Day 205 – EU – Greece [Nea Agathoupoli to Giannitsa]

14th September 2020
Run: 43.8km

Running with another incredible woman ultramarathoner and a Greek Orthodox Pope in clerical clothing!

Following yesterday’s experience of running with Georgia, I was looking forward to running with yet another ultramarathoner woman of Greece, Lindita – from Giannitsa. They are very few! Only 4 Greek women have ever completed the Spartathlon Race: a 245km footrace from Sparta to Athens with a stringent 36hrs time limit. Now I have run with 2 of these 4 incredibly endurant women, what an honour!

Lindita’s son dropped her off about 1km from my start point, on the main road, and we started off together, in the night, finding a common pace from the get go. Lindita’s story fascinated me. She is 46 years-old, a grandmother (since a month ago) and picked up running just about 10 years ago. She has an uncanny appetite for long distance races. Those that involve running for days on end with no (or very little) sleep. She is obviously very happy doing so and seems quite unconcerned by pace or time. My perfect road buddy!

With 17km to go we were joined by Stelios and Sofia on bikes. Stelios is the President of the running club of Giannitsa and was very keen to welcome me in the best possible way. A few kilometers later, an improbable vision…. An old beat-up pickup truck stops ahead of us by the side of the road. A Pope in clerical clothing (and running shoes) gets off the car and starts running by our side!

Pappa Theodoris (Father Theodoris) is a very accomplished long distance runner, has also completed the Spartathlon race and runs daily, always dressed in his “Kalimavkion” (the name for the black dress worn by Greek Orthodox Popes). A legend in the country! I was chuffed. I thought, hey, even Forest Gump did not get to run with a Pope! Eh eh 🙂

As we arrived in Giannitsa, I was offered honey, almonds, the shirt of the running club… and a very generous lunch with Stelios, Sofia and Eugenia. I am always happy in general, but today in particular, even more so. I thought about the people who had spotted us on the road earlier, and how they must have wondered what the hell was going on: a woman pushing a stroller, followed by a running Pope, an ultra runner and two bikes. Quite a vision I suppose..!

My run in Greece is nearly over. I have been absolutely amazed how the network of local clubs did a brilliant job at relaying the news of my run. I have had the most amazing welcome from all of them, been gifted food, drinks, tshirts, medals (!) even accomodation. Tonight, all my thanks go to Stelios Fiounis, Pdt of the Giannitsa Running Club who has facilitated such an amazing run in incredible company. 

Check my daily run GPS data on Garmin or Strava (icons top right of your screen) – here is the map of today’s run: