Morning Runs – Solving the mystery…

Hello friends 🙂

Ok, I am one of those people that does wake up early, like 5:30-6:00am. And I do work out in the morning sometimes too, like a spin bike session or some strength training. But when it comes to running I have to confess… I have never run in the morning – unless I am on vacation in Greece since it is too hot to run any other time…. I see all the runners in the morning on my way to work, smile on their face logging miles and I admit it I AM JEALOUS!

So this is why, I asked my friend Angela from Happy Fit Mama, to give me a few pointers as to how to do this. How to be this morning runner, with the AMAZING sun(run)rise pictures on my Instagram feed, and the smile on my face logging miles even before the world is awake…

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So here you have it 🙂

Q: Ok, first things first, what time do you wake up and what time you usually have to be out the door for work/errands etc?

A:Depending on how many miles I’m running that day, I wake up between 4:30 – 5:00 a.m. Three days a week I work outside of the home. I usually leave about 7:15 to commute to the hospital. Some mornings I need to be home before 6:30 a.m. so my husband can leave for work.

Q: What about breakfast and coffee? How do you fuel your morning runs?

A:Breakfast comes after my run. I don’t eat anything before my run. First off, I don’t have time to digest it before I head out the door and second, my body doesn’t need it. Unless my stomach is growling in the morning, then I’ll have a spoonful of almond butter and ½ banana to tide me over.

Q: Where you always a morning runner? If not, how did you become one?

A: I wasn’t. I mostly worked out/ran after work in the evenings before kids. Unless it was the weekend, then I was a morning exerciser. It wasn’t till after I had kids that I started working out/running in the early mornings. I found that nothing got in the way of my workout at that time. I got it out of the way and had more time in the evenings for time with family and friends. Plus, I was usually exhausted and crashed on the couch after a full day of work and wrangling two babies once I got home.

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Q: What gets you out of bed and out the door those mornings when you might not feel like it?

A: Most days, I bound right out of bed. I just love running so much. When I don’t run first thing in the morning, my whole day is thrown off and I don’t feel like myself. I do have off days though. On days when I’m not feeling it, the hard part isn’t getting out the door, it’s finding the motivation to not just go through the motions and slog through my run. I usually will give myself the 1mile rule. If I’m still not feeling it after 1 mile then I will call it a day. But then that means I’m usually 1 mile from home so I have another 1 mile to run home!

Q: What type of running do you prefer in the mornings? Track style runs? Tempo? Long runs?

A: I like doing all kinds of workouts in the morning. Running on the track in the morning during the summer is extra special. The sunrise there is amazing. And the sprinklers are always on at the end of my workout for a nice cool down. Tempo runs seem the hardest to me in the morning. They intimidate me way more than any other workout. I usually allow for a little longer warm up when I do tempo’s. Probably because it’s my way of stalling!

Q: This is not much of a question but what is your step by step morning routine? (Your IG feed full of sunrise pictures tells me it’s working so I’d happily try it!!!!)

A: I wish I had a really special and unique morning routine. It’s pretty simple.

  1. Wake up – Never, ever use the snooze button!
  2. Use the bathroom, put my contacts in, change into my running clothes that I laid out the night before.
  3. Drink a glass of water and then begin my dynamic warm up.
  4. Head out the door!

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Q: Any tips for runners who want to convert to “morning runners”?

A: Give it time! If you are not used to getting up early and being active first thing in the morning, it’s going to really suck for a couple of weeks. But then your body gets used to it and it becomes automatic. Patience!

Q: Please feel free to add anything else you like, or anything I might have forgotten to ask and you know it is important!

A: I always want to remind runners to be safe. Creepers are out in the early morning just as much as at night. Run with a friend if possible, don’t listen to music at all and stay alert.

Thank you so much for taking the time to do this Q&A with my Angela  🙂

So, here you have it guys! apparently there is no mystery or secret as to how to become a morning runner, apart from being patient, sticking with it and don’t give up! I think i will try it myself this coming week and see how it works out!!

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THE BLIND RUNNER – When will power can beat all odds…

Hello friends 🙂

I hope everyone is having a great Monday so far! I am so excited to share an incredible story with you today. Christos Zotos, is a runner, a BLIND runner! I connected with him through my coach, Maria Polyzou, and of course I asked him to share his story with us. I have to admit, when I logged in to my email the other day, and started reading his story I had tears in my eyes… It is incredible to see what humans are capable of when we want something really bad… It is amazing to see how far someone’s hopes, dreams and sheer will power may take him! I believe Christos should be an inspiration, an example for all of us! Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to share your story, Christos!

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I really hope his story will “touch” you as much as it touched me…

Q: How did you decided to start running and when was that?

