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  • Writer's picture Irina

My Favourite Μαραθωνοδρόμος

Μαραθωνοδρόμος = Marathonodromos = Marathon Runner


2018 - Athens 10k race

Pheidippides was the first marathon runner. Ever. If it wasn’t for him and his overzealous sense of duty, the life of runners around the world would be a lot simpler. Admittedly he had a good reason to run and great news to deliver, but why not use a horse to travel, hey? He had to do it the hard way, didn’t he?


Marathon is a town on the outskirts of Athens. Legend has it, that it was a warm September day in 490 BC, when the battle of Greeks against Persian invaders was almost over in favour of the Greeks. On that day, Pheidippides, a Greek soldier who had just fought said battle, spotted a Persian boat changing its course and heading towards Athens. He suspected that this was a cunning, and to be honest, quite desperate move on the Persian side. They would sail into Athens and declare a false victory, claiming the land. Talk about a bluff! He decided to put an end to the nonsense and so he ran (!), as you do, all the way to Athens to declare the Greek victory ahead of the Persians. So not only he fought a battle, but he also then ran a marathon. No proper gear, shoes, no mapped-out route, no water stations, bystanders to cheer him on, music, energy gels. He even had to shed his clothes and weapons to get rid of the extra weight. The man was seriously hardcore.


Thankfully he made it. He ran 42.195 km (26.2 miles), from Marathon to Central Athens, declared the victory by shouting out "νενικήκαμεν" (nenikēkamen, "we have won!") and then dropped dead. Very sad but I am not surprised after what he’d been through. Quite ironic as well that he survived a battle, and it was the run that got him! The rest is history and fast forwarding to today, we see little old me, one of many people, training to run the Brighton Marathon in September 2021 AD, 2,511 years later almost to the day! My cause is not as noble, not in the slightest, but I am hoping for a happier ending than poor Pheidippides!


Pheidippides is definitely the most famous marathon runner of all times. Since then, marathons were introduced as a sport in the Modern Olympic Games in 1896 and very soon became hugely popular. Women were only allowed to enter in 1967. Around 800 marathon races are held each year and 1% of the world’s population has ran at least one. That’s an elite group of 79,000,000 marathon runners and out of all of them, I have one favourite marathon runner. Antigoni.


Antigoni has run not one, not two, but four marathons with lots of style but also with quite a lot of blood, sweat and tears. She didn’t start running until her late 30s and though always very fit, she was not really into any sport until then. At least not that I can remember. Running for her was love at first sight and in her usual style of ‘when you do something, do it well’, she quickly upped her game. She explored and pushed her limits day after day and it wasn’t long until she started entering races. She ran her first marathon in Athens, (it’s known as the classic route), in 2012 and then again in 2015 and again in 2017 and finally in 2019, she ran in Amsterdam.


There are pages I can fill writing about Antigoni and the essence of our friendship that is so deep and meaningful. Her character, personality, ethos and sense of humour, all of which are second to none. I can attempt to entertain you with stories and adventures we’ve been through over the years (e.g. Belgrade, but that is a story for another day!). I can talk about her amazing husband who is also a very good friend and her girls and, and and... a lifetime of stories… but not today.



Today I want to talk about her as a runner and how she is my role model when it comes to long distance training and running. One of the main reasons is that she is relatable in so many ways. She is a runner who works hard to achieve results. Success doesn’t just happen. I can relate to that. I see other runners who I envy because everything about them shouts ‘I was born to do this. This comes naturally. This is easy’. I have no doubt they work hard too, but somehow I feel it’s different for some people. They’re just cut out for it. I admire these runners, but I cannot relate to them.


Antigoni is driven. She loves a challenge and she sets herself goals that will take her one step further. Make her a better runner, a better person. Once she decides she is going for it, there’s very little that can stop her. In fact, there’s nothing that can stop her. She channels her energy in a very constructive way and keeps her eye on the finish line. What is magical however, is that she does about a million other things at the same time. She has a full-time job, she has two teenage daughters who she is fully committed to and on top of that she and her husband have a busy social life (well… Covid aside). She cooks every day, she knows what’s going on in the world, she is always learning something new and she has all the time in the world for her friends. I mean seriously, how does she do it? She has tremendous energy and she sets the bar high. She shows me what I can achieve if I really want to. She is proof that excuses are a waste of time and actions speak louder than words.


