Tag Archives: marathon

Marathon Recap: Part 1

I’ve given the race highlights to the few of you I’ve crossed paths with online already, but I’m going to write out the whole story here. I have a few pictures that I managed to snap to include, but when the marathon website gets its photos up (should be the next few days), I’ll illegally screenshot them and post them all on here for you! So here goes…

Yesterday goes beyond “memorable” or “amazing” or “inspiring.” It was kind of magical.

Saturday night, I was so nervous. At this point in the semester, entering into the unknown is just everyday business, but I was full of anxiety about the details of the next day. Would I find the buses on time? Would I forget to take my vitamins? Would I get shin splints? Would I wear the right layers? Would I hear my alarm? To remedy the last situation, I set three alarms. Yep, three. At that point in my worries, I fell asleep, and ended up waking up on my own exactly two minutes before the first alarm was set to go off, thanks to my eerily accurate internal clock.

I got dressed in the dark and stumbled into Laura’s apartment kitchen for breakfast. It was: 1 container of Greek yogurt with honey, topped with a broken up fruit-and-nut bar, some slivered almonds, some Honey Nut Cheerios, and a mini dark chocolate bar. It was freezing, even indoors, and I was dying for some coffee, but coffee before a long run like that is a reeeally bad idea, if you catch my drift. I then grabbed my stuff and headed out the door, toward the Syntagma metro stop, where buses were scheduled to meet runners and shuttle us to the town of Marathonas, the legendary start.

No sooner had I stepped out the door, into the 5:15 am dark and a cold wind, wondering what I’d gotten myself into, than I saw a middle-aged couple dressed for a run, a few paces ahead of me, speaking (!) English. I wasted no time in catching up, introducing myself, and asking where they were from. They were from Miami, and this was his second marathon, and her first. A few minutes later, we saw some male, also middle-aged runners (that was the majority of this race’s demographic) walking in the opposite direction. The man from Miami stopped them and told them they were going the wrong way, but they didn’t understand. One of the guys was wearing a Firenze Marathon jacket, so I asked him, “Parli italiano?” He said no, he was French. So I explained to him in French that they were headed the wrong way, away from the shuttles. As we walked together, I served as translator between the nations as the guy from Miami made jokes about the French (which went straight over the French guys’ heads) and the French guys asked me what I was doing there (so young!) and what my time goal was. (Ha, time goal.) Oh, I forgot to mention that I met a Welshman in the city the day before, whose 30th marathon this was, and he expected to run it “in about 3:25 since the course was so hilly.” Well, okay then. You do that. Anyway, these Frenchmen were very legitimate runners and I expect their finish times were admirable. It’s too bad everyone had their numbers on underneath their outerwear so I didn’t catch anyone’s names.

There was a huge crowd at Syntagma, five buses lined up and we’d just seen about three more pass by. We made it into the same bus line (which also happened to be the shortest line) by claiming that we were all a team (what a crew! An American couple wearing neon shoes, four guys with crazy leg muscles in bright blue gear, and a girl at least 20 years younger than all of them, serving as the go-between in conversation.) The Greek guy in charge of herding us rolled his eyes but let us all on together.

Once we reached Marathonas and unloaded, it was even colder and even windier than Athens, and raining a little bit, just what we needed. We split from the Frenchmen, wishing them “bon courage” and headed for shelter. We parked ourselves under an overhang, out of the wind, which a lot of other people had also discovered. The intense people were actually jogging around the track up above to warm up. Maybe someday I’ll do that, but at this stage in my running career, the first 5 miles of the marathon are my warmup. So the group huddled under the roof began to mingle, and my friends from Miami began talking to a boisterous group of Greek dudes, and I split off to talk to some Americans closer to my own age. There was a woman, probably about 30 years old and from Denver, named Julie, a father and son who traveled together from New Jersey. The son was named Tim and we became friends. We were assigned to the same start block (5) but sadly I didn’t see him until the end of the race. I think he was ahead of me the whole time. We all had a good time getting to know each other, talking about running, talking about this race, exclaiming about the cold and wind, pinning on our numbers, debating layers to wear and leave behind, noting that the Americans were the only ones with ipods, lacing on our timing chips, eating bananas, joking around, and generally having a good time.

