Among the strong female elite field in the 2018 Bank of America Chicago Marathon is Alexi Pappas, who is well known in Chicago because of her back-to-back wins at the Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle 8k in 2015 and 2016. While the Greek-American runner tackles more intense training for her debut marathon on October 7, she’s also writing a book and inspiring her fans, whom she calls “bravies,” on social media every day.
Chicago Athlete: Why did you choose Chicago for your marathon debut?
Alexi Pappas: It really was about the event and the place. I paced half of the Chicago Marathon several years ago, and then came back for several Shuffles, and I have had nothing but wonderful experiences. If felt like the right place, and very familiar. The energy and the people I’ve encountered there have been really positive.
CA: How is your training going?
AP: It’s going well. I’m in Mammoth Lakes in California; I live here now, and I train with Deena Kastor. Training with her is like going to marathon school and learning from the best. This is where Deena and Meb and so many others have trained, so there’s a lot of rich running history here. Waking up and running where so many greats have been makes me feel like I’m part of something. With the altitude training, it’s all about effort. I’ve learned that I’m not always going to make my best times, but knowing I’m trying my hardest is the only thing I can do.
CA: What are your goals for race day?
AP: I want to do whatever my coach feels like the right tactic is, which we haven’t discussed yet. I just want to be fresh and optimistic.
CA: What shoes are you training in?
AP: I am going to be racing in the Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4%; I haven’t raced in them yet, but I do my workouts in them and they feel really good. I’ve been wearing ON for my longer training runs.
CA: Your social media presence is very well known. How did “bravies” originate?
AP: One day, I just made up a tweet that was a poem and that was part of it, and that’s what people stuck to. My posts have always been followers-driven and I noticed people were repeating it, and it worked. I feel like with these things you can’t force it on people, but they naturally stick to the word an feeling behind it and its all-encompassing. It’s gone a distance, and is the title of the book I’m writing.
CA: Can you tell us a little bit more about the book?
AP: Yes, I signed a book deal in the fall, and it’s a memoir and essay. It’s set to release before the 2020 Olympics, so sometimes next year. It’s a really cool thing to do; like training for a marathon, it’s like putting in a little work over a long period of time. It’s paired well with the marathon training because I’ll have time in the afternoons to write, and it’s been a good balance to have some long term goals similar to the marathon.
CA: As you are experiencing a new distance for the first time, what advice do you give “bravies” in the same position?
AP: One of the fun things about Chicago is that I love being around other people experiencing something they’ve never done before. There’s actually been a lot of young bravies coming through Mammoth this summer and I do a talk in the park every week. What I tell them is to pick a point in the workout or race, and gift yourself new legs; it’s like a checkpoint in a video game, and when it’s decided ahead of time, it helps. You know pain is going to come, but you also know new legs will come; it’s all about anticipating and preparation.
Follow Alexi’s journey and read her inspiring posts on her Instagram account, @alexipappas