A: I loved running since I was a teenager. Running made me feel at peace and offered me aScreen Shot 2016-05-16 at 08.13.07 sense of balance. There is nothing better than running by the sea or in a forest no matter the weather. But running became an integral part of my life in 2001, when I was 41 years old and I turned blind! When this happened to me I lost interest in living my life and I got depressed. I refused to get out of my house for about 6 months and I became overweight at 297 lbs (135kg). After an intervention from family members and friends, I started looking into running for people with disabilities and I discovered that it was yet again possible for me to do something I loved so much, running! I started very slow, in January of 2002, with some walking and later on running. When I made it I felt like my love for running kept me alive and that running gave me my life back! “RUNNING IS LIFE”!

Q: When and where your first race took place? Will you please share your feelings with us?

A: My first race was in August of 2002, in a championship among different running clubs from all around Greece and Cyprus. I competed at 5k and came first with a PB of 23’40’’.

During my stay there and and on our way to the race track I felt great, everyone was inScreen Shot 2016-05-16 at 08.13.00 high spirits and we were all teasing each others (especially about our weight and the fact that we can see, by then I was 185 lbs (84 kg). But then when we started warming up for the race I started feeling different. My legs felt heavy, I started to get chills, and I could barely contain my tears.  I could see my whole life since I lost my eyesight like a movie, the depression, all the negative feelings that I had about life, and how I started  – very slowly – to come back to life… It felt like I fought and took my life back! But you know what? The moment the race started, everything disappeared, the moment I crossed the start line I felt like I was flying and my feet weren’t touching the ground. It felt like a lion woke up inside of me… My guide became worried because we were going way to fast and he tried to hold me back. But I was unstoppable, the more my own people, friends and family were cheering for me and the more I could here their voices the faster I would run. I felt like I HAD to finish, I HAD to win this bet that I’d set with myself, with my life! I felt like I could do it, that I was capable of not only finishing the race, but also winning, I had the willpower and strength to do it, I just knew it. AND I DID IT! I didn’t just finish and won a race that day, but I reclaimed my entire life back! I had to tell you the smile on my face lasted for hours… I was so proud of myself! Of course, I am fully aware that this wouldn’t be possible without all the people that supported me in this venture and especially my amazing wife who has been supporting me unconditionally since the beginning till this very day.

Q: Share with us some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a blind runner.

 A: One of my biggest challenges since I was a kid, was to cross the finish line of a marathon race. I always had the outmost respect for marathon runners, and I ‘ve always considered them heroes! But I never dared to think the possibility of me ever running a marathon, just by the thought I was terrified… That was one of the biggest challenges, to run 26.2 miles with someone else’s eyes as your own… But despite all the fear, I geared up with discipline, patience, stubbornness (if you will…) which are all features that a marathon runner needs to have and decided to go for it!!! I crossed the finishing line of the “Great Alexander Marathon” in Thessaloniki in April of 2006. If there is one thing that I learnt is that we can achieve anything we want if we have the will power to go for it, and that we can push ourselves to the limits! Actually, “there are NO limits, they are nothing but your mind’s creation to limit you…”!

Q: How do you choose your guide? And for how long do you need to train together prior to a big upcoming race?

A:  Initially I don’t get to choose, since any help is purely on a volunteering basis, but after a long time of being a runner people get to know me and they come to realize how important help is to me and many people want to offer their help and support. This is how I then decided who will be a better match in order to achieve an optimal result in the race.

We have a separate training plans and we match a few practices a week, and this goes on for 2,4,6 months or as long as it is necessary in order to be fully prepped for the race.

Q: I can imagine there is a very special bond between you and your guide…

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A: Yes of course, it is a very special relationship between us. Even though we are only connected with a small piece of string tied around our wrists, in reality we are creating a bond that will last for a lifetime. The guide’s help towards me is invaluable and thought daily contact there is a strong friendship created. Through this person’s eyes and guidance I am able to achieve a personal goal, and make a dream come true. It is though his eyes and his words that I am able to see and perceive the world around me.

Q: What is the crowd’s reaction whenever they see you at an event, a practice run or a race?

A: Everybody is whole-heartedly cheering for me, and I can feel the people’s admiration for what I do and what I have accomplished though all these cheering, but also through talking to people. But honestly, in my opinion, I don’t feel like I am doing anything different or special… I am doing exactly what all my fellow runners are doing with a … slightly different approach to it. When you truly love something, and if you want it bad enough, you WILL FIND A WAY to achieve it!

Q: Where do you usually train? 

Screen Shot 2016-05-16 at 08.13.25A: I am usually training in the gym and in the track. I am currently part of two teams. One is the team of people with disabilities and also I am honoured to be a part of the Marathon Team Greece by Maria Polyzou.

My fellow runners and my coach, Maria Polyzou, have become an integral part of my life and they support me on all my goals and in every practice, not only on the track but even running on the road!

