crew was buzzing and ready to wear their matching t-shirts and join the marathon party. Needless to say, that the evening involved more pasta and a valerian tea to calm the nerves and help me sleep.





Will my jeans ever feel loose again? was one of many thoughts I had while expertly rolling cheese loaded linguini around my fork. Will I be able to do this? What if I have to quit half-way and then all this pasta will have been eaten in vain? Thankfully, I also had visions of me proudly running over the finish line, smiling and ready to make a speech. Hang on to these thoughts, I kept saying to myself. Everyone who knows anything about marathon running had advised me to ‘see’ myself succeeding. Will I be able to sleep tonight? Will my morning routine go as planned? Will I feel bloated? Will I feel strong?


Sunday morning alarm goes off. I wake up feeling rested and surprised I actually managed to sleep quite well. I make my coffee and Doug’s tea and go back to bed to enjoy 15’ of calm wake up time. My routine flows smoothly and not long after I am dressed and ready to go. The weather is lovely, our house is full of friends and they are all up and cheerful. We are lucky, I think to myself while securing my number on my vest. We are lucky and we are going to make them proud today. We can do this. Tim and Zara are on time to pick us up and as we leave the house and I look at Doug, the dogs, the Mandrinians waving good bye, I know that the love I feel is definitely the third sign of good luck. Out of nowhere, a lovely lady we know and who has been suffering with her health is walking outside our house. She doesn’t live that close. I was so happy to see her. Good luck sign numero quattro! I shout “See you on the other side” as Tim reverses out of the driveway.



Next scene is Preston Park. We are here! We are here!! We are here!!! We do our warm-up run. I don’t feel strong but I keep it to myself. I want to concentrate, breathe properly, connect with my inner runner, remove negative thoughts. But all I keep thinking is, WE ARE HERE. HOW DID WE GET HERE? The next moments go by in a haze. Runners sitting on the grass, queuing for the toilets, jogging, stretching, looking happy, eager, insecure, confident. Pick any emotion. Guaranteed that one of the thousand runners around is feeling it.





They announce our wave is up next. We start walking towards the designated area. Like an army of fluorescent soldiers lining up for battle, armed with energy gels secured on our belts. We don’t know each other but I feel that it’s an “All for one and one for all” moment. Zara, Antigoni and I are walking and chatting and then out of nowhere we see the start line. You’d think we should have been expecting it, but I swear it magically appeared in front of us. Oh my god, this is it. Start your watches girls. The music is blasting. N-Trance, ONLY LOVE CAN SET YOU FREE.




And just like that we’re off. I had grand plans of what I would think about during the marathon. I will dedicate each kilometre to a different person and think about them while I run it. By the second kilometre I had forgotten who I was supposed to be thinking of. Ok, so that’s not happening. By the end of the race I will have finally decided if I am having a tattoo. Oh who am I kidding? I give up. I can’t hold a thought for more than a second. So I did the only thing I could do, I set my mind free and with that I set myself free.


Free of fears, free of tears, free of anger, regrets and what if’s. Free of running instructions, free of anything that could hold me back. The race was mine, the kilometres, the miles, the crowds, the experience was all there and I was going to take it all in. I stopped looking at my watch. Instead, I looked at the people running or cheering. I looked into their eyes. They were complete strangers but they were there for us. For all of us. I clapped and shouted as loud as I could when we saw the elite athletes running in the opposite direction. I admired them. I was proud sharing a race with these super humans.



I saw Doug, Tim, Alex, Nicholas, Margarita, Anna, Yiannis, Indie and Pixel, I saw Liz who was facetiming Sara in Geneva, Vicky who had smashed her 10km, Ruth, Jackie, Alison, Julia, Jamie, Sandra, Bernadette, Tracy, Graham and Nicola. Faye, Ian, Elsie, Herbie and Lucy. All of them were there and they will never know how much they helped me. It sounds melodramatic but they did give me wings. I wanted to stop and hug them. I couldn’t, so I blew kisses and waved hysterically and smiled, smiled, smiled. I couldn’t stop smiling. Trying hard not to get emotional as it would completely destroy my breathing.


It seemed the whole city was out to cheer. Music blasting from peoples’ front gardens. Good luck sign number five just when I needed it the most: a song from QUEEN. That definitely means I will finish this race. Kids holding up their drawings signalling ‘tap here’ for energy boost, giving us high fives, and offering energy gummies. Volunteers soaked in water as they were handing out water cups to clumsy runners. Repeating the same words over and over and over “keep going, you’re doing great, keep going, not long now”.


The more the race went on, the more I could hear the ambulance sirens. So much can go wrong in a marathon. It helped me get some perspective at a crucial time of the race, and made me appreciate things. I am pain-free, I have no excuses, no stopping now. I kept repeating my running mantra in Greek «θα περάσει κι αυτό. Όλα περνάνε. Και τα καλά και τα κακά» (translation: this too shall pass. Like everything else. The good and the bad, they all pass).


And it did. I crossed the finished line. I had done it. It was over. This too had passed. Emotions I cannot begin to describe hit me like waves. Lucy had done her magic and had let Doug and Alex into the finish area. I fell into Doug’s arms, he put the medal round my neck. How amazing is that for a marathon finish? I was jumping around. Let me go back and run that last 2 kilometres again (just kidding). I want to lose myself in the moment, again and again. I’ve done it. I can’t believe it.







Antigoni told me that experiences like this are life extending. At first, I didn’t understand how she meant it. A month later, I have had time to process my experience. The first week I wanted to run another marathon as soon as possible. I wanted to re-live the high of the moment. Two weeks later, I was feeling very proud but happy it was over. The idea of running another marathon was there but maybe not so soon? Three, weeks later I resented running. I did not want to run, not even a short distance. I was angry at my coach for pushing me, angry at the weather for getting cold and wet, just angry. Four weeks later is today. Today I ran the Brighton Half Marathon.


Today Antigoni’s words clicked. It’s these moments in my life, that I push myself to be part of something bigger, that I challenge my abilities, and that I come out the other end feeling stronger, that leave an imprint on my soul and make life longer, fuller, worth living and fighting for.


I AM ALIVE.


And my journey continues...



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7 Comments


allananscombe7
Oct 12, 2021

Well done Irina. The Brighton Half Marathon ! What an excellent way to follow your success in the full Marathon. 🥇 x

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errietta.varvogli
errietta.varvogli
Oct 11, 2021

Brilliant post!!!you shared with us your internal thoughts while running,walking,thinking,breathing,and so many more!!!but in the end everything went well and you really enjoyed it ,and that was all you wanted!! I wish you all your goals come to a successful end. 💕


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sara
Oct 10, 2021

What a year it’s been for you, and this is just the beginning😊 I’ve loved following your journey and am immensely proud of you for what you’ve achieved. Lot’s of love to you my amazing friend xx

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zara.chalcraft
Oct 10, 2021

A fantastic read and well worth the wait.

I’m so lucky to have been on this journey with you. The ups, the downs, the excitement and anticipation. There have been good runs and bad runs, hot runs, windy runs and wet runs. More pasta and gels than I care to remember and so many discussions about how to carry water. Paces met, paces missed. Anger at distances, delight at distances. Your journey has been amazing to follow and the sheer elation you had after finishing was so wonderful to see. You’ve conquered one marathon, here’s to the next eh?

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ruth.manvell
Oct 10, 2021

Ahh Irina! I have loved being on this journey with you through your blog and being able to cheer you on your way round has given me memories I won’t forget!

thank you for sharing your journey! I hope that there may be more posts in your blog as time passes as I love reading them! xx 💗

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