Saturday, 1 October 2011


Life has a way to keep you on your toes, I've been finding out increasingly. Just when you think that everything's good, you are reminded that at the end of the day we have but an illusion of control over what happens.
I realise that not everyone thinks like that. I also realise that I used to be one of those people who thought they were in control of their lives and destinies. I have been proven wrong.
If nothing else, life has a sense of humour. It is deeply ironic in so many ways.
My last post about happiness was followed by a very difficult month of dreams and hopes crushed. Another pregnancy, another loss, followed by complications, hospitals, endless blood tests. Still not out of that and wondering if I will ever be.
But as we battled with that we are also faced with the harsh reality of a country in crisis. The financial crisis has finally affected us. Our salaries have been cut, so that we can carry the burden of debt along with all our fellow salaries employees and pensioners. VAT has continued to rise and now even food has a 23% stamp on it.
Food bills have risen enormously. Heating oil has become prohibitive, heralding a difficult winter. Rising taxation means the paycheck at the end of the month has seen a decrease. Family members are losing their jobs, some others have been unpaid for months. My mother's pension - something she worked for for almost 40 years, has been reduced repeatedly.
And on top of that the government keeps sending emergency taxation bills. And emergency bills for the unemployed. And, as if that wasn't enough, emergency property taxation which is attached to our electricity bill and if we don't (can't) pay we get our electricity cut!
And yet, the untouchables, those who do not declare, those who have their money in Swiss bank accounts, those who routinely cheat the system, once more get away scot free. (Which by the way is an Old English word meaning exempt form royal tax, how apt!) How frustrating is that! How maddening to live in a country where only some have to pay, the ones who have always paid!
We are not sure where this is going. We are not sure how much of it we can endure. We have built a life here that is wonderful - we have a nice house, jobs we enjoy, freedom to walk our dogs on the mountain, to play tennis on a municipal court on a beautiful Friday night, to run and cycle on the mountain. We have the luxury to wake up to sunshine every day, to sit out for dinner in our garden well into autumn, to look at the sea from our kitchen window and the mountains from our bathroom. But where do you draw the line? When do you decide that you cannot go on in this situation, pack and leave?
These are not rhetorical questions, they are questions we have been asking ourselves every day. Answers much appreciated :)

Sunday, 31 July 2011

A new kind of happiness

It feels like we have finally come out of a very long, very dark period. It included illness and death, forest fires, several house moves, unemployment and financial troubles, miscarriage, pain and injury. And yet we have come out.

I have to be honest: there were times in that period when I really did think that life was never going to be fun again. I had lost all hope that "things would work out" and in fact I would get angry when people said that to me. The truth is, and we have found that the hard way, that things don't always work out in life. Unfortunately you don't always get what you deserve, or have worked hard for. That is the lesson and the strength I gained from the last two years.

And a new kind of happiness. The sun is shining brighter than it ever has before. Small things don't matter, yet they give me huge amounts of happiness. D and I are finally enjoying ourselves, the summer, Greece. We have started doing races again. We have been on holiday. We are infused with energy and creativity.

At the moment we are channelling this energy into fixing our house. My dad built it (took him 13 years) and has unfortunately not been repaired for the last 10+ years. We are scrubbing, sanding, coating, painting and cleaning away.

In our spare time we walk our dogs, run races, meet friends and enjoy each other's company. Life is good!

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

"Whatever you do...

...don’t congratulate yourself too much or berate yourself either – your choices are half chance, so are everybody else’s."

I have felt old lately. Not physically, as I have in fact started running again after my 12 weeks of inactivity. I feel mentally old and tired. I feel I have become wiser in some ways, but mostly I have lost the optimism that youth is synonymous with.

I have lost hope in what everyone around me seems to keep saying: "everything will turn out OK". Well, I don't believe that anymore. Life in the last couple of years has shown me that often everything does NOT turn out OK. There is simply no reason why things will. Life is simply not fair, you do not get what you deserve. Or rather you might or might not get what you deserve. I knew it, I guess we all do, but lately I have felt it really deeply.

There is a hollowness inside me and I have been carrying a weight with me. My thoughts have been on the nature of life a lot, and I have been discussing it with those close to me. It's hard to explain it, I guess, but I feel it deeply.

The revelation in all of the above is this: even when life is tough, even when there is loss of hope, there can be pleasure in life. Even in my darkest moments life can be funny, happy, warm. Even in the long and hard build up to my dad's death, even then we had laughs. I cherish those moments. Even after the loss of our baby, even then we had love and warmth.

