Marathon

Trip Start May 20, 2008
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Trip End Sep 15, 2008


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Flag of Greece  , Attica,
Thursday, July 3, 2008

7/2 It was tough finding the right bus station and the right bus to Marathon but after that it was a really nice roadtrip. Jeff had suggested I visit and I thought it would be something different to do on a visit to Athens. Many new upscale houses are being built on the hills between Athens and Marathon. Between the two cities it was very windy and hilly so I can see why the marathon was so tough when it was held in Athens in 2004.

From Wikipedia: The name of the athletic long-distance endurance race, the "marathon", comes from the legend of Pheidippides, a Greek soldier, who was sent from the town of Marathon to Athens to announce that the Persians had been miraculously defeated in the Battle of Marathon in 490BC. According to Herodotus, the Greeks were outnumbered 100,000 to 11,000 and won thanks to the military genius of Miltiades. It is said that he ran the entire distance without stopping, but moments after proclaiming his message "Nenikekamen" ("We were Victorious!") to the city he collapsed dead from exhaustion. The account of the run from Marathon to Athens first appears in Plutarch's On the Glory of Athens in the 1st century AD.

I walked around Marathon, population 9000, but it was a ghost town. Most stores were closed and had siesta hours so visiting mid-afternoon wasn't great timing. I didn't see a single running store or anything remotely related to running.

The Centre for the Promotion of the Marathon Race is in a attractive building on the main street. Unfortunately they also have siesta hours. Work was being done out front and an extension cord had the front door cracked open so I just walked on in. The woman inside said they were closed but we got to chatting and she let me look around.

The woman's name is Maria and she ran for Greece in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics (won by Fatuma Roba). I looked her up and she finished 46th with many of the women DNF'ing. She has a 2:30 PR although I think she just runs for fun now. We both ran Boston in 1998 we discovered. I'm amazed anyone here can train since the roads are crowded and I haven't seen any parks or green spaces where you could safely run. Not to mention the heat and wind!

The museum had trophies from famous Greek runners including one from a guy that won Boston and many other top marathons in the 1950's. Each Olympic marathon had a cool exhibit with details of the race including top finishers and a description of how the race unfolded. The museum was small but the information nicely presented. They didn't have that much in the way of souveniers but I picked up a couple of things. Maria was so nice! She mentioned many times how the Centre really tries to promote peace through the marathon. With thousands of marathons now, all over the world, I can see how different cultures coming together for 26.2 miles develop a shared bond. It's like the Olympics when the world seems to all get along for 2 weeks every 4 years.

I was given directions the short distance to the official marathon start where the beginning of the 2004 event was staged. It looked very official but is now in a state of disrepair. The weeds are taking over since the start doesn't seem able to serve any other purpose. It was an odd feeling standing at the start of THE marathon. They host a race every November, the Classic Marathon Race, on a course as close to the original as possible.

Marathon was an interesting and relaxing daytrip from Athens. I'm glad I could see where it all began!
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