Access Hollywood’s Maria Menounos recently traveled to Greece with her family to celebrate the Athens Marathon’s 2,500th anniversary. While she was there, Maria captured her time there in this blog for Self magazine…
“Believe it or not, the economic conditions in Greece are even worse than those in our country’s. As a first generation Greek American, I desperately wanted to do something to help. That something came in the form of hosting the 2010 Greek marathon. This year was the 2500th anniversary commemorating the mythic run of Greek messenger, Pheidippides, from the Battle of Marathon to Athens.
Way back in 490 BC., Pheidippides job was to spread the word that Athens had defeated Persia at the battle. In 2010, it was my job to spread the word that the Greek marathon is THE premiere marathon in the world and that Greece, despite its economic setbacks, is THE premiere vacation destination and tourist attraction as well. After all, what other marathon is so authentic and rich in history? And what other country offers travelers such a wide range of assets from gorgeous island paradises to ancient historical wonders to a booming night life? I can’t think of many. Yet, as awe-inspiring as Greece and the marathon was and is, it was my decision to run the 5K portion of the race that may have given me the most inspiration.
Honestly, I wouldn’t even think to attend this event without my parents. As Greek natives who moved to the United States in their twenties, this was an experience they could not miss. Growing up in mountain villages that lacked electricity and running water, this was quite their triumphant return. However, what truly inspired me, and what I hope inspires others, is the fact that they decided to actually run the race with me.
Mind you, these are not the parents who play tennis, do aerobics or have gym memberships. They are working-class folk. Dad, Costas, was a janitor and a handyman. Mom, Litsa, was a cafeteria worker. They had kids to feed in a foreign culture whose language they did not speak. What compounded their struggles was the fact that Dad’s a Type I diabetic, prone to severe low blood sugar attacks. He’s had the disease for forty years and has even been pronounced dead on more than one occasion due to its effects. As you can guess, there just wasn’t room for extracurricular activities like exercise.
Yet, this 66-year-old diabetic and his 56-year-old wife, who battled medical setbacks of her own including thyroid issues and a deviated septum, were determined, despite everything, to help the cause and to show their support by running the race. They lacked exercise experience and they lacked youth but had something, perhaps, more valuable. They had their minds in the state of ‘possibility.’
Growing up, no matter how tough the times, no matter how few the resources, my parents always believed that everything in life was possible. If it was possible to come to this country and succeed, why wouldn’t it be possible to overcome any other obstacle--including running a 5K?
Looking back, it’s this very mindset that’s helped fuel my career. I was told, universally, that I could never act in films and report for network news. But having my mind in the state of possibility, I was able to do otherwise. Today, in their later years, no less, my parents are still living by this philosophy as evidenced by their efforts in the marathon.
Three months ago, they began training. They took baby steps, walking together at first then alternating walking and jogging before jogging without interruption. Mom lost over 20 pounds in the process and Dad managed to build stamina to the point he ended up beating us all to the finish line! On a side note, I was winded and sore after the race while my parents were laughing and taking pictures when they finished. It was such a healthy confidence boost for them. Dad feels more than ever that it IS possible to live to an old age with the disease and Mom feels it IS possible to be fit in her mid-fifties.
Both want to continue to exercise now and run other races, too. Incredibly, they’ve penciled themselves in to running the Rock N Roll half-marathon in Vegas this December. Had Mom and Dad not had their minds in possibility, none of it would have happened.
If I may be the Pheidippides in this modern day reality play, then let my message be a bit less about how amazing Greece is (though it really is amazing) and a bit more about keeping our minds in the same state of possibility my parents have. It IS possible to lose weight, change careers, begin exercising, find a partner, start a business, change lifestyles and improve upon your life regardless of your age or condition.
Thanks Greece, and thanks Mom and Dad, for reminding me to keep MY mind in possibility when I want to give up. I hope others out there can be reminded, too.
P.S. If I do run the half-marathon in Vegas with Mom and Dad, I’ll be sure to check back in with all of you!”
For more from Maria’s trip, visit Self.com!