It’s 8:45am on a Sunday morning and I’m standing about 60 yards and 20,000 behind the start-line of the Athens Classic Marathon, getting ready to run the original marathon route!
8 months ago I bought some places for this epic marathon on behalf of Hope for Children, the charity I work for, and gave myself the task of recruiting runners to fill them. To lighten the load, I decided it would be a good idea to take one myself.
When Pheidippides ran the 26 miles back from the Battle of Marathon to announce the Greek victory over the marauding Persians to the city of Athens, do you think he realised he would establish arguably the most established running distance today? Probably not, he died moments later.
However, with the one phrase “It’s Not That Far” engraved into my consciousness, at 9:15 I finally crossed the start line and set off on this momentous challenge.
Sufficed to say, it was almost 10C hotter than was forecast, peaking at 27C, and not ideal running conditions for a marathon of which 50% if on an incline.
I could lie to you and say that I was swept up by the emotion of the day and the crowd carried me all the way, but I’d be lying! The Athens Marathon is bloody hard! However, there are few times when I can say something was epic…this was one of them!
The first 10km are actually pretty stunning, running out of Marathon and meandering through the Greek countryside along the road. The only place when you go back on yourself is inside the first 5km and then the rest of the 42km unfolds in front of you.
In fact, the entire first half is challenging, but doable and not unlike many other marathons in its undulating hills. However, and this is a big however, reaching 28km and facing over a mile of a 30% gradient hill was one of the most physically and mentally demanding things I’ve ever done. I almost felt like I breaking down in pure exultation when I reached the top.
But I plodded on for the final quarter of the race through the pain that I’m sure so many of you will know if you’ve run a marathon, all of which completely (ish) disappeared as I reached the final road lined with crowds before being directed into the Panathenaic Stadium lined with thousands more cheering me on. Again, EPIC!
4:09 wasn’t my fastest marathon time but between the heat, the hills and the 2 Guinness’s I consumed the day before watching the England rugby team slump to their 4th loss in a row, I was pretty bloody happy!
I was running for Hope for Children (HOPE) http://hope-for-children.org/ a charity that I am massively passionate about and proud to wear the running jersey of. They’ve got places for Athens 2015 (as well as other European marathons!) so if you think you’re up to it, get in touch with Sandy, join Team HOPE and remember what Pheidippides said: it’s not that far!