Running the Athens Marathon with MS

by | Nov 20, 2022 | 0 comments

How did I finish the Athens Marathon after recovering from Covid and living with back pain on the 11 anniversary of my MS diagnosis? Let me share my race management tips.

First, I know I beat the odds and surprised myself.

People always compare living a healthy lifestyle with running a marathon. I believe it is more like running multiple marathons.

My race management started before race day. My family kept reminding me that the original runner, Pheidippides (530–490 BC), an Athenian herald, or hemerodrome (translated as “day-runner”, “courier”, died after he ran the first ever marathon. It was hard not to feel anxious just thinking about the run. I could not rely on being physically prepared because my back pain and Covid derailed my pre-race training. Instead, I decided to focus on mentally preparing for race day.

I made the decision that this was not about having a PR. This marathon was an opportunity to see a different part of Greece on my legs with water stations and medics along the way. Basically, I treated it like it was a running/walking tour of Greece. This helped me enjoy the week in Athens before the race. I did not waste time stressing about the future. I was present at every meal, walk, run or quiet moment. I was going to have fun during the race and before!

On race day, I was visibly afraid and asked for support. My husband offered to walk me to the bus transportation. I was not familiar with the area and did not speak the language. The hubby was equally lost, but it was nice to navigate it together. I was concerned with the logistics of running an international race. I accepted support and found comfort with the camaraderie of my equally lost partner. My husband and I navigated the unknown together and it helped lower my stress.

The camp before the race had a party-like atmosphere. People were dancing, taking selfies, vaping and someone was even dressed as a banana. I could feel my body reacting to the energy and needed to calm down. My MS does not respond well to an adrenaline rush. I crouched down in a deep squat and focused on quieting my surroundings. I was going to run the right race for me and not get distracted with my environment.

As soon as I started to run, my body was feeling the effects of hours of the extra adrenaline. Both legs started trembling. I started to run and mentally agreed that if the symptoms did not go away after 3 miles (around 30 minutes), I was going to call off the race. The trembling stopped but my left leg became weak. I could hear it dragging on the pavement. I focused on not falling and made the same agreement. If my left leg did not start working after three miles, I would stop running.

I have noticed that most of my MS symptoms improve with movement, but if my body was not willing to cooperate I would stop and rest. The plan worked great. I don’t run through the pain, but I don’t let pain stop me from living my life. I try to set realistic attainable goals that do not put my health in jeopardy. 

I knew that I did not have the training to run for 26.2 miles. I made the agreement that if I could make it to the halfway point, I would be focused on the walk/run plan. I knew my limitations and was going to work around them. I was not going to use them as an excuse for not trying.  The family was tracking me and offering supportive words during the 7 miles of hills after mile 10.  It was helpful for me to feel that support. 

Finally, I relied on my failures to run this race. I have experienced hypothermia, severe dehydration, and muscle cramping on past runs. I used those experiences to help me manage this run. I wore a sweatshirt at the beginning of the race, even though I had to throw it away. I wasn’t going to get hypothermic to save a $40 sweatshirt. I stopped at every station to drink and eat, even if I was not feeling the need. I knew all the stretches that would keep me moving and I used them. I am so grateful for my past failures.  

To make no mistakes is not in the power of man; but from their errors and mistakes the wise and good learn wisdom for the future.


I have grown as a parent, wife, daughter and coach. I am not the same coach I was a couple years ago. I am grateful that my experiences have helped so many members at Empower Fitness.  I look forward to helping others feel the same way. Don’t wait another day to feel better. It is time to begin your own marathon. 

Run your own race


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