Dimos the Destroyer

FEBRUARY 2014: Dimosthenis Evangelidis – or Dimos the Destroyer as he’s affectionately known amongst his club mates – has been demonstrating what an asset he is to Brighton & Hove City AC.

When I say ‘club mates’, I should really use Dimos’s favoured description of his training group as ‘his running brothers’; in fact he’s most definitely become one-of-the-family since his arrival from Kavala, Greece, in October 2012.

Last February, he ran a half marathon PB of 70.00 in Brighton. This was followed in May by a road 10k PB of 31.57 in London. And in the Brooks Brighton 10k in November, he came 17th out of 2800 finishers to feature in the winning team. He’s also knocked out some pretty good performances in this season’s Sussex Cross-Country League.

What is particularly remarkable about these results is Dimos’s distinct lack of time to train properly on a regular basis.

I recently bumped into him in Cafe Coho in The Laines with his wife, Kiki. He told me he wouldn’t be attending any of the forthcoming week’s training sessions as he was about to begin a four-day run of night shifts. Dimos the Destroyer is an Orthopaedic Surgeon. (I should add at this point that the Destroyer tag bears absolutely no reflection on his abilities as a surgeon – rather it was born off the back of his ability to destroy the opposition in races. Just wanted to clear that up before I get sued by Dimos!)

I wanted to find out more about Dimos, his life before Brighton and what running successes he achieved when he had time to train properly. To be able to perform as he does off minimal training, surely he must have a history of high mileage? And I was also keen to know what his key sessions are in the weeks when he can only squeeze in 2 or 3 runs.

He agreed to meet me on a Sunday afternoon over a coffee…

So, Dimos, firstly congratulations on some excellent performances in the last 12 months.

Thanks Mike! I don’t think I’ve produced any exceptional performances, but I’m quite happy with most of those results, given the various training difficulties. Luckily, I think the best is yet to come!

Going by the number of ‘likes’ from your Greek Facebook friends each time a photo of you in running kit is posted, I can only guess that you might be quite well known on the Greek running scene? Either that or you’re just very popular?

I‘ve been running for many years, since 1987 in fact. Greece experienced an explosion in interest in recreational running after 2005, and I produced some consistent marathon PBs and high national rankings in the years that followed. In the same period, social media developed fast as well. I also happen to incarnate the rare combination of being a national level athlete and a full-time doctor, which people find easy to remember!

I’ve watched you in cross-country races as well as 10k and half marathon on the road, but what do you consider to be your best distance? And what would you say has been your greatest achievement to date?

I was never keen on running on the track. I enjoy cross country and, in the past, had some good rankings in the Greek national championships, but it’s the marathon that motivates me most of all. It’s difficult to pick a single race, but I’m most proud of my performances in the Athens Classic Marathon. It’s a very demanding and unique course, which I‘ve run six times and I’ve never failed to run well. I‘ve always had even or negative splits despite the cruel hills and deceptive downhill parts and I‘ve beaten athletes better than me, thanks to my ability to pace myself well. Also, finishing 2nd in the Copenhagen Marathon in 2:24:28 (my PB, in 2011) was a memorable moment.

Do you know how you currently rank in Greece? And what has been your best ranking?

I’m 4th for Half Marathon. I haven’t run a marathon for the last two-and-a-half years, but I believe I’ve been as high as 3rd place in the national rankings in the past. We have to admit Greece doesn’t have an international standard field in distance running, but I was 4th or 5th many times, competing against full-time athletes logging more than double my mileage per month. I think I managed to compensate because of my long running history.

At what age did you start running? And were there notable successes in your early years?

I started when I was 11 years old and won the local cross country championship after a couple of weeks. I had remained at the back for the first part of the race but finished strong, which is quite rare for children of that age. However, I didn’t have any national success until I was 17 years old, when I was 3rd in the National School Games in the 800m.

And what would a typical training week look like when you were preparing for the likes of Athens and Copenhagen?

I would do 5-6 training sessions and around 100km each week, for a period of 2-3 months consistently. This would always include some interval training, a tempo session and an easy long run (30-35km). At my best I would get up to 130km for a couple of weeks and sometimes I might add a shorter long run of 25-28km, but I never did double sessions. I‘ve recently started marathon training again with help from my coach, Allison Benton, who has magically produced some great results off very disrupted training in the last year. The new session that she’s added is the long tempo run every other week, instead of my usual easy long run.

So, what prompted you to move to the UK? And how did you to decide on joining Brighton & Hove City AC?

When I finished my training in Greece as an Orthopaedic Surgeon I felt I needed more experience, and UK is known for its high standards in Medicine. Of course, the negative socio-economic situation in Greece made the decision easier, as there are major and unreasonable cutbacks in health funding. My family and I haven’t regretted it at all and people here have been very friendly and supportive, but it has been challenging for me to settle into a totally different environment.

