Archive for November, 2010

Anne’s Athens Marathon

I know that I usually recommend most marathons that I’ve run but obviously I’d suggest that any keen runner would want to run along the original Marathon to Athens route, especially on the 2500th anniversary. The Greeks are extremely proud of their marathon and the tone of the event was set at the Expo which was held at the beautiful Zappeion Centre in the National Gardens. It was built for the first modern Olympics in 1896 and the central courtyard is circular, perfect for the exhibition they had created with a history of the original tale of Pheidippides racing from Marathon to Athens to announce victory over the invading Persians. All this is quite inspiring, but their incredible passion became obvious as the details of their belief that without such a victory the history of the West would have been different as the Persians Eastern influence would have had consequences – “no democracy, no French Revolution, no American Revolution…” – who could fail to feel that they are part of history?
Everything was excellently organised and I caught the bus at 5.50am out to the start, not really knowing what to expect. Kerry had told me that the small stadium at the start is only opened for the marathon, and that made it special. There is a monument which everyone wanted to pose beside, but also a torch at the top of a flight of steps which drew a huge queue, and then a long row of flags from the various participating countries.
With only a short time to go, the announcer’s voice was breaking with emotion and then the Greek music was turned up with the result that we had a great warmup clapping our hands and dancing :D .
With high temperatures forecast, I had promised myself (and Alan) that I would take it slowly so there was no pressure. The route takes a loop in order to include the tomb of the Marathon fallen, and lots of people took time out for photos.
I hadn’t known what to expect re a crowd, but the enthusiastic Greek locals were at most parts of the route, waving their olive branches and shouting “Bravo” and “Thank you” – they seem to have great respect for everyone honouring their historic race. Quite a few people had dressed as Greek warriors and they received huge cheers.
The first 6 miles is flat, then upwards all the way to mile 20 (Loch Ness marathon definitely good practice for this!), with the final 6 miles downhill. I did wonder if it was all going to be too much heatwise, but I hadn’t taken plenty of water and there were water stops every 2k.
With about 3 miles to go, a Glasgow voice behind me said “What a wonderful sight to see the Troon Tortoise top after all these miles”. Whoever decided to add our club name to the vests made the right decision!
The finish is at the Panatheinikon Stadium (also built for the 1896 games) which made for a very special and emotional finish. Definitely an experience I shall never forget.

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