And that is the miracle of life, even in its darkest moments its way preferable to the alternative.


The title really touched me when I read it [or I guess heard it, it's from Baz Luhrmann Lyrics - Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen)]. As people we naturally do both. But truth is, life throws all sorts of stuff at us and, really, we have little choice in it. Our only choice is in our reaction. I plough ahead into the future! It's spring time!

Thursday, 14 April 2011


I have been silent for the last month or so, no news of my training or plans to race. It's because for the last 2 months and a bit I had been pregnant. We were expecting little baby B in early November of this year and both D and I, though a little surprised, were very excited. It took us a few weeks to adjust to the idea, but making space in your life for a little one seems so natural and we started enjoying it.

When we went for a routine scan last Monday, though, our plans abruptly stopped. The heartbeat that had been there the week before was no longer there. The silence was deafening - and the longer it went on, the more I wanted it to stop. We were told that we had lost the baby, it had died in the womb a few days before. I had suffered what is commonly called a "silent" or missed miscarriage - one when the baby dies, but the body does not expel it.

Miscarriages are so very common, 1 in 5 pregnancies ends like that. Yet no one ever seems to talk about them. Women are encouraged to keep their pregnancies quiet until after the 12 week mark, when miscarriage rates reduce dramatically and don't often talk about a pregnancy loss. Miscarriage is taboo, yet so very common and so very sad. And it seems, so very isolating too.

Why the silence? It is now widely accepted that it's a chance event, not caused by something that the mother did or didn't do (with a few exceptions like smoking and excessive alcohol consumption... and maybe bungee jumping). It is also a time when a woman needs support, instead of having to lie to those around her, pretending all is fine.

Well, I resent this silence and I break it. As we try and get back to normal I want to acknowledge what has happened to us, not fishing for sympathy but merely wanting to share this. To let anyone out there who has been through this, or will go through this, that yes, it is a sad time, yes, it is the end of a life and a dream. But it is only a hurdle on the way. My life goes on, and as with other difficulties, I will get stronger.

I don't feel stronger yet. Partly because physically I am in a bad way. A combination of blood loss and GA, as well as my body adjusting after a pregnancy, I have been very tired and with a very low blood pressure of 90/50. I am eating and drinking well in an effort to bring my blood volume up again.

So... can't quite resume training yet. But, believe me, I will be back to training and I will plan some races for this summer. And maybe I will traing for the Athens Marathon in November - and run it in memory of what wasn't to be.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

A year on

I have had an enforced break from training lately. Having been sick on and off for the last 6 weeks has been frustrating, more than anything, but has given me time to do other things, which was not bad.
It hasn't been a complete break - I have had a few runs with the dogs (including one in a howling storm), I have run with the cross country class at school (hardly an endurance run, but loads of fun nonetheless) and have had some long walks on the mountain. No cycling though (weather has been miserable too!) or swimming.
This break from training aside, D and I had our first holiday pretty much since last year. It felt like a real break, we had a great time and absolutely fell in love with Rome. We were only there for 2 days, but really took the city in, walked around, smelled, tasted and enjoyed Rome so much. It was my first city-break holiday (I am more of an active holiday person, as might have been made clear on this blog) but I would go again in a heartbeat!

Back in Athens I had a visit from J - we had such a lovely time, helped along by beautiful sunny weather - spring is finally here! J is getting ready for a Marathon, her first and has made an amazing commitment. It is an inspiration. As was my other friend, M, running her first 10k race (on pure guts it seemed, as much of her training had been sabotaged by illness)! All in all I was a very proud friend last weekend and didn't mind being support group one bit!

It has also been a year from that Saturday last spring when I lost my dad. I miss him every day, he is with me in everything I do, but the pain has softened a bit. I feel lucky I had such a dad and his life and death is an inspiration to me to live my life to the full. I am certain he would still be very proud of me.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

The long and short of it...

The long and short of it is, I love running. I enjoy going out, on almost any weather, almost any time of day and almost any terrain and simply running. I enjoy running with D, running on my own, running with my dogs, running with hundreds of others. I enjoy running after swimming and biking and I enjoy running out the door. I love running with music, podcasts or just listening to the world around me.

But when it comes to it, I really like running with a purpose. Training for a racemakes me get out on a rainy (and windy) Friday after school, when all I want to do is curl on the sofa and watch TV. And so with that in mind, I have decided to finally take the plunge and train for a marathon. D has been training for the M. Alexandros marathon in April.

