Feature | Athletics

Runner Alexi Pappas has a great idea to make marathon races even better to watch or participate in

Greek-American athlete Alexi Pappas joined the Olympic Channel Podcast to talk about her new book ‘Bravey’ and gave some mental health tips and a suggestion to revolutionise marathon running

By Ed Knowles ·

Runner Alexi Pappas is aiming to run the marathon at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in 2021 for Greece.

Just as she was supposed to be peaking for her qualification event – everything was cancelled due to the pandemic.

Even now, it’s not totally clear when elite races will start up again.

“It's just really uncertain when those marathons will be safe and possible,” she said to the Olympic Channel Podcast.

“I think my goal is still there. But I recognise that I'm like needing to be nimble and flexible with the possibilities that are out there.”

The downtime has given Alexi a lot of opportunity to reflect. She’s finished off her memoirs.

And she’s also come up with a great idea to make marathon races an even more unforgettable experience.

Here are four things we learned from her interview with the Olympic Channel Podcast.

Greek runner Alexi Pappas joined the Olympic Channel Podcast

Alexi Pappas: An idea to revolutionise marathon running

“I've always really admired how in rugby… they were really friendly with the competitors afterwards,” Alexi said.

Pappas thinks that this attitude could have real potential to cross over into running.

It reminded her of when she broke the Greek national record in the 10,000m at Rio 2016.

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“I felt like one of the most meaningful parts about the Rio 10,000m for me was waiting at the finish line until everybody finished.”

Perhaps if people did this in marathon racing, there would be an even more incredible atmosphere at the finish line?

“I do think that it would be really cool if it was tradition to be there for the finishers after you [end your race].

“And I get that you're delirious. You've just put your everything in. But it would be cool if there was a way for everybody to support one another at the end.”


Alexi Pappas: Reframing attitudes to mental health and depression in sport

After her amazing experience at Rio 2016, Alexi Pappas was faced with a new challenge.

“I just wanted to chase the next goal… [And] there were some changes. I moved [house], I changed events, I changed coaches. There's a lot going on. It was too much. And I didn't pause.”

Alexi was diagnosed with clinical depression and it took her a while to figure out how to take some positive steps forward.

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Speaking to a psychiatrist helped.

“It was really a pivotal [moment] meeting my psychiatrist and having him tell me, quite simply, I was sick and that it was like having a scratch on my brain.

“And, for me, I'd never heard it put that way.”

It meant that Alexi could apply her experience as an athlete to heal.

“I was like, ‘OK, I got the scratch on my brain. I am getting help. It can heal just like any other injury. It's going to take time and I'm going to begin the process’.

“And it just felt a lot less like a cloud or something that was my choice.”

Alexi Pappas spoke about mental health issues on the Olympic Channel Podcast

Alexi Pappas: An Olympian's tips on chasing your dream

Becoming an Olympian can seem like a daunting, unachievable task.

Setting it as a goal is exciting but can also create problems.

“I think that the greatest and most important gift you give yourself, if you're chasing any dream, is to give yourself a ‘reasonable but not forever’ period of time.”

Once that period is set, then that focus is aligned. For Alexi, there’s no need to question the big goal itself. Now, it’s time to work on the smaller achievable things.

“[I’ve seen] teammates of mine or friends who pause at every obstacle and question the goal itself.

“It's understanding that we don't question the goal itself… when sometimes [there are] rough waters.”

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Alexi Pappas: Finding mentors

Another tried and tested way of achieving your goal is to find mentors.

This is especially true when people end their time with traditional education like school, college, or university.

“We feel like we don't need it anymore once we're like ‘grown up’. And that, I think, is where people are really missing out

No matter what age you are or what stage your life is at, asking people you respect for help is a good idea.

“We're always allowed.”

Listen to the full interview on the Olympic Channel Podcast, also available wherever you get your podcasts.

Alexi's book 'Bravey' is out now.