Runner Antigoni has stood the test of time. She is not the one-time running wonder. Not that there’s anything wrong with a short-term relationship with running. You get into it for a bit, maybe run a marathon, maybe not and then stop and that’s fine! I want running to be part of my life long-term. I feel Antigoni is like that as well and she demonstrates how this possible. She relies on running to keep her sane, safe and feeling alive. She’s been doing it for 10 years now and even in the darkest times when running one kilometer was a struggle, she has never given up because she knows better…


Antigoni with her running team and coach


My little world was rocked to its core this week when my favourite marathon runner and my brilliant husband gave me the best surprise ever! On Wednesday morning Antigoni casually suggested a group face time call with me and Doug, as she wanted to catch up with him on his knee situation. “So Doug, how is your knee?”, she asked. Doug responded that it is ok, not too painful, and that he is waiting for his operation in May. “Do you think you’ll be able to run the marathon in September as planned?”. Doug said that no definitely not, he will still be in recovery then, but hopes to run it next year. “You know you can give your place to someone else so that it’s not wasted, right?” Antigoni said. “Oh, that’s not a bad idea” he said. And then she said, “Wait a minute, I seem to have an email about a registration of some sort.” She shows us her laptop screen. I lean forward and squint but can’t see a thing. And then she says, “Oh if I read this correctly, I have a registration confirmation for the Brighton Marathon! Looks like I am coming over to run it with you!”


I don’t remember a lot after that, I was crying, shouting, laughing, banging my hands on the desk, talking in Greek, English all mixed up. Can you believe it? I was then told that Lucy was in on the surprise as well. Lucy works for the company that organizes the Brighton Marathon Weekend and was instrumental in organizing the swap. How lucky am I to have friends like these and a husband that can take his own misfortune and turn it on it’s head, spreading the joy! The cherry on top, is that Alexandros, Antigoni’s husband is coming over as well! I am absolutely delighted, grateful and praying that Covid doesn’t mess up our plans.


Health aside, there’s not more I can ask for, than to share my life with these people, to build meaningful relationships, to nourish old friendships and nurture new ones, to love and be loved unconditionally.


Hello, my name is Irina and I am going to run a marathon with Antigoni. My favourite marathon runner. We will cross the finish line and shout,

ΝΕΝΙΚΗΚΑΜΕΝ, WE WON.


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6 Comments


georgios.antonis
Mar 29, 2021

That's great! I'll be virtually monitoring your race, for both (there should be an app for that, right?). As for Feidippides, let's not forget that on a separate occasion he had to run to Sparta. And back. Seriously hardcore guy. A natural.

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 Irina
Irina
Mar 29, 2021
Replying to

Brilliant comment!!! I am sure there will be some sort of tracking app!!

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errietta.varvogli
errietta.varvogli
Mar 29, 2021

You you you ....you made it again .you brought rears to my eyes.I am so happy for you .you have so fabulous people near you!!!

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antigoni.rapti
antigoni.rapti
Mar 29, 2021

Seriously now.. Feidippides and me share the same post? Honoured to the bone! Full of energy to boost the run in Brighton to the limits! Happy and proud to have you in my life dear friend and grateful to be able to create memories of joy and true friendship with you throughout the years. You deserve being loved Irina as I told you the other day because you are the most valuable relationship I have after my hubby. Let‘s run this and let‘s make history!

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errika75
errika75
Mar 29, 2021

You’ve brought up a big story: Antigony’s running and Antigony’s approach to life. So many things that can be said!

you’re both winners in life and in running and you’re going to share on more exciting lifetime experience together!

cannot be more proud!

Love you both (p.s. save a spot in the gazebo for me)

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 Irina
Irina
Mar 29, 2021
Replying to

Errikaki! The spot is saved! I wonder if this is a hint...

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