Here's the deal. It won't be fast and it most likely won't be pretty. I am not ready to train or race a marathon, but herein lies the challenge. I am also injured: as it transpired on my last long run last Sunday, my old back injury has left me with a weak vastus medialis, from a damaged nerve root, which means my right knee unstable. And, just to top it all off, I have been sick for the last week, so my ever-important long run, tomorrow, is in danger.

And so in my mind I have been trying to decide, might it be better to go short, but fast, or is long (and slow) the better option. Given my biomechanical limitations when running, as well as the time I have to train, short and fast is clearly the more sensible option. Training to get faster over 5 or even 10 km, a very valid goal and one I would definitely like to concentrate at some point in my running life, has a strong pull. But not as strong as running a marathon at this stage. And so, purely to tick the box and enjoy the experience, on 11th April, I will be completing a marathon, even if I have to walk some (most?) of it.

Hope to finish with a smile!
Dafni 10k, Jan 2011

Smiles, blood blisters and sunshine, Ag. Kosmas 10k, Nov. 2010
Finishing with a smile! (Note, number 3 again, the joys of having a "foreign" surname starting with a B!)

Thursday, 13 January 2011

" Smile Like you Mean it!"

Here I am on my last (and one of the first for a while) cycling sessions last Sunday, listening to the Killers song and smiling to my heart's content.

As D is mainly concentrating on running this season, I have to do most of the cycling alone. It was a beautiful January morning, crisp but fairly warm, sunny and with very little wind (no gloves!!). Bliss!

It was, as I mentioned above, one of my first rides this season. I have started to, slowly, get back into training and planning some fun racing for this season. Next race, another 10k this Sunday, though due to a foot injury I have been off for around 3 weeks and just hoping to finish in one piece.

After that my longer term target is, for the second time, the Astroman 1/2 Iron Race. It's a race I did last year (and suffered a lot!) but this time I will hopefully have more than 5 weeks of training behind me and less heat and humidity on the day.

I am excited to be having a second stab at this race and look forward to the training. It is a hilly race - have a look at the photo and note the drop behind me. I better get some good riding in.

Other races I will hopefully do this year: a 20km (in preparation for Astroman) and if all goes well and I feel up to it (ie have not got injured) the Athens Classic Marathon in October/November (I wonder when the organisers will let us know...) Missed the 2,500 anniversary of the race, but will be very happy to race the 2,501st one!

Thursday, 6 January 2011

2011 - The Year of Adventure

I am leaving 2010 behind with little regret - yes, it was a tough year, but I feel that I did everything I had to do. As years go it will stay in my mind forever as one of the toughest. Yet now, in retrospect, my thoughts naturally gravitate to the good moments, the sweet times and it seems like that bad stuff didn't happen to me - like it was just a bad dream.

So, starting the New Year with a rush of hop
e. I don't have resolutions, I rarely do (I tend to make my resolutions mid-year and as they come). But I do have things I want to achieve and
things I want to do, just for fun. D made me this piggy bank to put them all in - I won't be sharing them here (and bore you all to tears.)

And so the year started well, with a hike up Mt Parnitha, which we have now vowed to get to know better. For those of you not familiar with the geography of the peninsula of Attica, it is basically a triangle jutting out into the Aegean. The city of Athens is almost surrounded by mountain - Immitos (where we used to do our Monday night runs), Pendeli (we live on and run on daily with the dogs) and Parnitha. Parnitha is the tallest of the lot (at 1330 m, 14 meters less than Ben Nevis, the highest mountain on the British Isles.)

We headed out there on a foggy and chilly New Year's day, taking along
our three d
ogs and Tami, a young dog we have been looking after during this festive season. We were not
sure where we were going, although we had some GPS guidance, but we decided to walk to the nearest refuge, Bafi, by way of a path that seemed to follow the road (oh yes, this is a mountain refuge you can drive to... another one.)

Here is D leading the way on the path with (from the left, Spencer, Tami, Fifi and little Hardy.)
The refuge towering above. We could see there was a lit fire, so we hurried on up.
Not far to go!

Bread and bean soup in the refuge.

The view (a bit cloudy)

Just before we began the climb down - dogs still with plenty of energy!

Our little adventure was just the thing we needed on New Year's Day. To remind us that we need to get out, to enjoy Greece, for as long as we are here, and discover new places, new mountains and new trails!

Happy New Year to all!