It was about 16 months ago that my Uncle said “Hey lets run the Athens Marathon!” I can remember this day vividly. We were up at my Grandmothers funeral and my sister, uncle and I went for a run. Fast forward 6 months, and we actually signed up for it after my Uncle did some research. Little did I know that 10 months later, I would be in Greece running THE Authentic Marathon…you know, the one we learn about in History or in my case Latin too. The one that started it all.
If you follow me on instagram, then you saw some photos from my adventures over there. We left on November 9th and traveled over to Greece. It was a L….O….N….G plane ride. It also happened to be my uncles birthday…the awesome 7…0. Yes, he turned 70 and ran a marathon a few days later. Who does that? Needless to say, my Uncle is pretty awesome.
The first day we were in Greece, we got to see the 1896 stadium, where the marathon finishes as well as the Acropolis, Mars Hill and had some awesome Greek food. It brought back lots of memories from my Latin classes and the Gods and Goddesses. And the history…things that I had forgotten but had been reminded about while we were there. It’s hard to put into words standing among buildings and things that have been around for so long. After we went to the marathon expo to get our packets and walk through. I have to say that they did a fantastic job at the expo. It was set up to funnel you through a certain path. It is definitely not like the expos here where you get your packet and then you walk willy nilly through the expo. The expo was in the Tae Kwan Do arena from the 2004 Olympics. That was really cool. To be in that building and the athletes that have walked through there. So cool!
Saturday was the second full day we were there and it was a more low key day since we were running on Sunday. We headed to the temple of Poseidon and it was interesting to know the history behind the temple as well as the “Graffiti” that was left on the Temple. I say “Graffiti” because it was not the graffiti we know, the spray paint (Although there was plenty of that in Athens). This was people who had traveled to the Temple and carved their name or something else in the marble. But it was usually their name and the date. Who knew? After we went for lunch at a local restaurant and we were seaside, but the kitchen was across the road, so it was interesting to watch the wait staff cross the road with our food.
Sunday! The day of the MARATHON! We loaded onto buses and left for Marathon. It was a nice drive to the start line and we actually drove along some of the course. That was daunting, you actually got to see the hills that we would be running. Yikes! There had been some talk about “THE HILL” which started at mile 6 and ended somewhere around mile 20. Yes, you read that right, a 14ish mile hill. It was a near perfect day for a marathon. Low 50s to start and ended up in the high 60s when I finished. Much different than the Marine Corps Marathon that I ran 2 weeks earlier. The race committee did a fantastic job letting everyone know what was going on and where they were suppose to be. We took in the sights and my Uncle, Sister and I all headed to our starting areas. Before long we had all started the race.
It was surreal starting the race, I had decided to run 5 minutes and walk 2 minutes. I was feeling good and so I kept chugging along. My music was going, and I would stop and take pictures along the way. Around mile 3, we hit the memorial hill and made a big circle around it. It is where the Athenian soldiers that survived buried the ones that gave the ultimate sacrifice against the Parisians. Needless to say, quite the sight to see in your first 3 miles. The first hour went by no problem, but I did start to struggle so I scaled back my run/walk to 1 min run and 1 min walk. That worked for the second hour. I was still doing great and was working my way towards Athens.
Then the trouble hit. I started to feel sick. So I walked. I knew I could get myself under control but I had to make sure that I was on track for my personal time that I wanted to do. So it was fast walking. I was ok with that, mind you, we had that continuous hill to conquer. I have to say that the water stations were awesome. They were giving out BOTTLES of water, full bottles. I was able to stop and grab bottles of water and I did get into trouble a few times when I went by the water station and missed getting a bottle, But there was another station not far down the road. They had stops every 2.5ish kilometers. How awesome is that. For half of the race, I have to say that I had a bottle of water in one hand and a bottle of Powerade in the other with the occasional cup of coke. Yes, Coke. Coke was handed out on the course. I had gotten to the point that I would take a sip of water or Powerade and swish it around before spitting it out.
The towns along the course were amazing. They had come out to wish us luck and you would hear “Bravo” along the way. The kids from the towns had olive branches that they would want you to take and so you did, and ran with it for a bit before discarding it and picking up a new one. Everyone along the way was so incredibly nice.
Soon we were seeing signs for Athens and so I knew we were getting close, not to mention my Garmin telling me that I only had 6 or so miles left. I had been doing math along the way to keep my mind occupied and off how much more I actually had left. Even though I sometimes failed at how much we had actually done vs. how much we had left. OOPS.
I got to about 38km and knew that we were so close! I decided to start running again, 1 minute run, 1 minute walk and I was feeling good when running and terrible when walking. Which also lead to running when I needed to and walking when needed which I was ok with. I saw the glass runner that we saw when we stopped by the stadium a few days before so I was sooooooo close. So, I just kept running and walking. Before I knew it, I was at mile 40, 2 more Kilometers, 41, ok I got this. 42km! Could it be true….I had hit 42km. So what did I do, I took a selfie! HAHA yes, I was that runner that stopped to the a selfie with the 42km sign which was right outside the stadium. So into the stadium I ran and to the finish line. 42.219 km or 26.2 miles later, I finished in the iconic 1896 Stadium. The emotions were there for sure. The experience of running into the stadium was like no other. I made my way over to our group of runners and met my mom, sister, and uncle there. I had finished in just over 6 hours and 30 minutes. My goal was 7 hours. I DID IT! I was exhausted, but I did it. We did it, my uncle, sister and I finished the marathon.
We got back to the hotel and my sister, Mom and I headed to the Aegean Sea. My sister and I were going to get in the Aegean. It was cold, yes. But it felt soooo good! Not to mention we got some amazing pictures with the sunset we had. After, we had a banquet that the tour group I went with put on. We had Greek dancers and they wanted us to get up and dance with them. I don’t think they realized that most of us had run a marathon. We were blessed with olive wreath crowns and a hand made vase to remember this moment by. It was a good end to the epic marathon weekend.
Monday in Greece was spent at the Plaka. It is the oldest part of Athens and a lot of it is now shopping and closed off to cars. We were able to go into the stores and find items that we wanted or were looking for. My foot was not liking me so my mom and I sat at a local cafe people watching after we got done what we wanted. My uncle and sister walked off to the local Ouzo bar that she had been to before. I wish I could have gone, but my foot was angry enough as it was, so it was best to stay off it. It was hard to believe that we were leaving the following day to travel back to the states. It was a great trip for sure.
We made it back and we were all exhausted. It’s still hard to believe that I ran the original course, the one that started it all. I am so grateful to have had this opportunity and if you ever get a chance, don’t say no. The opportunity may only come once. The tour group we went with was amazing. They signed us up for the race, planned everything out and worked through every detail so all we had to do was show up. If you are planning on going and running the Authentic Marathon, look up Apostolos Tours or by clicking here. I’m so glad that I went to Greece and ran there. It will be a moment that I will never forget. It was a truly awesome life experience.