My Running Journey

Adapted from GQ’s How Running a Little Bit Every Day for Two Months Changed My Life by Emily Abbate.

I started running in February ’17 after a trip to London for Presidents’ Day weekend, 18–20 February.

I was well over 200 lbs (90 kg), the battle to manage my weight since moving to America had been years in the making. My niece and I were playing with a balloon in the living room when it hit me: I need to slim down. I got back from my trip and signed for a gym membership two days later.

I didn’t like lifting, so I decided to run. I made a very specific plan about when and where I would run:

The timing: after work.

I used to have an exhausting, long commute (train -> bus -> walking) to the office, so that meant after 8 PM, usually around 9 PM. I would go back to my apartment to drop off my laptop, grab my workout bag and an umbrella if it was raining, and get moving. There was no laying down on my bed “just for a few minutes” to relax, watching Netflix, or doing anything else that would slow me down. I was walking in and walking right back out the door.

The route: 15–20 minutes of walking to the Oak Square YMCA gym and jumping on the treadmill for 30–45 minutes (or until closure time if I got there late).

I did not let the cold, snowy New England winter stand in my way. My first run/walk was painful. Five minutes into my fat burner workout, my lungs were on fire. I had to turn the speed down and walk. Watching my treadmill neighbors go fast without stopping was intimidating but also motivating. The thought of quitting and looking for the nearest exit crossed my mind, but I decided to keep going instead. First time I got on the treadmill, it took me about an hour to run/walk 3 miles (5 km). I slept like a baby that night.


In a month, going to the gym after work became a habit, and I was doing it without thinking. It was like brushing my teeth every day. Yes, it was hard to overcome the lure of a cozy bed for an early morning run or to squeeze in a 3-miler after work, but I was seeing a slow progression — I was running longer and walking less. I put in the work despite my doubts and fears, and I was getting stronger, both physically and mentally.

I was still struggling, experiencing pain and discomfort, but I was patient and believed my work will eventually pay off. After every run, I felt a tiny bit stronger than yesterday. I had made a commitment to myself, and I was determined to not allow anything deviate me from my goals. To me, it wasn’t about how far or how fast I was running — it was about making a commitment to accomplish something hard and putting in the work to follow through.

It’s important to note that I was never athletic, exercising was such a taboo to me. I did not set out to run a marathon or even a 5K/10K race in the beginning. I was running my own race, with my own pace. I was going to the gym almost every day, rain or shine, I was listening to a playlist of fast-paced beats that kept me going during my workouts, and I was starting to feel better about the person I was seeing in the mirror.

In fact, my aspirations had nothing to do with running: I wanted to lose a certain amount of weight before my next trip to London on 4 May. A key detail about my initial embrace of exercising was a woman. There, I said it: a woman inspired me!


As the weeks progressed, I could sense a change. I was logging more miles on the treadmill, steadily increasing my mileage, and losing weight when, to my great surprise, I fell in love with running and embraced it into my lifestyle. Starting with the totally unrealistic goal of running a marathon right from the get-go would have been a recipe for disappointment and/or injury.

That winter, I went from dreading sports to looking forward to my next run. I now plot getaways with the best running views and run for my own enjoyment.

Running in Oslo

Running helps me shake the stress away. It’s great for my mental health. It changed my outlook.

Running makes me feel empowered and strong. Over two years later, I still chase that feeling (almost) every time I go out for a run, and I am incredibly grateful that I found a way to fall in love with running.

On 19 November ’17, I was bursting with pride after the final 100 yards at my first half marathon, the Cambridge Half Marathon. A year later, on 17 October ’18, I ran my first marathon, the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon.

Paying it forward through Rotaract

Paying my Rotary experience forward by running 4 half marathons and the Bank of America Chicago Marathon to support Teach for Bulgaria.

Published in Rotary Voices, the official blog of Rotary International:

I’ve raised close to $2,000 out of my $5,000 goal by the end of October:

https://www.globalgiving.org/fundr…/georgi-chicago-marathon/

Rotaractor Runs 128 km for Teach for Bulgaria

Thank you, Rotary District 7930, for sharing my story about my experience with Rotary and paying it forward through Rotaract:

https://www.rotary7930.org/Stories/rotaractor-runs-128km-for-teach-for-bulgaria

My love affair with Rotary started when I was a junior in high school and was selected by the Bulgarian-American Fulbright Commission for their United States Achievers Program. One of the participants told me about Interact during the break of a preparation course for applying to U.S. colleges and inspired me to start my high school’s first ever Interact Club, which I ran successfully with my co-president and about 10 members for a year until I graduated.

