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Alexi Pappas On Her Chicago Debut
With the Bank of America Chicago Marathon on the horizon, elite distance runner Alexi Pappas is in the final phases of preparing for her marathon debut on October 7.
The 28-year-old, who recently announced a sponsorship with Champion, represented Greece in the 10,000 meters at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio and will run for the European country in Chicago.
Pappas lives and trains in Mammoth Lakes, Calif., where she’s a member of the Mammoth Track Club and coached by Andrew Kastor. In addition to being a professional runner, Pappas is a successful filmmaker, writer and actress. She’s gained a huge following on social media, becoming a beloved role model to many young women—fans she warmly calls her “bravies.”
While in Chicago the days before the race, Pappas plans to meet some of her “bravies” in person. On Oct. 4 from 4:30 to 6 p.m., Pappas is scheduled to appear at the Champion store on Milwaukee Avenue to share her experiences with local high school runners and anyone else who wants to attend the free event.
Pappas recently chatted with Women’s Running via email about who she turns to for race advice, what she’s doing to take extra care of herself and how she plans to unwind after Chicago. (Hint: It involves a second suitcase and her new husband!)
As the Bank of America Chicago Marathon quickly approaches, how are you feeling physically, mentally and emotionally?
I am feeling great physically—my goal was to toe the line healthy, optimistic and slightly undertrained, and I feel just that. Mentally, I feel buoyant—ready to leave this wonderful isolated training environment I’ve been in and face the crowds! It’s like we’ve been in this wonderful incubator, like a baby chicken, and now I will come out of the incubator ready to be in the world. Emotionally, I feel grateful—grateful to be here, healthy, optimistic. Grateful that I had a buildup full of challenge and curiosity and learning.
Why is it important for you to meet and talk to some of your “bravies” while you are in Chicago?
My bravies inspire me as much as I inspire them. [Meeting] in person is so special. When I was younger, it meant a lot when I met a role model in person. I hope to share with the bravies what I’ve learned along my journey to the Olympics and beyond—and have some fun together before the race! Also, it’s special that we will all have the same t-shirt, too (from the event). It’s like how I used to wear sweatbands to be like Mia Hamm. Now we can all have something in common pre-race.
You recently shared a photo on Instagram of the women you run with, along with a poem praising them. How have they helped you as you train for your first marathon?
My teammates are great, though most of them run about half the volume in workouts as me. I am grateful for their company for parts of my training. We do all easy runs together, long runs and a good chunk of our workouts. I like it because I get the obvious benefit of a team—laughing together in the middle of a hard rep—while also training myself to be able to run solo at the end of an extended long run. My teammates are also friends off the track. We have team dinners at the Kastors’ and our conversations are not all about running. I love my teammates because they’re well-rounded like me, and we all love running, but we also love other things. It feels like a very healthy group and a very young group with a ton of potential in the coming years. I think we have one more big team banquet at the Kastors’ before we head to Chicago. I requested my favorite thing ever from Deena: braised short ribs. She is a stellar chef; beyond amazing. (Deena Kastor won a bronze medal in the marathon at the 2004 Olympics and holds the American record in the event. She also set the U.S. women’s masters record at the Chicago Marathon in 2015.)
Last time we chatted you said your goal for the race was to arrive healthy and “slightly undercooked, like a good pasta.” Do you have more specific goals for time and/or pace?
My goal is still the same. My coach, Andrew Kastor, will advise me on pace—he hasn’t yet —and I will do as he says.
From now until Oct. 7, what is on your list of must-dos to prepare?
- Pack for my race and my honeymoon! I am flying to Greece and Italy for a month after the race. I will pack one bag for the race and another bag for the honeymoon, which I won’t touch until the race is over!
- I am cooking every day. It makes me happy, and I also thrive on being a part of my recovery process in this way. I feel like I am intentionally fueling and healing myself when I cook. I also love to watch shows like Top Chef in the evenings and pre-race!
- I am sleeping whenever I can. If I am tired, I immediately lie down!
- Talking to mentors about the race. There are a few people—Deena, Jordan [Hasay]—who I feel I can ask for advice and guidance, and I’ve been doing that. It’s very special to have immediate teammates and also teammates like Jordan, who I feel will be my teammate forever. (Jordan Hasay, who holds the second-fastest marathon time for American women behind Deena Kastor, was also set to run Chicago until an injury forced her to recently withdraw from the race.)