Eventually, at around 8:15, Julie and I left to go check our bags with the volunteers (they had this super organized system based on your bib number where they collect bags at the start and drive them to the finish, where you can pick them up… I think this is common at marathons but I wanted to compliment Greece on how smoothly this ran, considering the thousands of bags they collected. Actually, everything at this race was incredibly well organized.) It was nice to be in the crowd by the bag collection vans, because of the body heat, but Julie and I had to make our way toward the start areas and find somewhere else sheltered to wait. That shelter ended up being behind a dumpster that had its lid propped open, so we sat on the ground, under the lid, and snuggled to stay warm. There were big speakers set up everywhere playing pregame music, and when this one Greek song came on, everyone started dancing around, and the people walking to their blocks were walking to the beat. I’m not sure what it was about that song, but it put a bounce in everyone’s step. I took a hilarious video of some people dancing to it that I’ll upload soon.

Anyway, that moment, during that song, was one of the many moments when I felt so grateful to be there, among the sweetest, most fun and enthusiastic people of all ages, from all around the world, gathered to celebrate our sport at the site of its inception. It was incredible to get a sense of the international running community, something that I wouldn’t have gotten if I’d been running in the United States. At any given time, I was catching English, Italian, French, Spanish, and Greek being spoken around me. Also, I continued to be amazed by how easy it was to make friends, how open and warm people were, and how they were eager to encourage and help each other out. For some reason, that wasn’t something I’d anticipated when I was lying awake worrying Saturday night. For some reason it didn’t occur to me that I would make tons of friends at every turn during the race process. I think the miserable weather conditions added to our solidarity as well; we all stuck it out in the freezing cold at the start, and, obviously, we all stuck it out in the marathon from start to finish (which was no cakewalk, as I’ll detail in my recap part two), and shared experiences like that have an amazing way of bringing people together.

That’s where I’ll leave off for now: Julie and I huddled under a dumpster, laughing and talking and shivering, right before the start. At that point, I wasn’t nervous anymore, just 100% happy. Once I’m done with my studies, I’ll be back with the story of the race, from start line to finish line and afterwards.



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Friday and Saturday

I met Laura after my flight last night and she and I and her mom had the most amazing Greek dinner. I was starving after my peanut butter got confiscated at the airport (I’d been planning a lunch of apples and peanut butter since I always dread airport food…. but apparently a jar of PB is a huge international threat…) so I finished all of my souflaka except for the fries. It was so wonderful to get fresh grilled chicken and the tzatziki (spelling?) sauce was killer.

We got to see the Acropolis at night, too. This still isn’t feeling real.

I got up early this morning to go to the expo and registration, but not before making a stop at Starbucks for my American food fix. (+ an apple and a banana was breakfast. I’m gonna have a big lunch and a light dinner so my stomach isn’t upset going into the race.)

The expo was fun! I went early and got my number and free, really legit-looking, tshirt, then wandered around for a while. I ended up buying a warm headband to wear tomorrow, since it’s supposed to be cold and windy and I didn’t pack one, but I didn’t pick up any shoes. They didn’t have the brand I’ve been wearing, so I decided to wait and shop around back in Florence. Plus, instead of having marathon discounts, it seemed like the prices were way high. (130 EURO?! for a pair of running shoes? excuse me, that’s not gonna happen.) But in the bag I got a shirt, a hat, my number, a fanny pack (not joking), and an info pamphlet. I bought two gels and an energy bar to carry in my pockets.

Seriously, how intense is that shirt? I will not be racing in it because that would be dorky, but I will be wearing it running many, many times in the future.

So, Laura and I found this sign at the finish section with a bunch of people who look really thrilled about running 26 miles, and have done so without breaking a sweat…

…So I decided to join them.

… And then take a normal picture.

I made a note of the second door of that Adidas-plastered tent: it’s the massage area. Free massages after a marathon? Yes, please. Followed by more Starbucks coffee and some baklava? Yes, yes, please.

So that’s Athens so far! Laura and her mom and I are about to walk up to a place with a lovely view of the city, then get some lunch, then I’ll try to stay more or less off my feet for the rest of the time, though it’s hard to ignore the urge of tourism in a place I’ve never been before!

Talk to ya soon,



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18 Weeks Later

For some reason, tonight I find myself practically at the end of many months of marathon training, before my 21st birthday has even hit, and I’m living in Florence, to boot. This is surprising to me because I’ve always been the sort of take-a-jog-along-the-trails or around-the-park kind of girl. 60 minutes tops. Long enough to clear my head, short enough to have a life. Then last spring, I hesitantly signed up for a half-marathon because two of my best friends were doing it, and I fell in love with the 7-10 mile distance, and felt incredibly proud after my first 13.1. I was inching my way up, and finding it a lot easier than I thought it would be. So when Olivia and I joked about running the Athens Marathon while we were abroad, my mind got really stuck on that idea. I got determined. It became a real goal: I got funding, I talked to professors, I blocked out that weekend on my calendar, and eventually, I printed out a training plan (which I must have looked at a hundred times this summer, in agony, imagining the 18- and 20-mile runs) and registered for the race.