Q: Of course I couldn’t not ask about your beautiful dog guide. Please tell us about this amazing friendship between you and her.

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A: Oh but of course. Her name is Melita and she is a beautiful 4 year old blonde Labrador. She came into my life in September of 2013 and since then I felt like I got my eyesight back through her. She IS my eyes! Since day one she showed me that I can trust her completely and that she is capable of guiding me everywhere. I feel extremely safe with her. She is my very best friend and both my wife and I love her so much, she is our baby and definitely an irreplaceable member of our family.

Q: So what about the future, what are your plans for future races? I hope will get to see you at the authentic Athens marathon!

A: Yes, of course I will be there in November. I have already begun my training since this is one of the most challenging marathons in the world! My first goal is to cross the finish line and then hopefully a PB. Of course I always have my amazing coach by my side, Maria Polyzou. Now, one more goal that I’d like to achieve is to one day run an ultramarathon, 50, 60km, maybe more… and I’d like to run for a a cause. I ‘d like to run for children that they are fighting cancer. I am still working on this, and when the thought matures in my mind will plan it out with my coach. What I wish for is for me to be healthy, and able to KEEP Running!

Screen Shot 2016-05-16 at 08.13.16What I represent is very important to me. Disable people should not be left alone, they should be out there living life to the fullest like everyone else! Having a disability doesn’t mean someone can’t do something… it merely means that it has to be done in a different way! I owe it to myself and all the people who are looking up to me to keep fighting and never give up! All the help I get from my guides shows the world that there are still people who unconditionally care out there… And you know what? Only if there is love in our hearts we will manage to progress as a community and as individuals.

What I am trying to do is spread positive vibes, especially nowadays, when are country is facing so many challenges, I feel it is my responsibility (like everyone elses’) to offer and spread around only “LOVE”, “HAPPINESS” and help people to be optimistic about life!

BEING DIFFERENT IS WHAT BRINGS PEOPLE TOGETHER!

Interview with elite athlete Tina Muir!

Hi friends 😀

Today, i am really excited to share yet another interview with you. A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of talking with elite athlete Tina Muir – at the time we didn’t know that she will actually get to run IN THE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS FOR FOR GREAT BRITAIN & NORTHERN IRELAND THIS WEEKEND!!!!!

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You guys can cheer for Tina on Saturday March 26th at 1:35pm GMT I either  live on BBC One at 1:30pm (GMT) if you live in the UK or watchathletics for the rest of the world!!

So here our Q&A . Enjoy!! 😀

Q: When did you start running?

A: I started running around age 14, which was pretty late for a runner in England. I joined a running club where I met my coach who coached me till I was 18, and still is a mentor to this day.Screen Shot 2016-03-24 at 10.40.42

Q: How did you know that this would be a life career for you?

A: I don’t know if I ever considered that. I still wouldn’t say that it is my career. I am a professional runner, but it is not my primary job in my life. I need to keep that balance for me to stay sane. I couldn’t handle being purely a runner, it would be too easy to lose my identity. I also work full time for Runners Connect as the community manager.

But to answer your question, I realized that I had a gift as a runner as early as 15-16 years old, but I never really thought ahead to how I would go about it as I got older. It was only my last year of college that I thought I would like to continue improving and see where I could go.

Q: What does it mean to be an elite runner? Is there a lot of pressure involved?

Screen Shot 2016-03-24 at 10.39.15A: I don’t feel like there is a set definition of what an elite runner is, but I would say that I live my life in a way that puts running as a priority in a way that would allow me to go after goals that most do not have the luxury to do.

As for pressure, yes and no. There is pressure to maintain a certain level and of course we wonder what others will think of us if we fall flat on our faces and bomb a race, but that being said. I think that I can keep that pressure off for the most part by reminding myself that I do this for fun at the end of the day, and by having that balance I talked about earlier, knowing that if I do not run well, it does not mean I have nothing to give in this world. I am a wife, friend, sister, daughter first, and a runner second.

Q: Share 3 of your strengths and 3 of your weaknesses with us.

A: Ooooohhh interesting. I am guessing running related?

Strengths:

Grit.I can push myself much harder than most can, and keep pushing forward when I am Screen Shot 2016-03-24 at 10.39.50already at my limit. Most runners cant push through that level of pain.

Pacing. I am the queen of pacing. I can hold a pace within a few seconds for miles on end without looking at my watch. This allows me to be a smart racer and stay back at the beginning…..so I can pick it up at the end and catch the people who went out too fast.

Real. I hope that comes across in my blog, but In everything I do I like to be real. To show that every single person, I do not care who they are has down moments, has struggles, has those toxic self doubt thoguths, but I like to think it is a strength that I am not afraid to be vulnerable. I also hope that shows in my body type. I do not look perfectly chiselled, and that is okay. I would rather eat a bit more but look more real.

