I first wrote this review of my marathon
experience on my blog the day after the marathon. I often revisit it to
relive the memory of that day. It empowers me to do more things and take
on more challenges. I hope it can inspire others, who may believe it's too
late for them to get out there and change their lives. It's not too
My Big Fat Greek Marathon
The day started early after a restless night... up at 5:30 and off to the
town of Marathon for the start of the race. As walkers we started 2 hours
before the runners at 7am. There were not many of us. At least half were
from Joints in Motion but we were all pretty pumped to begin from this
town where it all began. They even had a smaller stadium with an Olympic
flame burning which we pretended to light.
Charlene and I discussed our game plan prior to the start. We
learned when we got to Greece that in order to receive an official medal
we had to complete within 8 hrs. That was a little faster than we had
planned to do but we felt if we pushed it, it was not impossible so
decided to go for it. We also learned upon arriving that the course was
much harder than most. 10 km of flat surface at the start and then the
hill. All 21 km of it. Yep. that's not a typo. 21 km uphill. We'd crest a
few times but not once in all that distance did we actually go downhill.
You see. Greece is very mountainous.. Who knew ?
So as the Roosters crowed in the background we started our walk with about
20 other Canadians and 50 others walkers from around the world. We started
a little celebration at km 1. A whoop and holler and a high five kinda
thing. Took most of the race to get it right
We set a steady pace and kept it going as we hit the hill. 2 hr and 37
mins into it the elite runners passed us. The winner was in this group. A
Kenyan . He finished the marathon is 2:15 I think. Show off ! That was a
pretty amazing thing to see. A helicopter followed from above with several
police cars and motorcycles leading the way. As the runners passed we got
a lot of encouragement especially from our fellow Jimmer's. Along the way
we met our new friend Fran, originally from California and now living in
France. We walked most of the rest of the way with Fran . The hill was...
well it sucked.. At one point I got totally ticked off and just stared at
the horizon of the hill and started a mantra in my head. Each syllable was
a step. ' Un-Der-Eight...Un-Der-Eight. The weather was almost perfect.
nice, but overcast. It showered a little which made the road a bit
slippery. The Greek people cheered us on calling Bravo, Bravo, Go
Canada... ( We had temporary tattoo's to show we were Canadian's). Skip
ahead 5 hrs and we are still going uphill. Charlene, was silly and
goofy... thank god she had energy to spare. She kept both Fran and I
going. I however was pretty quiet as I continued to concentrate on
breathing and fueling properly to allow me to beat the god forsaken hill.
Chris, the team trainer from Manitoba, joined us from Km 25 to 30... then
finally at km 31 we crested the hill . It was sweet but we had no time to
celebrate. We knew our time was running short. We'd been walking for about
6hrs at this point. That left 2 to finish the last 12 km's. At home I can
do 6. 5 in an hour but after walking for 6 hrs already I wasn't sure I
could keep the pace to make it. I was tired.. of course. but I wasn't
feeling much pain. I just knew I had only so much energy to expend and had
to use it wisely.
At Km 36 Char looked at me and I nodded. We
had to run it if we were going to make it. We had to leave our new Friend
Fran at that point. She was suffering with leg pain ad could not run. We
had not trained to run and this body was not built for it but I thought
I'd come this far. I was was not going to let that goal slide away for
lack of effort now. So I gave it a shot. Unfortunately my running was
barely allowing for any headway. It just served to wind me more. At Km 37
we saw our trainer from Halifax, Barb and another team mate Avila coming
back for us. They were our angels. As they got close enough I yelled to
Barb. "Can we do it. can we do it in 8? " She said Yes, it's doable but it
will be close. No more running for you. Don't talk.. just breath and
walk." Avila took my fanny pack and the two of them walked us in . I
somehow missed Km 38 sign and feeling quite dejected started to think ...
no way.. it can't be done. then I saw km 39 sign. "What happened to 38 ? "
I said. They laughed and that was it. That was when I said Yes. 3 more km,
I can do it... there is time!
We continued on towards our final destination. The Original Olympic
stadium. The ironic part of it was that the race was a bit short on
distance so we had to actually go past it a few hundred yards and then
turn around and come back. That sucked so bad. As we turned the corner and
headed back to the Stadium we saw our new friends. Fran's husband actually
joined her and she got her second wind and they passed us. I knew my
family and many of the Jimmers were waiting for the rest of us to finish .
But the time.. oh the time on the clock.. it was not good. We were headed
back to the stadium with less than two minutes. Two minutes to get back to
stadium enter and run down to the finish line at the other end. Oh God. 2
mins. That's nothing but I could not not give up. Charlene refused to
leave me behind and I could not let her down. We hit the steps of the
stadium and looked right to Avila and Said.' F--K it, I'm running it "
(Sorry Mom but yes that's what I said.) We ran up the 3 stairs and
Charlene grabbed my hand and we ran. I had no idea at that point what was
going on. My head was down. all I could feel was her hand in mine and her
saying "We are there.. we are so there.". over and over . I almost lost it
at that point and started crying but I sucked it up and ran on.. finally
reaching the finish line after which I came to an abrupt halt, bent over
with hand on knees and sucked in as much air as my burning lungs could
take. Paul, the tour company owner ran to me to see if I was ok. I nodded
and then I heard it....over the loud speaker... ' Ladies and Gentlemen...
the race is now closed"
We made it. Can you believe that !... I
jumped what seemed like feet into the air (I'm sure it was only inches)
and yelled something totally incoherent.. I think it was like a war cry..
We did it. We made it. I looked up and there was my Aunt Iris and my two
cousin's Deanne and Derek running to us. Iris was in tears... so was I ...
Apparently as we entered the stadium all the people that were still there
waiting for the last runners and the people working on the race were
cheering us on, waving their arms. yelling "Go Go .. run run go !" They
knew we were trying to beat the clock. I had no idea that was going on. I
wish I had been able to look up and see it.
The other Jimmers were there too. Some of them in tears . What an amazing
moment... I'm tearing up just thinking about it again. 7 hrs 59 minutes
and 22 secs was the official time . We were the last two people to cross
the line at the 25th Athens Marathon before they stopped the clock. We
beat the hill. We beat the weather and we beat the clock.
After a few minutes someone said "Go. go get your medals !" so we proudly
walked over and received our medals and then proceeded to walk around the
track singing "We are the champions". Out of tune of course who who cares
after 8 hrs. Two girls from Spryfield having the time of their lives at
the Olympic stadium in our first Full marathon... How cool was that !
Thank you Joints in Motion for this incredible opportunity and thank to
everyone that helped us get here. And thanks most of all to my friend of
35 years, Charlene. I could not have done it without you girlfriend !
R. Umlah, Brookside,
NS, June 2008