Marios Giannakou is a young runner from the city of Drama in Macedonia, Greece. His extraordinary story of perseverance, as he transformed himself from a smoker into an ultra-fit runner, can serve as an inspiration to all.
He was the youngest finisher in one of the most difficult races in the world, the 270-kilometer (168 mile) “Ultra Marathon”, which took place in the deserts of Dubai between December 11–15.
Giannakou wasn’t always a fit athlete who loved challenges. Weighing more than average and a regular smoker, he changed his attitude and life and began running at the age of 22.
Speaking with the Greek Reporter, Giannakou says that he never saw running as a simple athletic competition, or a personal challenge where you try to achieve the fastest time.
”It is an activity where you are on your own. You have the time to think and solve problems for yourself,” he says.
His ultra-long distance running adventure began in 2015, when he participated in several competitions in the region of Rhodopi in Greece’s Thrace. He ran distances of 82 kilometers (51 miles) and even 161 kilometers (100 miles) in separate races there.
In early 2018, he decided to run with his friend Chronis in the Arctic for the distance of 150 kilometers (93.2 miles). ”We finished together, we had the same time” he said proudly.
Asked about his decision to participate in Dubai’s Ultra-Marathon, Giannakou laughed.
”We saw the cold, now it was time to see how the desert is” he said, laughing over the extraordinary accomplishments he has had in less than one year.
Giannakou is clear when it comes to the things which give him strength during these difficult tasks. He confronts the loneliness of running such long distances by thinking of his partner and his family, focusing at the same time on his mission to accomplish what he has prepared for.
The young Greek runner carried the Greek flag with him throughout his mission in the deserts of Dubai. When asked about the reason why he did this, at a time when others of the same age often do not show the same respect for Greece’s national symbol, Giannakou spoke insightfully.
He noted that ”Nowadays many people in Greece have confused some things. To love your country does not mean that you hate the rest of the world.”
”My great -grandfather fought during the Balkan Wars,” he recalls. ”I have learned to respect my country, but I have also learned to respect everyone”.
Giannakou then mentioned his friend in Dubai who ran together with him. ”He is from Turkey,” he said. ”When we finished, his family welcomed me waving Turkish flags”.
The message Giannakou has is simple: Love your country and respect the countries of others.
As for 2019, his plans include rest and relaxation, following his year of astonishing achievements.”I’m going to focus on my book,” he says. He feels the need to share with the world the difficulties and rewards of his adventures in the Arctic and in the deserts of Dubai.
But be on the lookout for more incredible adventures in the future by this insightful young Greek man after he finishes his writing.