Athens Classic Marathon – by Luuk Hepkema

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[Translated from Afrikaans]

This original marathon in Greece has always been on my wish list and this year it came to be. It is also because its history that the marathon is 42.2 km long. In 490 BC the Greeks defeated the Turks in a battle and a messenger was sent to the king in Athens to convey the good news. The messenger’s name was Pheidippidus and on his arrival, he could exclaim VICTORY! He then promptly died of exhaustion. The battle was held at a town called Marathonas.

There is currently a stadium in Marathonas where the start is. 24000 athletes in groups of 2000. The first elite runners’ start was 9h00 and each group has its own start 2 and a half-minutes apart while all runners times are measured on the mat. If you are not in the correct group you will be disqualified with no results.

I was in group 6 out of 12, which is OK for me. From the stadium you run 4km, fairly flat, out past the site of the battlefield – where now there are only a tombstones to mark where the Greek soldiers had died in battle. Water points are Every 2.5 km where you can get a small plastic bottle of water, which meant that the road was strewn with bottle caps! The bottle is too big and so a lot of water is wasted. Every 5km Energade is also availabe and every 10km Coca Cola.

The route is easier than Comrades but has long tough stretches that last for many kms – no wonder Pheidippdus was exhausted when he finished. The finish is at the Killmarmaro Stadium, which has also been around since 500 BC – all in marble with seats for 50 000 spectators.

There were 75 participants from the 24 000 who were 70 plus and I finished 29 out of 75 in my respectable 5h00 finishing time. The cut-off time was set at 8 hours – specifically for the walkers. The weather was a comfortabel 20 degrees which was so nice.

There was 1 runner from Phobians and I met 1 person from the Cape. The medal is very special and what is engraved on it is literally and figuratively Greek to me. That’s why I gave it to my grandson in the Netherlands.

I can recommend the race for all our Magnolians!