The Authentic Marathon - Athens, Greece
A common question I’m asked when a conversation turns to running is whether I’ve run a marathon. Since marathons and running are solidly part of pop culture now given the frequency with which they are held, almost everyone has run one, or knows someone who has, so is something they can relate to. Since I have run many marathons in places such as Columbus, Chicago, Nashville and Athens it’s a great question to start a conversation. While I mainly enjoy running trails and ultra-marathons, marathon races are still a lot of fun, and more social way, to enjoy running.
Last year I was lucky in that my travel schedule and the Athens Authentic Marathon date lined up. There are many direct flights to Athens from all over Europe so it was easy to find flights that enabled me to have a weekend trip there. The marathon route follows the original route the best it can given that most of the area is very built up. From my reading, the only practical way to run this route is during the race given the amount of traffic on the roads.
The marathon is a point-to-point so you start out getting picked up by buses that shuttle everyone to the start. Because of the bus schedules and the number of people, it meant a long wait at the start. The morning was cool so there were many people huddled in corners trying to keep warm and an equal number running circles on the track at the Marathon Municipal Stadium. All of this motion made for the most unusual marathon start I’ve been to.
The race itself was non-eventful and the crowd along the way was especially friendly. The finish was great coming into the Panathenaic Stadium in the heart of the city. Fortunately, no one died like with the real marathon. However, after reading the book The Road to Sparta I learned that the only reason Pheidippides died was that he ran 153 miles to Sparta from Athens, and back, prior to his final fateful run!
While the marathon was a lot of fun to attend, and now I can say that I’ve run the “real” marathon, Athens has many other places close by to trail run. I did a short trail run on another trip in the Athens area. This trail is on the very southern end of a large park with an extensive trail network. The trails climb some elevation that have commanding views of the surround oceans and towns.
Besides the running, Athens is also an excellent place for a long walk among the many historical sites. I highly recommend the tour of the Acropolis, and a hike up to the top of Mount Lycabettus where you can have a drink and watch the sunset. You cannot go wrong with a trip to Athens whether you are just looking to maintain your training, or take part in the Authentic Marathon. In addition, being such popular city to visit, there are excellent connections to Athens from all over Europe and the world. I’ve also heard the islands in Greece are excellent so hope to find my way there again to enjoy an ultrarunning destination in Greece.