Six weeks after moving here, I ran the Brighton 10K and there I met Richard Carter from Brighton & Hove City AC. He introduced me to Allison and the senior men’s group. God bless him! Joining the club and meeting lots of special people there has been a unique ‘life and running’-changing experience!

What would you say you’ve enjoyed most about running in Brighton?

Could it be the weather (laughing)? Wind on the seafront has been a nightmare… Seriously, we really like it here. My family and I feel really welcome, and the city looks and feels quite Mediterranean; the sea, the vibe, the easy-going people, the culture. Most of all we probably enjoy the independent cafés! As an athlete I also enjoy the hills, not the common view of UK athletes!

Have you observed any obvious differences here compared with Greece, for example how you train / the races you do?

I still have objections about the amount of races that athletes do here! But it seems to work, I have to admit. Races are used as training and you’re not embarrassed about a poor result. Sadly, in Greece, each year there are no more than 5-6 high standard races in which a competitive distance runner can prove himself. Furthermore the perception of steady, rather than easy, running is widely used in Allison’s group and there are not really easy weeks after races. In addition, having talented and very serious-about-running training partners has had a tremendous positive impact on me, especially because I used to train by myself. Generally, the amount of people running in the UK is huge and there are dozens of sub-elite runners, producing a strong field in every competition.

I understand you have a young daughter. What about the balance between your work, family time and running? You clearly have a responsible job and various on-going commitments. How do you manage that?

I probably run better than the average runner, and I hope I’m also a reasonably good doctor / father / husband. That combination looks impressive and surely leads to an interesting everyday life. However, in my opinion, we’re in an era of specialization and this is not the way to become the best in any one particular field. You have to make choices early and work hard in a narrow field in order to take things forward. In my case, I think that I’ve just produced suboptimal results in running and that I was lucky to have a patient and supportive wife, although not a runner herself. My daughter is the luckiest of all because I play with her every evening, which means I frequently end up doing my running session at 9 o’clock at night!

And what do you consider to be your key sessions in weeks when you have limited time to train?

Allison has been performing miracles whilst I’ve been working with her and I’ve managed to sustain a very good level of fitness doing just three sessions per week for extended periods during the last year:

– an interval session, (ie 15 x 400m up to 6 x 1500m)
– a lactate turnpoint session or tempo run (3-4 x 8-10mins)
– a long run with steady (ie faster than just easy) pace (90-100mins)

As I said, I’m now progressing to marathon training again, so I’ll be doing slightly different things, but I believe that there are no big secrets in the training science nowadays. It‘s mostly about commitment, consistency and motivation, and Allison is an expert in these, producing exceptional results amongst runners of all abilities in her group.

I understand you’re about to leave Brighton to start a new job in London. What will that entail?

I’m very proud that I’ve managed to progress whilst being a foreigner in the competitive environment of Orthopaedics in the UK, and I’ll be working as a senior fellow in St George’s Hospital in London. (My experience in the exceptional University Hospital in Brighton certainly helped with that.) St George’s is a huge teaching hospital, a renowned level 1 trauma centre and a referral centre for pelvic surgery, also currently having the biggest arthroplasty department in the country. It’s an exciting post, involving a lot of hard work, but hopefully I’ll still find time to train for a sub 2:30 in London Marathon in April!

And although moving to London, will you continue to race for Brighton & Hove City AC?

Definitely! I might find a second-claim club closer to London, but I doubt I’ll find the same sense of bonding as I have with Brighton & Hove. Running for B&H AC is the best excuse for catching up with everyone now and then!

Going forward, are there more PB’s to come from Dimos the Destroyer? Do you have any specific running goals?

I’ve tended not to set long term goals in recent years because I know it’s increasingly difficult for me to commit to the training that a running target requires. But I think it’s possible for me to get a half marathon PB and a road 10K PB as I’ve not raced much over those distances before. My ultimate goal would be to keep running semi-competitively for many years to come!

And finally, what would be your tip(s) for anyone striving to get the best out of their running?

First of all, try and stay focused on the fun part of running – remember all the good things that you enjoy about it. After that, it’s important to have good company and a long term training plan, and to concentrate on high quality sessions – if it doesn’t challenge you, it’s probably not beneficial. But don’t forget to have easy days as well!

Dimos, thanks very much for taking the time to chat with RunBrighton. I hope your new job goes well, and I’ll be looking forward to seeing those new PB’s for half marathon and road 10k… and a sub 2.30 in London Marathon! Good luck!

Thanks Mike

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by Mike Bannister

Shortly after interviewing Dimos, it was announced that his recent cross-country performances have earned him a county vest. This must be the first time we’ve ever had a Greek International runner representing Sussex. Congratulations Dimos, and all of us at RunBrighton wish you continued success with both Sussex and Brighton & Hove City AC!

By Mike Bannister

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