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  • Writer's picture Irina

The Most Valuable Run

Updated: Nov 9, 2022


The year is 2022.

My birthday was on the 16th of September.

The Athens Marathon is on the 13th of November.

59 days in between.

22 runs, 20 done and 2 to go.

8 long runs: Sep 17 – 18km, Sep 25 – 21.2km, Oct 1 – 25km, Oct 8 – 23km, Oct 15 – 30km, Oct 22 – 19km, Oct 29 – 25km, Nov 4 – 20km.


My birthday fell on a Friday this year so despite knowing I had to run my first long run on Saturday, I wanted to celebrate with my friends. It ended up being a glorious Mexican fiesta, with copious amounts of frozen margaritas, some of which ended up on the floor and on our clothes when the blender exploded, sombreros, fake mustaches, the least successful piñata in the history of piñatas and a mean beef chilli lovingly prepared by Doug. There was cake, singing, Frankie played the happy birthday song on the piano, we raised a glass to a friend’s health. I was surrounded by good friends and felt loved, lucky and a bit tipsy!


The next morning, I was 48 years old and against all odds, I ran 18km, fueled partly by the tequila still flowing in my blood stream but mostly by the tons of positive energy I was carrying from the night before. I felt I could conquer the world.


A week passed and it was time for the second long run. An organised event this time, a half marathon in fact, taking place on a race track. 5 ½ endless loops. I was in a particularly weird mood that day as run coach had asked me to run 25km despite knowing about the half marathon and suggested I finish the race, go past the finish line and then re-join the track to run one more loop to 25km. Who in their right mind can do that? How could I motivate myself to carry on running after crossing the finish line. I couldn’t. The challenge however played tricks on my mind. I ran the half, struggled massively to finish, and instead of celebrating my achievement I felt I had failed because I didn’t go back to complete the 25km. Life isn’t fair sometimes.


Happy moments, sharing races with Doug once again!

I had to lick my wounds quickly as the week flew by and the third long run was staring me in the face. 25km. Quite a jump. Was I going to make it? The weather forecast for Saturday morning suddenly became extremely important. Friday came and I ate the pasta, I slept early and got up at 5.45am to get ready. By 6.30am I had had a coffee, bread, tahini, honey, toothpaste and an energy gel. Lets take a moment here. Look outside, it’s dark, everyone is asleep. Coffee, a sensible choice. The body is ready for it. 10 minutes later, bread smothered in tahini and honey. Rich, sweet, filling. The body is not ready for it. Breakfast is usually hours later. Take a deep breath, eat the damn thing. 5 minutes later a life changing decision needs to be made: toothpaste vs energy gel. This hopeless battle has no winners. Toothpaste wins. The energy gel 5 minutes later has the last word. From flavour to texture, an energy gel in a minty mouth is not for the faint-hearted. The stomach is working overtime but cannot cope. This run is horrible before it has even started.


The run was one for the archives. My bra popped open in the middle of the village, my bra then rubbed to the point of bleeding and my white t shirt looked as if I had been stabbed in the chest, I ran out of energy and hit the all-so-scary wall around the 20th kilometre. I just about completed the run and burst into tears of joy and relief, falling into Doug’s arms and feeling sorry and proud of myself in equal measure. What a morning!


The 4th run was glorious. I felt supercalifragilisticexpialidocious the whole time. It was the first hilly run, I did a route I absolutely love, with spectacular views. I took it slow going up and then let myself go on the downhill, feeling I could run forever. I smiled a lot on that run and regained the belief that a marathon is actually possible.


The 5th run marked the peak of the training. 30km with hills. As I told my mum when I finished, it was a lot of kilometres, too many. Alone. No crowds, no stations, no friends, no finish line. Just me on a Saturday morning, armed with gels, water and a lot of will power. The longest run in a marathon training program is pivotal, critical in more ways than one. The before words are worry, dread, concern, fear, but the after words… oh, those are the best ones. Determination, victory, strength, love. It was tough. Of course it was tough. Towards the end it was even tougher. One step at a time I got there. My mantra ‘this too shall pass’ came in handy. 3 hours and 20 minutes later it had indeed passed. I was still in one piece, and more determined than ever.