Weaknesses:

Screen Shot 2016-03-24 at 10.40.33Breathing. I can keep my breathing very calm and steady most of the time, but once I get into a bad state with my breathing, there is no going back. That is the reason I have to start out slower. I am also very bad at keeping up with my breathing exercises. I just struggle to motivate myself to do them.

Comparison. Isnt that a weakness for us all? I stand on the start line and look around at the girls all around me and think that I am not lean/strong enough or I cant stay with them. I tend to compare the types of training others do and it makes me feel inferior. But I am working on it!

Efficiency. My running form used to be very bad in some of the most dangerous ways (risk of injury was high). Although I have been working on it, I still waste a lot of energy that I could be using to run faster by being inefficient. It means I fall apart a lot easier in a race.

Q: What keeps you motivated through a “bad” running day? What gets you out the door?

A: I try to remind myself of how good it is going to feel when I finish the run when I know I did not want to, how proud of myself I am going to be when I finish the run or workout when I struggled. I also like to look at my goal race or what I am training for, and think about how I will remember that moment when I am struggling in a race, and if I made it through that, I can make it through this.

Q: Let’s talk about the World Half Marathon Championships. What does that mean to you?

A: Well, as I am sure you know….but your readers probably do not, initially I was a little Screen Shot 2016-03-24 at 10.40.24disappointed to find out I had not made the Great Britain team. But once I had some time for it to soak in (and a few people gave me a kick for being the Eeyore- Winnie the pooh reference, how childish!), I realized just how amazing of an opportunity this was!

It is still hard to believe that I will be running in a WORLD championship, against the best in the world. That is such an honor, and I just want to enjoy it, especially as there is no pressure. I am very excited for the race!

Moving from the UK to the USA, how did you find the transition? Do you miss the UK?

I have been here about 9 years now, so it seems like home being in the US….actually it is home! But yes, definitely still miss friends and family and even just the town I am from (St Albans). I still definitely get homesick, and feel like I am missing out sometimes, but the benefits outweigh those moments, and now I am with my husband, he makes me so happy. I am surrounded by so much love from people over here that it is hard to stay sad for long.

I still miss curries and M&S though 😉

Screen Shot 2016-03-24 at 10.49.56Q: What are your plans for the future?

A: Whoa! That is a loaded question! Haha. Uhhh well just sticking to running, I will say that my number one goal is to represent GB in a world championships. I will keep working towards that until I accomplish it. I would also like to get as close to 2:30 in the marathon as I could, and get my 5k/10k PRs up to a level I would say is satisfactory to retire them away….that is about 10 seconds off my 5k and 30 seconds off my 10k….to be continued J

Q: What else do you enjoy apart from running?

A: My husband. It sounds cheesy, but anything we do together makes me very happy. I love to go out to eat (I am a real foodie!!) or make something in. I actually make most things myself, even down to sauces, bread, almond milk, hummus ect. I do really enjoy cooking.

I also LOVE to interact with people. I am surrounded by so many wonderful friends and family who I love to keep up to date on and stay in touch with. I do enjoy my blog and helping others to feel better about their own running and life.

Q: What is your advice to beginner runners?

A: You are a runner. Whether you run a 5 minute mile or a 15 minute mile. Be proud of who you are and never feel embarrassed or like you need to hide it. Do not compare yourselves to other. Be proud of your strengths and who YOU are. Be Brave. Be Strong. Be You!

Thank you so much Tina for taking the time to answer my questions! I was honoured to get to know such a down to earth awesome individual like you! I will definitely be cheering for you this weekend! 😀

You guys feel free to read my other Q&As with awesome ladies such as Carly Pizzani from Fine Fit Day and Maria Polyzou Olympic metal winner.

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Let’s all have a “Fine Fit Day” :)

Hi friends 😀

Today’s post features one of my very favourite bloggers, Carly Pizzani from Fine Fit Day!Screen Shot 2016-03-10 at 09.07.55

But before I get there let me tell you a little story of how I met Carly (and years later how she met me LOL!)…

August 2011. That summer NYC was boiling or at least it definitely felt like it for me. Coming from Glasgow, Scotland and 60F (~16C) to an incredibly hot 105F (~40C) was quite the shock! I remember walking down south street seaport and thinking that my flip flop would get stuck to the street cause it would melt (too dramatic you say…. Not really!). So long story short that summer I took the biggest gamble of my life and moved to the US. In hindsight I will tell you that this was the best decision I have ever made but back then I wasn’t so sure about it. NYC can be pretty intimidating for a newbie coming from a small city like Glasgow. Had no job, no friends and didn’t know anyone… And as I figured out it was quite hard to make friends in such a huge city (contrary to common belief…). On top of all that I was in a terrible fitness slump. Couldn’t go out to run – i swear I thought I ll get a heat stroke – and just really didn’t feel like doing anything exercise related at all… So here I am at around 3am surfing through the internet desperate for some inspiration secretly hoping to stumble upon a “how to survive a new city” guide… And I found this post from Carly about how use mantras to succeed your goals.  I started looking around and reading more on Carly’s blog and I was instantly hooked! Her witty and smart way of writing, her down to earth style AND the fact that she was a New Yorker was all I needed to just become an instant fan! So this is how I met Carly…