I got a scholarship to attend a college in Massachusetts and moved from my small town of Septemvri, Bulgaria. After several flights, I found myself in the USA on 17 August 2009. The moment I landed at Boston Logan Airport symbolized my departure from a world that was familiar and comfortable; I realized I had left my family, homeland, and culture behind yet to discover a whole new community, country, and new friends.

Within the first few days of my arrival in Massachusetts, I was immediately accepted, blanketed in warmth and kindness from the Rotary District 7930 community. My 3.5 years in college were exceptionally amazing because of everyone in Rotary who welcomed me, thanks to a Rotarian from a local Rotary Club. I would’ve been lost without her, and I felt so grateful for having her in my life.
Ever since then, I’ve wanted to return the same sentiment in some way. I participated in Rotaract throughout college and have been an active member of Boston Rotaract for the past two years.

I became a Rotaractor because I believe collaboration towards a common goal leads to stronger ties within communities, promotes cultural and economic advancement. Rotaract has provided me with the opportunity to identify with people whether they are from Bulgaria, the EU, the United States, Asia, Latin America, Africa, or anywhere in between. As a result, I have friends of different ethnic and/or social backgrounds and have been able to taste the richness of their cultures, while being part of a group of young people genuinely excited to volunteer and provide service above self.But still, I felt something was missing. I wanted to pay it forward but was unsure how.

This year I decided to challenge myself with the goal of running four half marathons in the summer and participating in the Chicago Marathon in October. While running the distance of over 120 km, I will be raising money to support Teach for Bulgaria, an organization very dear to my heart because of their mission – quality education for every child, regardless of where they live or what their socioeconomic status is.

I already ran two half marathons, I have 86 km left! I’ve raised $1,161out of my $5,000 goal by the end of October in support of this organization.

By supporting Teach for Bulgaria’s cause I want to make sure that more students are going to have role models like the Rotarian who was also a teacher and provided a loving heart when I needed it the most, so that they can help them develop their potential, regardless of where they live or where they come from, to help them gain the confidence to believe they are capable of anything. This is my way of paying it forward to her and Rotary.

I believe that only by strengthening the ties which unite us in Rotary, we are capable of transforming an entire community and can together make a difference by contributing to every child’s access to quality education in Bulgaria; quality education which leads to a functioning economy and a strong society. I believe in Service Above Self: it’s easier to make a positive change when you have the world of Rotary working together.

I’ve raised $1,161 of my goal of $5,000 by the end of October in support of Teach for Bulgaria.

You can  support my effort by donating to my GlobalGiving fundraiser or sharing the campaign on social media with your network.

Rotaract Supports Teach for Bulgaria, too!

I’ve run 42/128 km of my challenge with a cause in support of Teach for Bulgaria, a non-governmental organization which works towards providing every child in Bulgaria with equal access to quality education. I completed 2 half marathons, and I have 2 more half marathons to go before the big Bank of America Chicago Marathon in October!

I am running these marathons so that more students can have inspiring teachers like Boryana, my high school physics teacher who challenged me to analyze physics through my own perspective by using innovative teaching methods and project-based work that involved teacher-student team effort.

Thanks to all the Rotaract Clubs that have supported my fundraising campaign!

A big shout-out to:

Rotaract Club of New York at the United Nations

Rotaract Club of Manhattan NYC

Boston Rotaract

Rotaract Club of Toronto

Club Rotaract de Québec

Rotaract – Bulgaria

I’ve raised $1,011 out of my $5,000 goal by the end of October from friends, acquaintances, and even perfect strangers. Every little bit will help me reach my goal:

https://www.globalgiving.org/fundraisers/georgi-chicago-marathon

I believe in Service Above Self: it’s easier to make a positive change in education or anything else when you have the world of Rotary working together.

There is no small donation, every donation counts. 

Coney Island Half Marathon

I completed my second milestone by running the Coney Island Half Marathon, 42/128 km ✔️🏅🏃

2 more half marathons to go before the big Bank of America Chicago Marathon in October!

I am running to fundraise for Teach for Bulgaria. I’ve raised $1,011 out of my $5,000 goal by the end of October.

Help me get closer to my goal by donating to my GlobalGiving fundraiser:

https://www.globalgiving.org/fundraisers/georgi-chicago-marathon/

Scenic 5K run around Oslo in support of Teach for Bulgaria!

Scenic 5K run around Oslo with an international group of running tourists 🏃🏃‍♀️

Johannes from Oslo, Isaac from Seattle, and Joanne from #London support Teach for Bulgaria’s mission, too!

Every donation counts!

You can join them, too, by donating to my GlobalGiving fundraiser so that Teach for Bulgaria can recruit, train, develop capable and motivated professionals who are committed to work towards positive change in the education in Bulgaria:

https://www.globalgiving.org/fundr…/georgi-chicago-marathon/