The 6th run was a sigh of relief. 19km, bliss! Any run under 20km is mostly welcome at this stage. Yes, it still had hills, but who cares? It’s amazing how the perspective on distance changes. Still, I know very well not to underestimate any run, short or long. I still did all the necessary prep for it, got out early, drank water, stayed focused. It was uneventful, quite pleasant, and probably one I will forget very quickly.


The 7th run was a shock to the system. 2 weeks before the marathon, I was naively thinking that I would be tapering. So was expecting maybe a 16-18km. I though the looooong runs were done and it was now all about resting. No sir. The dreaded text came on the Wednesday evening. When I saw 25km pop up on my screen, I got so angry with the coach, the training, everything. I spend Thursday and Friday fretting about it and swearing a lot at random times. Saturday dawned, well sort of, I enjoyed the coffee, bread, tahini, honey, toothpaste, gel extravaganza and off I went. On the road again. Turned out to be a mixed bag, feeling horrible to begin with, growing confident and positive as my legs covered more and more kilometres, hit a spectacular wall towards the end. The toughest run to date. Probably the most valuable run.


Moody sky for a moody run

The fun ended this weekend with the 8th last long run. 20km flat, to mark the end of marathon training. The body has been trained to the best of its ability. The legs have accumulated the distance, the muscle memory is there. It was a lovely run really, with a glorious sunrise to keep me company, a flat path, a bit of pondering about life and whether it would be easier if the earth was indeed flat. It probably would be easier but also boring. That feeling of knowing I’ve reached the end of a journey. All that’s left now is to get the brain ready. Dismiss negative thoughts, visualise the finish line, pull in everything the 8 long runs have taught me. Get to the start line, crave the medal, get to the end, enjoy the in between.



It's been a physical and emotional roller coaster. With all the ups and downs, I often wonder what makes me stronger. Is it the great runs or the horrible ones? Do I grow more confident after I complete a run without feeling any pain or when it’s so hard that I want to cry? In running, like in life, is it our successes or our failures that push us forward? Looking back over the last 2 months, which was the Most Valuable Run? I want to say all of them play their role. They do. But the ones I will remember are probably the ones where it took every ounce of power I had left to get to the end. The ones where I questioned “is this worth it?” The answer will always be the same both for life and running. Rain or shine, stumble, fall, get up, because IT. IS. ALWAYS. WORTH. IT.


Athens, November 13, 2022. Here I go again. Wish me luck.






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11 Comments


camkavanagh
Nov 09, 2022

Hey Irina, wishing you all the best for Sunday. After reading your build up to it and the effort put in, I really hope you enjoy the day and it brings you happiness and gives you fond memories never to be forgotten. Go Girl Go !!!!

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 Irina
Irina
Nov 10, 2022
Replying to

Thank you Cam!!!!

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errika75
errika75
Nov 07, 2022

Very proud of you, your achievements, your perspective in life! I also enjoy that i have the ability to somehow participate in all by your blog!

I'll be there cheering for you


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errietta.varvogli
errietta.varvogli
Nov 07, 2022

So much effort so much pain so big try!!go Irina go and get the meddle!!my thoughts will be near you all the way!!love you!!♥️🎈🎈🎈🎈

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 Irina
Irina
Nov 07, 2022
Replying to

Manoulitsa ❣️❣️❣️

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antigoni.rapti
antigoni.rapti
Nov 06, 2022

We are waiting for you! Athens is waiting for you too. Come along dear friend and let's make history once again! Love you :-)

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 Irina
Irina
Nov 06, 2022
Replying to

On my way!!!!

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ruth.manvell
Nov 06, 2022

Irina I love reading your blog. Your descriptive words make me feel like I am on the journey with every step of the way.

You will take Athens in your stride like every run you do!

We may not be there with you physically on this one, but we will be with you in Spirit!

Go get that medal!🏅

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 Irina
Irina
Nov 06, 2022
Replying to

Oh Ruth, I know you will be there!!!!!!!! ❣️

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