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Now fast-forward everything 5 years and 5 countries later…

January 2016. We have recently moved to London and I have finally decide to act upon a little dream of mine called “Tale of Two Runs” and make it happen! The first person I thought of asking advice about blogging was of course no other than my favourite blogger 🙂 I sent an email to her asking questions about blogging etc – i have to admit I didn’t really think I ‘ll get an answer given how busy Carly’s life looked through her blog. Until I actually did get a – very friendly and incredibly useful – response 😀 😀 And this is how Carly met me…

Apologies for the long intro friends, but this is a story i’ve been dying to tell since Carly agreed to a Q&A with me! So here it is:

Q: Carly Pizzani, writer, runner, blogger, personal trainer and mama. How do you do it? How do you manage to juggle all these roles?

A: I honestly have no idea! Ha ha. First of all, right now I’m not training clients in person – I have a couple of personal training clients I work with online only. That’s been a big change in the way my days are structured! Honestly, life is a lot of scheduling at the last moment. I write whenever I can snatch some time, which is usually at night once my boys are in bed. My running schedule I have to work around naptime, breastfeeding, my husband’s work schedule and the weather! It is very fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants. What I’ve realized though, is that everyone is busy and all over the place at every stage of life. Before I had kids, I thought it was tough to schedule everything I was doing. When I had one child, I thought it was hard. Now I have two and I’m still not sure how I’m doing it! But if something is a priority for you, you just make it work.

Screen Shot 2016-03-10 at 09.10.23Q: What is your second favourite to running?

A: This is such a toss-up between lifting weights and yoga. A year ago I would have said strength training with no hesitation, but I started doing prenatal yoga in my second pregnancy and have realized how much I love yoga and how much it complements my running.

Q: Who is Carly, tell us 3 weaknesses that you have and 3 strengths.

Weaknesses: 1. I am terrible with my sleep habits. I stay up way too late, hanging out with my husband and then writing or scheduling blog stuff and then just power through on very little sleep. It’s been at the top of my list to change for a long time, but it’s still a work in progress. 2. Not asking for help. I’m independent (some may say stubborn and pig-headed, but I prefer independent!) to a fault. I like to try to do everything myself and it doesn’t always work out in my favor. 3. Chocolate is a wonderful weakness of mine. 🙂 I am actually awesome at having it in my house and only eating some when I really want it, but if someone offers me some or gives it to me, I will never say no!

Strengths: 1. I am really, really curious. If something piques my interest, I research it to death until I feel like I understand every angle. This works so well for my roles as mama, trainer and writer – each requires extensive research at times! 2. When I decide to do something, there have to be some crazy extenuating circumstances for me to even consider quitting. It’s why I can set big goals for myself with running or my career and really feel like I’ve put everything I can into it. 3. I’m a great self-taught cook. I may not be the best baker in the world, but I’m one of those people who can see what they have in their fridge and pantry and throw together a delicious meal.

Q: How did you start running and why running/training and writing over Art history?Screen Shot 2016-03-10 at 09.12.28

A: I had two starts to running. When I was first married, we lived on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and used to walk in Riverside Park all the time. I don’t know what sparked it, but I started doing run breaks in my walking and realized I enjoyed it. Then we moved to Brooklyn and I didn’t keep running. After about a year, I joined a gym with a girlfriend who lived near me and I started running on a treadmill. And it just stuck – I wanted to get faster, I started running outside, I discovered Prospect Park, I ran a race and I never looked back.

I actually made the huge leap to give up a well-paying career in sales for a high-end design retail store when my mum was ill in 2008 (here is Carly’s story on this) I just realized I wasn’t happy professionally and my love for working out and running and helping people would work perfectly for a career as a trainer. Now my background in art history is just for my own love of art. 🙂

Q: Do you miss Australia, visit often?

A: I think when you move to another country you go through stages. The first year you miss your home country like crazy and think everything that’s different in your new home is weird or wrong. Then you have a year of begrudgingly admitting there are some things you like better about your new country. And then you start feeling like the new place is home and it would be hard to go back. After 15 plus years, this is home. We’ve been back many times, but now with two kids it’s super expensive! My parents come over about every 18 months to visit and my brother and his family visited for Christmas a couple of years back, which was wonderful. We haven’t been in three years, so I’m thinking 2017 we will make the trek again.

