Wednesday, November 08, 2006

I am a marathoner! I am 24!

I did it! i completed the 24th annual Athens Classic Marathon!!

This was flat out amazing. Aside from the personal joy and pride from completing a marathon, I was able to appreciate team comrade-y in a way I'd never experienced before. Fifteen of us started the race, and fifteen of us cheer each other on as we ran into the stadium towards the finish line. and as we wobbled from the finish to "team camp," everyone was congratulated with an earnest respect that I'd never witnessed before. Gone was the competitiveness that should have existed between us, and instead there was nothing but heartfelt respect. Even though there was no team medal to be sought after, no public acknowledgements or point system, I felt so proud to have been a part of this amazing team. Someone nearly qualified for the boston marathon, someone finished well after 5 hours...but it didn't matter because we ALL RAN the athens marathon!

I was not the fastest runner in our group, and I was one of the few who performed below expectations (based on training). However, I am pretty sure I had THE MOST FUN out of our entire group! granted, this was not 42.2 km of pure was often good times with a hearty dash of sheer, searing pain! Despite the fact that I trained in the shoes I marathoned in, by 10km I had developed massive, massive blisters on both arches of my feet! This was completely unexpected and certainly unwelcome to say the least! A few times I took little walk breaks to see if it helped, but once I realized the pain didn't subside, i jumped back into running. From km 1 until about 10/11km, I ran with my friend Anna. We wound up splitting ways, and in the next 7 km I caught up with a few other volunteers and did my best to stay steady with neighboring volunteers. Between 20-30km, I thought i was going to die. We faced our first hills and met an unexpected headwind. So what made this race fun? along the way, I started to recognize runners who were steadily running at a pace similar to mine. occasionally people would toss about a friendly comment, ask a question, or give out a shout of support. for the first 20km, i entertained myself by gazing at the scenery. For the last 22km, I made friends with runners around me! There was a greek soldier who was convinced he would never run a marathoner again, a group of texans who seemed pretty happy to be alive, and a girl from ohio who had just gotten engaged 3 days before the marathon! By the time I made it to the finish line, I was ready to be done but still managed to smile as a strode past 'team camp' and on towards to finish line.

another great thing that happened while in athens was meeting up with 5 PCVs from Armenia! As luck would have it, they stayed in the same hostel that we rented our apartments from! These guys were a ton of fun, and it was a delight to see another group of PCVs come together and support each other the way that we had. and in a strange twist of fate, it turned out that one of these boys, dagen valentine, had went to my highschool in america!!!! his best friend was jeff baker, and his father had been my sister's math teacher...and here we were at the Acropolis in athens, meeting as marathoning PCVs... this was completely strange!

athens itself was pretty fun! the metro system there is fantastic, and within a day I felt completely empowered to go anywhere with only my subway map to guide me! i saw the 2004 olympic village, the acropolis, temple of zeus, the archeological museum, old market squares, churches, parliament, a hand-made sandal shop...starbucks! Our apartments were in Plaka, and we were a 3 minute walk from the metro, and a 7 minute walk from the acropolis. Those of you who havne't spent considerable time in Nashville wouldn't know this, but diagonal from vandy's campus is a replica of the Parthenon! needless to say, i was SOOOOO HAPPY to see the real one both as an artifact of ancient history, and as a small reminder of friends back home! this place is amazing, and my obsession with the Parthenon shows up in your gifts and my photos!

Athens is such a modern city, that we were able to pretend it was america from time to time. after the marathon, 15 smelly volunteers, 4 hardcore fans, and an ultramarathoner from london (this kid has done 18 marathons in 18 months...) drug ourselves to the hardrock cafe athens! here we splurged on nachos, margaritas, burgers, and fries with heinz ketchup! it was like a dream come true for some of us!! other american-like moments included visiting the local starbucks ( I abstained!), downing smoothies, and even shopping in an american-style mall AND watching a current english! all of these indulgences were fantastic!

finally on tuesday, I boarded an overnight train back to sofia. The train was full of greek people, and ironically, only the ladies in my compartment spoke bulgarian! both of them were bulgarians who live and work in athens, while most of their family members live in buglaria. after 5 days of not speaking bulgarian, this was a fun little crash course! Sometimes, however, these ladies would forget that i didn't speak greek, and they would converse with me in some combination of greek and bulgarian! talk about confusing...

all and all, greece was great! i had a nice little trip for my birthday, accomplished one of my major life goals, was enraptured by the foundation of democracy, indulged in a little bit of america, and found myself perfectly ready to head back to bulgaria...

stay tuned for pictures!


At 2:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Way to go Toni! I am so proud of you!!

It is really strange that you ran into Dagen (nuts actually). I'm glad it was such a great life experience. I'll be looking forward to pictures.


At 10:39 PM, Blogger -bio-olga said...

Hey, I am so proud of you too!!!

A major thing to do!

At 12:34 PM, Blogger vassi said...

Kick ass, girl!!! A great way to celebrate your birthday and life itself!
Be good to yourself :)

At 1:01 PM, Anonymous Andrea Enright said...

rock on tones!!!!!!!! I'm so excited to be reading your blog ;-) and of course, proud of you for your marathonish ways. Love, the other Andrea in your life!


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