The life of Panagiotis Karaiskos could be a movie script or a well-written novel. Much earlier than the gold medal in the 40th Athens Marathon, he has won the gold medal in the Marathon of Life.
From catechisms to drugs
From catechism he fell into hard drugs and today he climbed the first step of the podium. His life is like a fairy tale except that in order to live it he had to feel the “fairy tale” on his skin (including hallucinations of heroin users).
Born in 1988 in Athens, Panagiotis Karaiskos grew up with care and love from his family. Even during the difficult moments when the prosecutor raided the house with a squad of police looking for drugs, his parents were there. Next to him. He was never rejected. They never yelled at him. They climbed Calvary together and stoically waited for the nightmare to end.
From the Olympics to hell
When the Olympic Games were held in Athens in 2004, Panagiotis gave up football and judo. He was only 16 years old.
Unfortunately, his first relationship was troubled as his girlfriend got involved with drugs. It was only a matter of time before Panagiotis “stuck” as well. “I was a kid who had grown up in the cadet school, I played football and I was good at judo. I gave up everything. I started with hashish, of course I started smoking. They used drugs in my company. Gradually the downhill began…”, Panagiotis will say.
From hashish to heroin
The next period was a nightmare. One mistake led to another. Hashish led to ecstasy and cocaine and from there to intravenous heroin. There was no end to the descent. He had just turned 18 when he was faced with absolute disaster.
Midnight express to Petersburg
In 2006, one night together with three other friends of his, they were in St. Petersburg by car. They ran into a police roadblock. They were afraid. They made a U-turn, raised suspicions and were stopped by the police. As he himself has admitted, they had a large amount of drugs with them. Panagiotis had a bag at his feet. He threw the hashish in a school yard and started running. He was the only one who escaped but his other three friends were arrested. A few hours later a squad of police led by a prosecutor was knocking on the door of his house. His mother was shocked. In a semi-conscious state, he fell on the couch while the police checked every corner of the house.
He also “networked” in the army
Panagiotis was arrested and in front of the court he agreed to listen to his lawyer and his parents to go to the army in order to show his conversion in practice but also to escape from his company. His psychological state was very bad but still he listened to his lawyer and his parents. However, life in the army was not ideal either. Being already addicted he “networked” while serving his term in Evros. There he started using heroin. He finished his term and came back to Athens with a good ass and fully addicted as he also started intravenous use and even let his friends give him the injections.
The difficult adjustment
After a nightmarish 5 years that, as Panagiotis has said, “passed like a moment of my life because of the addiction”, he made the big decision to enter a drug addiction program always with the help and guidance of his parents. The first months were difficult. Not only was he not seeing improvement but things were getting worse. His body ached, he vomited, his psychology was in a bad state. Then he went to the TURNING TURN where he had to change everything: “We weren’t supposed to swear and speak in slang. It was forbidden to sit cross-legged. We were not allowed to smoke and drink alcohol. Everything was very difficult”, Panagiotis will say.
Operator and nurse
He began to see improvement six months after joining the KETHEA program, while at 9 months he had gained the trust of the community and himself. He went three times a week to the structure, while at the same time he started looking for a job to cover his expenses and socialize at the same time. He got a job in a sales call center. At the same time, he enrolled in a public IEK studying surgical nursing as he always liked health professions. This is how he started practicing at the Attica hospital. He bought a bicycle for commuting as he had no money for a car. At the same time, he started gym and football again. His life began to gain meaning again but every day he fought to not “roll over”.
“I saw them crying and I wanted to experience it”
In 2012 he was with his company in Kallimarmaro as a spectator and saw the runners who were crying when they finished. “I thought then that everything they will experience will be very powerful and that it would be nice to experience it too. That’s how I first thought about competing in a marathon one day, but without having a specific plan”, Panagiotis Karaiskos will say. A few months later, a friend of his from KETHEA told him that he signed up for the 2013 Marathon and asked him for his details to sign him up as well. And this is how the road to the great comeback opens for Panagiotis…
The first marathon of pain
His first marathon experience was full of pain, just like his whole life. “I thought it was very easy to cover 42 kilometers, maybe because I used to commute by bike. In the first race I had a hard time. I was cramping, sore all over but pushed on and made it under 4 hours. At the finish I was crying like a little child. There I realized that I could do better things and I literally acquired a life goal”, Panagiotis Karaiskos will say.
He took out a sports card
In February 2014, Panagiotis Karaiskos crossed the threshold of the Panhellenic Gymnastics Association and at the age of 26 he got his first sports card. He immediately joined the competition section and took part in a 10,000m Panhellenic rough road championship race, finishing in 34 minutes. In November 2014 he ran for the second time in the Athens marathon and with a time of 2 hours and 47 minutes he gained a lot of confidence. And all this with only 7 months of training and without knowing many of the secrets of long distances.
The nightmare wasn’t over…
It was clear that Panagiotis had found the meaning he had been searching for since his adolescence but the nightmare was still ahead…
All this time the sins of the past followed him. The case of Petroupoli was not over and night after night he was “eating” the fear of prison. One court succeeded the other and in 2015 it was the trial by the five-member criminal court of the Supreme Court. On that day, the charge of drug trafficking was being judged. He was facing a sentence of several years in prison. In other words, his life was being judged again.
The hijackers also cried
In his defense before the experienced judges, his soul spoke. Panagiotis did not hide anything. It wasn’t just an apology. It was a confession of a young man who made mistakes and found his way again. Talk about everything. He made harsh self-criticism. He disclosed everything with honesty without spin but also with respect to the court, his parents, those who helped him, but also those who implicated him. When he finished his statement, the judges were in tears…
Promise before god and judges
He talked about the three marathons, and asked for a chance to continue the road of the great comeback. He made a promise before god and judges that he would only do good for himself and society. And from then until today he not only keeps his promise but continues to pleasantly surprise and move with his greatness of soul but also for the power to return from hell to life.
The Olympic Games are a dream
The 40th Authentic marathon is the 9th but already has many distinctions in Greece and abroad. He has a personal best of 2.05.48 in Nordsand Moen, Norway and has been a member of the National marathon teams for two years. As he states, he would like a lot to change in Greece regarding infrastructure and support for athletes and mass sports. Participates in drug addict support programs and psychological support for drug inmates. He has received a scholarship from the American College of Athens and is studying coaching science. At the same time, he coaches a team of 40 people in the Tritsis park and his dream is to compete in the Olympic Games.
An example of our mistakes
This is the winner of the 40th Marathon. At 35 years old, Panagiotis Karaiskos is an example for all of us, for Greece and the global running movement. It is the power of will and good against evil and wrong. He is the man we would all like to follow and especially to imitate in our difficult and big mistakes.
Source: ethnos.gr Kostas Asimakopoulos