My first Marathon in Athens for the British Red Cross
OK, this is a bit of a crazy story but here it goes …before I began my EVS in Athens about 10 months ago, the only running I had ever done was for the busses in London and to be honest I would often miss most of them. Therefore, running was the last activity I thought I would ever get into whilst I was here for the year volunteering on a community integration project for young migrants, asylum seekers and refugees called the ‘Time to be Welcome’ project. But that’s exactly what happened. Plus when I made the decision to run my first marathon in the country where the sport started, I had only been running on a regular basis for about 4 months and the actual training I did for it only lasted about a month. That was all. Now I know what you’re thinking – ‘that’s crazy, right?’ And I agree with you, but it was too big of an opportunity to miss and so I went for it, and here are a few of the reasons I used to justify my crazy decision…
1) I just loved running
When my friend and fellow EVS volunteer Rachael first got me into running I never imagined that I’d end up enjoying it as much as I have. And since I had been running so often I figured I might as well put my running skills to the ultimate test in the most meaningful race there is, and plus it was in the country where it all started.
2) I figured if you’re going to run …run for something
By the time I decided to run the marathon, I had been volunteering with the British Red Cross for 4 months and in that time I had delivered countless non-formal educational and recreational activities that supported efforts to integrate young refugees into Athens. Through this experience I learned a lot about the incredible work the BRC do on behalf of people in crisis; from training volunteers in first aid and responding to emergencies, to supporting pensioners’ mobility and family reunification for refugees, and so much more. In short I couldn’t have been prouder to run my first marathon for this amazing charity.
3) To run in the footsteps of history
Part of my inspiration to run the marathon in Greece stemmed from the story of the Athenian soldier and messenger Pheidippides; who is also known as the Legendary Runner of Marathon. Centuries ago, he ran a long distance from the battlefield at Marathon to Athens in order to tell the people that the Athenians had won. The distance he ran between Marathon and Athens is about 26 miles (or 42km), and hence today’s marathon races have been created to commemorate that. I was so fascinated by this story that I had to run in the 35th Athens Authentic Marathon, to follow in the footsteps of Pheidippides and also because it was on the same route as the first official marathon in 1896. Plus I dressed up like Pheidippides for the race too.
On the day of the race itself, I was a bit nervous because I had never run a distance like this before but nevertheless I persisted. I did so only because of all the people who supported me on this crazy journey – whether it was through their words of encouragement or through their many top tips, and of course it was also because of their generous donations to the BRC. At first I only intended on raising £50 but by the end I had managed to raise almost £300. Without their support I honestly don’t think I would have made it to the finish line because it was one tough race. In fact, and I’ll end with this story, there was a point in the race when I was very doubtful I would make it to the end because my knees just couldn’t keep going. But to my amazement, at that moment of personal crisis it was volunteers from the Hellenic (Greek) Red Cross that came to my rescue. It was a moment that reminded me of why I was running this race for the BRC because it reminded me that the Red Cross doesn’t just help those in the most severe of crises, but instead it helps everybody in crisis everywhere, including a first time marathon runner whose knees had just given out. It’s why I’m so proud I ran my first marathon for them, even if it took me over 6 hours, and I promise I would do it again.