Q: What motivates you? What gets you on your feet and out the door even if you are having a bad day?

A: I think mainly it’s the knowledge that working out or running is usually a good part of the cure for a bad day. I like to have goal races set up so I have something I know I need to specifically train for, because that forces me to get my butt in gear, too.

Screen Shot 2016-03-10 at 09.15.28.pngQ: What is your biggest achievement?

A: My boys. I’m so proud of them! I wasn’t always sure I’d have children, but these two have just expanded my heart and made me a better person.

Q: Who is your personal role model?

A: My personal role model is a professor I had when I was at university in Sydney, the late Dr. Phillip Kent. He was such a huge influence on me – his encyclopedic knowledge about seemingly everything and his curiosity about all topics (not just what he taught) made me realize that education is not just learning in school, but teaching yourself and finding joy in what comes along in your life. I’ve applied it to all areas of my life.

Q: What is your go to training plan for big races? How long do you usually train before a marathon?Screen Shot 2016-03-10 at 09.16.40.png

A: The last time I trained for the marathon, I used the NYRR virtual training program, which I liked a lot and would recommend. This time around, I invested time instead of money and created my own plan, which is working really well for me. 16 weeks is a good period of time for me for training. If I didn’t have good base fitness, I would bump that up to 18 – 20 weeks. If I was in the best shape of my life and already running pretty long distance for my long run, I could probably get away with 12 – 14 weeks.

Q: A piece of advice for new runners that just started hitting the road?

A: Don’t think you need to go out and be a running superstar right off the bat. Take it slow, because all your first races will be PR’s! Just enjoy the process and work your way up to setting goals for specific times and paces. And make sure you continue (or start!) strength training while you’re running, to prevent injury and keep you strong and fast. (Here is a post on how strength training that can improve your running by Carly).

I really hope you guys enjoyed my Q&A as much I did! Many many thanks to Carly for taking the time to answer all of my questions 🙂 And I am really looking forward for the opportunity to meeting in person someday! Have a lovely day everyone 😀

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Running a different Marathon…

Hi friends 🙂

Today I’d like to share with you a very special story of a very special little girl! I first heard of this story through Maria Polyzou and her team. And I thought to myself that this, is defineltaly something that the world needs to know about… So here we go!

 

World meet Marilena and her dad, Mr. Vassilis Gerogiannis.

12746165_10208260350523502_1931404293_nMarilena (her name is a combination of two beautiful Greek names, Maria and Elena) was diagnosed with a very rare syndrome called “OKAMOTO” syndrome when she was two years old. She is one out of four diagnosed cases with Okamoto syndrome all over the world, and currently only two of those kids are alive. Marilena is an amazing fighter. Even though she has already undergone 10 operations in order for her to have a better quality of life and to be able to survive she is a very happy and full of life little girl who loves her dogs and always smiles. According to her mum, Marilena “is very funny and likes making others laugh. She has amazing strength and she loves to learn new things.  She becomes very stubborn when she has to do something which she can’t”.

Today, Marilena is 12 years old and has run many races including the original Athens marathon with her dad (and sometimes her furry friend 🙂 ). Unfortunatelly, Marilena and her family are struggling because this syndrome is so rare and there is very little support from the government or the public health sector in Greece where they live. If you are interested to read Marilena’s full story please go here or here. Spreading awareness for this very rare syndrome can help more people that suffer form it to get diagnosed and can also help individuals who are already struggling with it and their families to get the proper support and treatments.

Marilena’s parents mrs. Anna Kyrozi Gerogianni and mr. Vassilis Gerogiannis are two extremely strong individuals. They love their daughter and care for her deeply, and trying their very best in order for Marilena to live a full life. Her dad, mr. Vassilis Gerogiannis has pushed Marilena’s stroller through countless races and a marathon. Every runner knows how hard it is to complete a marathon… Now imagine crossing the finishing line pushing a stroller with a 12 year old child in it! What an INCREDIBLE accomplishment!

Here are a few more pictures of Marilena during some of her races 🙂 The amazing Maria Polyzou, one of the best runners and my favourite athlete and role model by far, is also one of the people who helped Marilena and her dad in their running endeavours !

I had the opportunity to speak with Marilena’s mum and dad, mrs. Anna Kyrozi Gerogianni  and Mr.Vassili Gerogianni and to ask them a few questions about their struggles of raising a child with a rare disease and also about their motivation as a family to start this running journey.

So here is my Q&A with them 🙂

Q: How do you communicate with Marilena?

A: We communicate with Marilena in our own unique way!  She can pronounce a small number of words not very clearly.  We usually ask her closed questions where she replies with “yes” or “no”. She is learning to communicate with a special application on a tablet that will help her let us know what she wants.

