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  • Writer's picture Irina

The dog days are over

On July 6th, my running coach sent me this.

30km for Zara, Antigoni, Irina

From that day and until the 22nd of August, I thought about this run every single day. Sometimes it was a fleeting thought, other times it would stay with me for a few minutes. In the wee hours of the night it would grow out of all proportion and sit in my head like a big dark cloud.

Safe to say I was not looking forward to it. I was properly scared. I wasn’t at all sure I was going to make it. The sheer number of kilometres topped by complicated logistics just seemed overwhelming. I would need to run non-stop for over 3 hours. That is a long time. A thousand ‘what ifs’ going round and round my head like a little whirlwind. On good days, I visualised myself running proud and strong along the route that I know so well. Needless to say good days were few and far between.

The 22nd of August dawned and I got out of bed and got ready and got going. And I did it. Just like that. Well even more than that, I did it in 3 hours and 3 minutes and I actually enjoyed it. I called this run “Dress rehearsal” as it was the single longest run of the whole training plan and it was the last of the long runs before the race. 30km (the marathon is 42.2km).

It was the perfect day for it. Sunny but not too bright, cool but not cold, dry, no wind. A runner’s paradise. I was out early so it was quiet, but on my way back through the seafront town of Worthing I came across hundreds of people running the newly resumed Park Run!

The Park Run is a weekly 5km running event that takes place every Saturday at 9am across multiple cities around the world. Like so many other things impacted by the pandemic, Park Runs had stopped for a while, so it was very emotional to see so many people of all ages, united by their love of running, big smiles, creating a great atmosphere which I was lucky enough to briefly be a part of.

The funny thing is that I actually ended up running 31km. I was so nervous heading out that I didn’t start my watch until I got outside Liz and Chris’s house which is a 1km down the road. That meant that 3 hours later I finished my run outside their doorstep. I pressed ‘stop’ and ‘save’ on my watch and then phoned Doug and royally burst into tears. Floods of tears.

With Doug on the line who at that point was thinking, “oh my god she’s hurt herself, I need to jump in the car and go rescue her”, a lovely lady peacefully gardening across the road came to my aid. “What’s wrong? Come inside, sit down, do you need water? Who should I call?” “I AM SO HAPPY”, I tried to explain through my sobbing. The lady looked at me in disbelief. I didn’t look happy. She insisted that despite my happiness, maybe I still needed help? “No, no” I said, “I am fine. I just ran 30km and I am so happy.” “Oh dear”, she said. “Oh well done then!” I thanked her and got back to Doug who was now giggling. “So it went well, huh?” “Yes it bloody well did. It went brilliantly.”

Later that day I found out that Chris had also ran out of the house, offering me help and a cup of tea (in England, tea is the all-mighty healer of all ailments). Unfortunately, I didn’t hear him calling.

Florence and the Machine sing,

The dog days are over, the dog days are done,
… Run fast for your mother, run fast for your father
Run for your children, for your sisters and brothers
Leave all your love and your longing behind
You can’t carry it with you if you want to survive

And this is exactly how I felt after completing the 30km run. The dog days were over and I was now entering the new and wonderful world of tapering. Bliss. What does tapering mean? It means getting a rest in the last 3 weeks before the Big M. It means long runs are shorter. It means no gels, no water bottles and no blisters. A time to take in all I have achieved so far and prepare myself physically and mentally for the challenge ahead.

What I didn’t know, but painfully found out is that there would be some interesting speed targets during this period. Shorter runs yes, but also faster. Another thing I didn’t know is that when we say shorter, we don’t mean “short!” We mean 8-9km midweek and 15km for the weekend run. So as I get to the end of the tapering phase, I can say it is a bit of a myth that things are actually a lot easier. A myth l will happily buy into to relax my mind more than my legs…

Which brings me to today. Today is the Sunday before ‘THE Sunday’. It is 10:30am and this time next week I will hopefully be around 30’ minutes into the marathon. When I started the blog 8 months ago I felt I had all the time in world to prepare and that this ‘thing’ that Doug had signed up for was soooooooo far into the future. It’s here now and though I don’t think I will ever feel quite ready, I am glad it’s happening. I am actually looking forward to it, in the same way that I would look forward to a big party with good music surrounded by friends, knowing I will be dancing the night away.

Saturday September 4th - the last long run before the big M

In the meantime, there are lots of exciting things happening this week. Frankie is going back to school! Year 9!! New uniform, shoes and books at the ready for Tuesday morning.

Eating plan starts tomorrow. Protein and fat based for Monday and Tuesday and then it’s carb-loading all the way to Sunday. For the first time EVER in my life, I am aiming to gain 2kg between Wednesday and Sunday (mum don’t freak out. It will all get used up during the race).

Antigoni and Alex are arriving from Greece on Thursday evening. Happy days!!!!! On Friday, Zara, Antigoni and I are in Brighton to pick up our race packs and sneak in an afternoon cream tea. On Saturday, Margarita and her family are coming over from London, and are staying to support us on Sunday. Liz is drawing up plans, with marathon map in hand, to lead an Upper Beeding Runners task force down to Brighton on Sunday to cheer us along. Doug planned a wonderful surprise by organising the dress code for runners and the support group (to be revealed on the day).

It’s the sort of excitement that makes my stomach empty, my heart race and my palms sweat. Because at the end of the day what is a marathon if not a celebration for runners and supporters alike?

Around 12,000 people will be there next Sunday, some working hard to make the event a success, some running, some cheering, some crying, most of them laughing. My family, friends and I will be amongst them.

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Sep 08, 2021

Brilliant! We love this blog! we think what you’re doing is fantastic, although masochistic, of course!


Sep 07, 2021

Irina, your grit and determination to do this is awe inspiring! You have shown that when you put your mind to something you can achieve! It’s so hard to step out of our comfort zones, but sometimes it can be the best thing we can do! I’ve taken so much away from what you have done to get to this point and what you will do on Sunday! I can’t wait to see you in all your glory running on Sunday! You and everyone else will smash it! xxxx


Sep 07, 2021

This was lovely to read Irina. You have put so much effort into your training and I am sure you will get a result that you are pleased with. I hope that you enjoy the run and the whole experience that the day will bring you. I wish you all the very best x


Sep 07, 2021

That was a very emotional read. I’m still so amazed at how much you’ve achieved!! To think back to when you and I decided we were going to start running again and you were happy with a 5km! 😂 You are an incredible woman and you’re going to absolutely smash it on Sunday! Wish I could be there to greet you at the finish line but know I will be cheering you on from afar. Love you! xxx


Sep 06, 2021

I would very much like to be there and cheer on all 3! I am sure I would cry - that's my type 🙂 Have a great run Irina! I am you will triumph your goals! It is so great that you have found this path which makes you so happy, including this awesome blog and writing! Love you lots!

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