Now, it’s a bizarre feeling– I have all those runs behind me, and I’ve actually grown to enjoy them. I finished my first 18-miler still in Omaha and limped up the hill toward my house in tears, not because the run had been awful– it was actually perhaps the best one of the whole experience– but because I was leaving the country the next day and wished I could have spent that last perfect fall afternoon sitting on the back porch with my parents and a glass of iced tea. But I ran as prescribed, and it was fun the next day to tell the incredulous kids on the plane that I’d just run 18 miles (and that no, I wasn’t going to go out into Florence the first night, I was going to go to sleep so I could get up early and run again.)

Turns out it wasn’t just that first night I wasn’t going out. I haven’t been out to a club a single night here. Alcohol doesn’t agree with me well under the best of circumstances, and when putting my body under such physical strain as marathon training, I find that I’m sensitive to the slightest variations in sugar intake, water intake, amount of sleep, etc, so you can imagine that I stayed far away from the club scene.

My social life has suffered as a result, though. My last week in Paris was a glimpse into what humans who are not training for marathons do with their time, and boy, was it fun. I took long walks, I had amazing conversations, I cooked, I went out for dinner, I saw museums, I shopped, I road-tripped, I explored, I caught up on a TV show I’ve been wanting to watch, and I did a fair amount of just sitting/lying around. It was perfection. To give you an idea of the time commitment, I spend 7-8 hours a week just running, feet in motion. When you include getting ready, researching routes, stretching, cooling down, the extra shower, and how much longer it takes me to walk up/down stairs the day after a long run, that probably increases to 10-12 hours a week. At least. And a further hit to my social life: I run alone. I know what a difference having running buddies makes because I have the best ones in the world back at school. But I’m living in a different city from all of them, and (unsurprisingly) couldn’t convince anyone I know here in Florence that running a marathon was a sane thing to do, much less a good idea. So, it’s been a little lonely, but I really valued my social time during the school day and seeing close friends on the weekends. I’m so lucky to have Laura Thrash coming to volunteer at the race and cheer for me during the big event– I really don’t know what I would do without her presence and support. Not be able to find my way around Athens, for sure!

So that brings me to where my life is going after this race. For one thing, my friend Kirsten turns 21 so I’m going to *go out* and celebrate with her next Thursday night. This is really a big thing for me, folks. I hardly even go out at Davidson.

Then there are a few things on my goal list.

-Get back into a normal running routine. This is what my next week is going to look like, as far as easing into running: Monday: walk 20 min. Tuesday: Rest. Wednesday: walk 30 min. Thursday: run 20 min easy. Friday: Rest. Saturday: run 30 min. Sunday: run 40 min. I’ll keep it around that level for the few weeks following, though by the end of the month following the race, I hope to be able to do one long run of 8-10 miles. Then it’s Christmas break time, which has a few goals of its own.

-When I get home, I want to cross-train again. I want to be serious about weight training so I’m stronger for my next half-marathon in the spring and less liable to injury (I’ve rolled three ankles during this training.) I want to do the elliptical and the stationary bike and lots and lots of HOLIDAY YOGA. That was my favorite thing during break last year– I even got up at the crack of dawn and went on Christmas and New Year’s.

-I need to be conscious of what I’m eating again. I don’t have much control over my meals here– breakfast and dinner are served by my host family, and lunch is within the limited selection of the cafe at my school. None of it is what this girl would deem health food. It hasn’t caused much of a problem as far as weight gain because of all the running and walking I’ve been doing. But my energy is really low all the time. I’m probably super vitamin-deficient right now. When I get back home, I want to go vegetarian again (except for fish and the occasional organic chicken or turkey) and eat tons and tons of vegetables and whole grains. That’s the diet I feel best, most energized, and happiest at, and I can’t wait to return to it. In the meantime, I have to brave a whole lot more plates of pasta.

-I just want to re-center in general. Family time, quiet time reading, shoveling the driveway, yoga (seeing Lena and Lora), walking the dog, seeing home friends (Tom! Madeline! Joe!), the gym, Whole Foods trips, I just really need all that. I miss the United States. I miss my routine life.

So that’s where I’m at right now. I don’t think I’ll have time to get into the notorious post-marathon slump because I’ll be filling those extra hours in my week with term papers, trips to Rome and Venice, and trying to figure out how to fit all the stuff I packed and acquired back into my (very small) suitcases.

If you have any advice on any of the above topics, please share!

See ya later,



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