 Q: How did you decide to run all these various events and especially a marathon, with Marilena, and why?

A: I was inspired from a video I saw on YouTube of team Hoyt (Rich & Dick Hoyt – father and  his disabled son).  They have ran more than 1000 races and even participated in iron man races together! When Rich and Dick ran their first race, Rich told his dad:  “Dad when we race I feel that my disability disappears”…. So I decided to run races with my daughter to make her disability disappear, at least for as long as the race is.  She really enjoys participating in races and is proud of her metals! Marathon races are very demanding and challenging.  Finishing a marathon (especially the authentic course, which is even more demanding), with Marilena, makes the messages we want to puss even more powerful.

Screen Shot 2016-02-28 at 15.07.37Q: Does she enjoy the races?

A: Marilena enjoys the races very much.  We even take our small dog with us.  She enjoys people cheering for her and shows her medals with pride!  After a race ends she “asks” when the next one will be!

 Q: Is there any special preparation required for Marilena to safely participate in the races?

A: The only preparation is the construction of the custom made running chair which was “donated” by Dimitris Korres who designed and constructed the chair.  He has also constructed a unique car named “project 4”.

 Q: Are there any regulations currently in Greece regarding strollers/wheelchairs participating in running events?

A: I would say that they are neither allowed nor restricted .  However in all races we have participated we have been welcomed.  Regulations are more strict (in some races) for handcycles.

 Q: Tell us a few words about the “Let’s all hug Marilena” movement. What are you trying to achieve through this?

We have printed T-shirts with the logo “Let’s all hug Marilena” and sell them in order Marilena to be able to make all therapies she needs everyday (i.e. physiotherapy, speechtherapy etc).  In Greece the therapies are very expensive and the country only returns us a very small amount.

 Q: How could someone help and get involved with “Let’s all hug Marilena”?

A: Everyone can order Marilena’s t-shirts which are in sizes S, M, L, XL and XXL and Screen Shot 2016-02-28 at 15.07.24colours white, black, grey, pink, blue electric.  There are also small sizes for children of ages 5-6, 7-8 and 9-11 in white, pink or blue electric. The cost of the T-shirts are 10 euros each. If someone wants to order a t-shirt, he can communicate with me either with a messaged in facebook (Anna Kyrozi Gerogianni) or Marilenas group “Marilena, an angel on earth: https://www.facebook.com/groups/826245597428213/ ,  or with an e-mail to: annakyrozi@gmail.com

Q: Any future races coming up for the dynamic running duo (or should we say trio since there is a puppy with them as well)?

Screen Shot 2016-02-28 at 15.08.18A: The next race will be in the Athens Half Marathon event on March 20th.  We have ran the Half Marathon for two consecutive years.  Last year we ran the half Marathon and a few minutes after we finished the 5k was starting.  So we also ran the 5k too. That 5k was very special because Maria Polyzou (the greek Marathon champion) ran with us pushing Marilena’s chair. We plan to participate in many more races in the years to come.  Furthermore we plan to make more running chairs so more disabled children can feel the unique feelings a race can give you.

Many thanks to both of Marilena’s parents for sharing the story of their unique little girl with us here at Tale of two runs, and I wish them best of luck in their upcoming races! Stay tuned for many interesting stories 🙂

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Maria Polyzou – Interview with a legend…

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Hi friends 🙂

Today I am beyond excited to share with you something that I have dreamt of for quite some time now. An interview with Maria Polyzou, who is to my opinion, one of the greatest athletes of our time. You can read her story here, in my introductory post about her.

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Olympic Games, ATLANTA 1996

Q: When did you start running and how did you know that this would be a life career for you?

A: I started running when I was 12 years old. I loved it from the very first time. I felt free and my mind would keep dreaming during a run. I learnt about the marathon when I was about 15 years old, and since then I knew that this was “my” distance, this was exactly what I wanted to run for. I believe I was born to run… Through running I can improve myself and I can be creative. Running makes me feel alive.

Q: Who is Maria Polyzou? Tell us 3 of your strengths and 3 of your weaknesses.

A: I don’t know who is Maria Polyzou yet, but there is one thing that I know for sure. I loveScreen Shot 2016-02-26 at 23.15.39.png running and the marathon (both running for it and what it stands for), and I also love life. Can’t point out what my strengths are, the only thing I am certain about is that nothing is impossible… I am the kind of person that will fight with everything I have in order to achieve my goal. I almost never feel physically tired, but I can sometimes feel emotionally drained through all my efforts.

Q: What keeps you motivated through a training cycle? How do you deal with “bad” running days?

