Just do it! I ran the Tbilisi Marathon

“I have never run 21 km before." Genevieve Helliwell at the Tbilisi Marathon.Photo by Agenda.ge/Nino Alavidze
Agenda.ge, Oct 29, 2014, Tbilisi, Georgia

One perfect day at the office, out of the blue she said "I am going to run the Tbilisi Marathon”. Genevieve Helliwell, Sub-Editor of Agenda.ge is the most athletic in our team. "I have never run 21 km before,” she added.

Tbilisi Marathon is the first official and the only large-scale half marathon in Georgia. Participants run not only for health, but also for charity. Support company Heidelberg Cement will match the funds raised through the 10 GEL registration fee and donate it to a children’s charity. But Genevieve’s reason for participating was not only to help children in need.

She finished 21st among 214 female participants. She did not care of the place, and neither are we. We are very proud of her. She just did it!

Take a glimpse of the 21 kilometre run through her eyes.

I’m not a natural runner, I have to use every ounce of strength to get up in the morning when the alarm goes off at 6am to go to the gym or head outside for a run. But exercise has always been a part of my life so it’s a no-brainer for me to get up and pound the pavement.

Why I run?

I grew up in a household where exercise was a big part of my parents’ lives – both have run numerous half and full marathons – and I played sports, namely field hockey, competitively throughout my childhood, youth and into my young adulthood. For me, exercise is a way to clear my head from work stresses, have some alone time as well as experiencing the rush of endorphins that are produced during exercise.

So after moving to Tbilisi about 18 months ago and occasionally running along the embankment, I found myself struggling to find motivation. Then in early September I stumbled upon the Tbilisi Marathon 2014 and decided to give it a go. I have never run 21km before. The longest I have run was 14km and that was maybe 10 years ago. Although in recent years I’ve completed a mini-triathlon (700m swim, 20km bike and 5km run), a 12km fun-run and a few 6-week fitness camps.

628 participants crossed the finish line of Tbilisi Marathon 2014 on October 25. Photo by Agenda.ge/ Nino Alavidze 

My training program

On September 8 I began a 7-week training program of three runs per week, two days of intensive exercise and two rest days. The program saw me slowly increase my running distance and after 6 weeks I had reached 19km. Leading up to the race I knew I had done the training but was it enough?

The week before I caught the flu and spent five days at home in bed recovering. Feeling miserable, I could have very easily given up and said my body wasn’t well enough to run the race but I persevered. I asked myself how disappointed would I feel if I gave up on my goal and the answer was simple. I was going to complete the half marathon no matter what. I wasn’t aiming on finishing within a certain time, although secretly I did hope to finish in less than 2 hours 15 minutes, my only goal was to finish the race.

Anatoli Oveinokov won Tbilisi Marathon 2014 with the time 01:13:38. Photo by Agenda.ge/Nino Alavidze 

The day before I was inundated with messages of support from my family and friends back home. It helped settle my nerves. The next morning the alarm went off at 5.30am and I got up to have a light breakfast. I tried to go back to sleep but my stomach felt like it was doing backflips. Then at the start line as I waited alongside hundreds of others I felt nervous, excited, scared and apprehensive. It was absolutely freezing and I began to doubt myself, what if I couldn’t do it? 

The race

‘Bang’. The starting gun goes off and away we go. Five kilometres in and I was feeling great. I’m a slow and steady runner and I felt I was making good progress. At the 11km mark (half way) I began to feel sluggish and at the 16km mark every step was a challenge. I was extremely thankful I had a running partner with me who encouraged and supported me otherwise I would have walked.

"I was extremely thankful I had a running partner with me who encouraged and supported me otherwise I would have walked." Photo by Agenda.ge/Nino Alavidze 

The final 2km were a huge mental and physical struggle but as the finish line drew near I knew I had to dig deep and keep going. And the moment I crossed the finish line I felt a mix of emotions - complete happiness that I had achieved my goal and utter relief that it was over!

Thoughts after the finish line

The next day my knees were a bit sore and my legs were tight. I felt like I was 100 years old and I walked like it too! I looked back and reflected on the race. Why was the event so much harder than my training? I contacted my mum in New Zealand and she raised a very valid point – did I eat enough to fuel my body on the run? Over the course I would have burned about 1500 calories and over such distances I needed to fuel my body with energy.

 In that sense I made a rooky mistake – I didn’t eat anything during the race. As I reached the 16km point I had no energy and my body was running on empty. Imagine a car with no fuel. It won’t go far. That’s the same as a body. Regardless of whatever activity you do, whether it’s a walk or a long run, you need to fuel your body so that it can function effectively.

The last kilometers of the race were hard not only for the Genevieve. Photo by Agenda.ge/Nino Alavidze 

My final time was just under 2 hours 8 minutes – miles behind the fastest runner who completed the race in about 1 hour 13 minutes – but I achieved my goal of finishing without walking and it was within the time I had hoped to achieve. But I still felt disappointed as I wanted to do better. As my mother told me, don’t let one small thing ruin the whole experience. So I won’t. I am so proud of myself for completing this challenge.

Overall it’s hard to sum up my experience in a few words but it was one of the most challenging and rewarding things I have done and I would strongly recommend everyone to give a half marathon a go.

See you at the start line next year.

If you decide to take part in Tbilisi Marathon 2015, you can apply at tbilisimarathon.ge

Official video of Tbilisi Marathon.