My Athens Marathon Experience – Wandisile Nkwalase

Every marathon runner should run the Athens Marathon at least once in their lifetime.

Then Athens Marathon should have been my first ever international marathon in 2016 but it was not to be. It eventually became my second international marathon in 2018 after the Paris Marathon. In 2016 I registered for the marathon but I never went. At the time of registration in 2016 I had not even ran a marathon in my entire life but eventually ran my first marathon in August of that year and Athens would have been my second marathon in November of the same year.

The Athens Marathon is referred to as the Original Marathon and is nicknamed the Authentic Marathon because the history of the marathon originates there. A story is told that Greeks were fighting Persians in the Battle of Marathona and as outnumbered as they were, they won the battle. A legend by the name of Pheidippides ran from Marathon to Athens (Same route as Athens Marathon) to declare the new of victory. This is the reason why we run marathons. This is what intrigued me about Athens Marathon and the only reason I wanted to do it.

Greece is known for its beautiful Islands and as one who discovers the world through running my journey to Athens started in Santorini. I took Qatar airways on the 6thof November and landed in Athens on the 7th. As soon as I landed, I took a 1-hour flight to Santorini Island for two nights stay then headed back to Athens for the Expo on Friday. The race expo was a world class with the world’s top brands exhibiting their new products and technology.

 The race started at 9am in Marathona. I woke up at 6am in Athens to catch a Bus that takes runners to the start. The weather was okay, is wasn’t your cold European weather but I made sure I was warm. The race had about 15000 runners at the start and we started in batches.

The Athens route is flat for the first 14km followed by a 15km climbing that takes you to the 32nd kilometer. When you get to the 32nd kilometer the race is over because from here it’s a down run. What is interesting about the route is that the kilometer markers are permanent on the road, they have been put as part of the road signage, just like a stop sign.

As the race starts you will see a lot of people having small leaves of a fennel plant which is called Marathon in Greek, and the town Marathon is named after this plant. This is the tradition in this race and I also had to pick one which I carried until the end.

The finish in the iconic Panathenaic Stadium was is electrifying. This is the same stadium that held the 1896 and 2004 Olympics. The Greeks, young and old were all shouting BRAVO! BRAVO!

The last two days of my trip were dedicated to discovering the cities top attractions. I went to the Acropolis and Parthenon, the Temple of Olympian Zeus, and the Ancient Agora.

I can’t wait to run my second Athens Marathon with Just Run Tours and the rest of the runners that will join the trip. It is going to be special one as they are celebrating their 40th race since their inception in 1983.




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