A: Even though exercising can always make you feel healthy and clear your mind, there are always days when you don’t feel like training or running at all. Despite that there is always a way to change your perception and the way you feel and be ready for your run/training. Sometimes that could be simply a few moments of peace and quiet, your favorite song, a movie that motivates you or your own dream of what you want to achieve. And finally what always motivates me is MY GOAL! And this is what can be one of the biggest sources for motivation. SET YOUR GOAL AND SEE IT EVERY DAY… THIS IS WHEN YOU’LL NEVER FEEL TIRED.

Running the NYC Marathon – with Katerina Katopi

Q: The legendary 524km from Athens to Sparta back to Athens and then Marathon. How did you make the decision to do it and why? What kept you going?

Screen Shot 2016-02-26 at 21.59.03A: The decision to run from Athens to Sparta and back to Marathon, 524km (325 miles) was one of the biggest and most important decisions of my life. I knew it would not be easy… I knew i would have to risk everything, even perhaps my own life, to accomplish this unimaginable goal. There is always this one idea, that is worth more than you and your ego, that is bigger than everything you know. I run that distance to pay my respects and honor all those who fought at the battle of Marathon 2.500 years ago. To spread the word of how important it is to respect and remember our country’s history and to pass along the message that no goal is impossible if it is something sacred and so much bigger than just you.

(You can find Maria’s book here)

Q: What was the most challenging part of this endeavor and what difficulties did you face?

A: This endeavor was filled with obstacles from the very beginning. When I started this journey (July 26th) there was a heat wave raging throughout Greece, with temperatures between 38C (100F) to 42C (107F), and that made the looming distance even more challenging. I had never run longer than the 42km (26.1 miles) of a marathon, and with no adequate training I had to run 524km (325 miles). To me that looked like I had a week to get to them and no idea whatsoever how I will achieve this goal. Completing this incredible distance was all about my mind’s strength and my positive thinking. Through this journey I discovered that if you believe in your goal with all you have then your inner strength will give you what you need to achieve the impossible.

Q: What were your thoughts and feelings after you crossed the finishing line?

A: The feelings that rushed through me were indescribable… I had made it to the Tomb

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Maria Polyzou & daughter Agapi in training 

of Marathon alive, and I ended this “pilgrimage” by kneeling and paying my respects to those 192 Marathon soldiers. YES… there are times in life when you go beyond your limits as a human being and this was one of those times for me. One of the things that kept me going is my daughter Agapi (Love), the thought of being with her and being there for her. To be able to see her growing up and chasing her own dreams. She is the one achievement that I am more proud than anything else. She is my brightest accomplishment and she is the reason why I am still trying for every one of my goals.

Q: When was the idea for Marathon team Greece born and how did it start?

Screen Shot 2016-02-26 at 22.10.58A: The team “MARATHON TEAM GREECE by Maria Polyzou” was created during late 2011. It was something I longed to do for a very long time. For me it is my life’s work. It is very challenging to coach people but not just their bodies, to also coach their minds, “soul and body” (ΨΥΧΗ ΤΕ ΚΑΙ ΣΩΜΑΤΙ). All the members of the team are also striving to achieve their own goals and accomplish new PRs. Also we are trying to be an active member of our community and help as many people as we can during these tough times. Through one of our team’s community programs called “Marathon 42.195” we managed to provide more than 20.000 portions of food for the NPO “WE CAN”, with the slogan “no food portion goes to waste”. Our goal is to reach 42.195 portions of food, the same number as the meters in a Marathon. This year we started to support “VISION OF HOPE”, dedicated to help children with cancer, while we are also trying to raise awareness for people to donate bone marrow. Our goal is to make our running meaningful in as many ways as possible.

Q: What are your plans for the future?

A: I believe that the more you can offer to others, the better person you become. My plan is along with my team to provide as much as we can to people in need. I don’t run for me anymore but for everyone in need…

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Running with Marilena (the story of this amazing little girl is coming to the blog soon!)

Q: What else do you enjoy apart from running?

A: I enjoy everything in life. I am trying to be creative every single moment and I am always grateful and full of LOVE.

Q: What would be your advice for beginner runners?

A: Beginner runners should always consult with a coach, in order to avoid mistakes that could lead to injuries. With proper guidance they can safely enjoy running, improve their health and achieve PRs.

Q: Thank you so very much for taking the time to answer my questions. I greatly appreciate it.

A: It was my pleasure, I wish you all the best.

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A few words from Maria’s book…

I decided to close the interview with this picture. To me this is everything that Maria Polyzou stands for. This is the flame from the Tomb of Marathon (Greece) which has been transferred all the way to Germany, to Dusseldorf’s marathon, to illuminate the values that a marathon stands for and spread the light…

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I really hope you enjoyed this interview as much as I did! More to come soon! Next interview on the blog will be from one of my very favourite bloggers! Stay tuned…

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