Running the Athens Marathon, the mother of all runs.

As long as I can remember, I had been fascinated by the marathon.
Especially when I was young, it felt like the ultimate running challenge. I read all the stories, watched all the races I could. The first Olympic marathon winner Spiridon Louis, the barefoot Abebe Bikila, and of course the Greek soldier Pheidippides, a messenger from the Battle of Marathon to Athens, who reported the victory and died after.

I had done marathons before. The marathon of New York. Amsterdam. Eindhoven. Rotterdam. And even the island of Texel in The Netherlands. But this one was different.

And so, when the moment was there, the morning of November 12th 2017, waiting for the race to start, I felt quite emotional.

I actually had planned to be there two years earlier, early November 2015. In the weeks before the marathon, I was rushed to the hospital with -at first- kidney stones and -later- a kidney rupture, which put any marathon ambition to an abrupt end.

After weeks of recovery and months and months of training, I was ready now. Well, as ready one could be for a marathon.

The Athens Marathon

It’s a marathon. I guess, no matter how many times you run a marathon, it is still a marathon, a completely unpredictable parade of pain and suffering. No matter how well you’ve trained, something unpredictable is bound to happen within the 42.092 kilometers that make up a marathon. You trip. You don’t drink enough. You eat too much. Or too little. It is too hot. You just have a bad day. You get injured.
The gods tossed and I lost. I got stomach issues so I had to stop 4 times along the road for a small break.

And if that wasn’t enough, it is the Athens marathon. In Greece. The track largely follows a big highway-like road from Marathon to Athens, where one side of the road is used by the runners and the other side is kept free for ambulances (way to motivate the runners), which makes it a rather tedious exercise. Add to that fact that locals seem to be luke-warm about having a marathon running through their backyards, the fact that Athens lies in between hills (so getting to Athens means climbing hills – hills sometimes to steep that even locals had to walk the last part to the top) and the fact that the outside temperature was maybe 10 degrees Celcius higher than I was used to.

Looking back at the Athens Marathon

So, was it worth it? Yes, absolutely. But not as much as a I had anticipated.
Running on holy ground, the mother of all marathons, makes it a special experience. The start in Marathon, with it’s Olympic fire, taking the oath and the sheer vibe of the historical surrounding is magical. The last few kilometers, along a wide lane with beautiful trees, is amazing. The entrance into the old Olympic stadium will make grown men cry.
But in between that … it’s honestly not that special.

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