Tillsonburg’s George Papadakos set out to run 31 marathons in 31 days during the month of January, while raising funds for the Alzheimer Society of Oxford.
On Saturday, Jan. 9, he completed his ninth marathon in nine days. And he was in some pain.
An Achilles tendon/calf muscle strain earlier in the week forced him to alter his gait, and running 42.2 kilometres every day was aggravating the injury.
Papadakos described it Saturday afternoon as ‘step, ouch, step, ouch, step, ouch.’
“I always thought it (42.2 kilometres) was a daunting number, but with injury it’s even longer, and it’s a little harder to get your mind around even getting started.
“So, yeah, it’s been a bit of a struggle today.”
Papadakos said his body would decide whether he continued his marathon-a-day pace.
“So far I’ve been approaching every day by itself. If my body says ‘yeah, you’re done’ then I’ll say I’m done, right?”
The next morning his body was saying, ‘yeah, you’re done,’ and his Marathons for Memories game plan changed – partly due to the pain, partly because he was worrying about his long-term health. Instead of hitting the pavement early, he wanted to find out if it was a rupture or tear and sought advice and therapy treatment.
“This morning (Sunday) I was just mentally not wanting to put any pressure on my foot,” said Papadakos in a Sunday evening social media live-stream with his wife Nikko.
“We talked about it and I said to him, ‘What if we all do a piece of it?’” said Nikko Sunday night, who after discussing it with her friends in the morning, had suggested family and friends could individually chip in their kilometres.
“What if we do the marathon, but it’s many of us that are doing it together? There’s nothing wrong with us doing this as a collective. We know if we said to Tillsonburg, and to our community at large, ‘we need help,’ we would get it.”
In addition to raising funds for the Alzheimer Society, Marathons for Memories raises awareness. They could do both, she said, by keeping the spirit of ’31 in 31’ alive as a collective effort, and they reached out to family and friends. When they tallied Sunday’s distances, they had in combination – not from the same location or at the same time – walked or ran 147.25 kilometres, including the 3.5 kilometres Papadakos ran on a treadmill.
“It was a heavy day,” he said Sunday night. “For the better part of five days I’ve pretty much struggled to get out the door… not for the lack of will, just (because) every step was going to be a reminder that you’re hurting.”
Dialing down his kilometres, he said, should allow him to recover and stay active on the home treadmill.
“At the end of the day, I want to make sure I have my health, too,” he said.
“We have raised over $18,000 for Marathons for Memories, which is fantastic. We are 10 days in… and not done yet. We’re at the tip of the iceberg. I think we’re still growing. I still think we’re going in the right direction. There are so many people that are onboard now, and so many people are watching and seeing this community – our community – really reach and share and envelope this great charity. It’s amazing.”
Nikko and daughter Zoey met Papadakos at the end of his ninth marathon Saturday around 2:30 p.m. holding a small finish-line ribbon for him to break.
“I thought he was crazy,” said Nikko, recalling her husband’s idea a couple of months ago to try 31 in 31. “I was one of the last to know, to be honest, because I’m sure he thought I would question him. However, it’s only for his safety… I know he dreams very big. This is how he works.”
She knew the pain, however, was real.
“He’s in a lot of pain,” said Nikko. “He’s in a lot of pain, and it’s mentally exhausting to constantly be in pain.”
Zoey, who ran six to eight kilometres with Papadakos in the latter stages of Saturday’s 42.2-kilometre run, also knew he was in pain.
“A lot,” Zoey nodded. “Yeah, it’s hard to watch him suffer, especially because I’m an athlete, I kind of know the pain he’s going through.”
At the same time, it was inspiring, she said, watching him running marathon after marathon.
“It’s incredibly inspiring… I can do anything I guess,” she said. “Any time I’m hurting doing my workouts now, I’m like, ‘Well, I don’t have to wake up and run a marathon every day.’”
At first, Zoey thought her dad was joking when she heard he would attempt 31 marathons in January.
“Once he told me a couple more times, I tried to talk him out of it. I still think it’s crazy.”
On Monday, George completed his 10th marathon in 11 days.