2019 Athens Authentic Marathon Race Report!!!
Updated: Jan 8
A few months before our wedding, we decided Greece would be the perfect destination for our honeymoon. We started planning it, and I unexpectedly stumbled onto something very exciting - the race on the original marathon route was happening on a day we were planning on spending in Athens. I was convinced it was meant to be, but I still had a bit of guilt with running a race on our honeymoon. As soon as George found out that this was the marathon of all marathons, he said I’d be crazy not to do it! Green light! I went for it and signed up that day!
We made it to Greece 5 days before the race. We spent those days hiking the mythological Mt. Olympus and exploring the monasteries of Meteora.
We arrived back in Athens on Friday evening before the race and went straight to the expo at Palaio a Faliro near the Piraeus port. I was shocked at how huge the expo was! I’ve never seen one so big. I guess with a race of 40,000 runners, that should be expected, but it was still amazing to see.
Check in was very easy and fast. I had to show my registration confirmation email, along with my passport to verify identity.
To get to the race shirt pickup, you had to walk through the whole expo. There were so many different booths with so many products I’d never heard of. About 50% were also in English, but I was out of luck with reading the ones in all Greek.
Sunday = Race day! I woke up around 5:30am to make sure I had plenty of time to get to the bus shuttle stop in Syntagma Square. I arrived there at 6:15am and was nervous the shuttles might be slow. There was more than enough room for everyone!
I didn’t really know how long the ride would take, but we arrived in the town of Marathonas a little after 7:30am, making the ride about 1 hour and 15 minutes. I was a little surprised of how long the shuttle took - looking back that makes me really happy to know I ran that far 😆
After getting off the shuttle, the excitement of being in the town of Marathonas really set in! I started taking in all sights and sounds. I noticed there was a huge mountain to the west, Mt. Pentelicus, which we thankfully ran around rather than over!
Continuing my walk towards the warm up area, I noticed race volunteers handing out plastic bags to wear to keep warm before the race. It was 75 degrees, but most people were wearing long sleeves and pants to keep warm before the race. It’s amazing what feels cold to different people. They handed me one, so I figured I might as well take it since there was over an hour of waiting for the start.
First stop – bathrooms! There were at least 100 Porto potties lined around the warm up field. I waited in one of the lines to find no toilet paper. I left to find another line to wait in. Again, same issue. I gave up and decided I’d just wait and use one on the race course.
I had about an hour until race start, so a nap on the field sounded great to me! I curled up on the plastic bags they were handing out for warmth and got a solid 30 minutes of sleep... until the rain started 🌧
Race start! I jumped in with Block 7 where I was assigned and waited for the crowd to start moving forward. I didn’t hear a single person speaking English around me - so different than the usual race start experience! However, almost all the pump up music was in English. My race block got to start the race to “Hit the Road Jack” 😂
There was a historical market at each KM of the race to identify the Athens Original Marathon route, and I think I managed to get a photo of each one with my GoPro! Priorities!
As luck would have it, the rain stopped and the sun came out right as we started running, making way for some serious humidity and heat off the roads. I was regretting my decision to wear a short-sleeved shirt for those first 10km, but then the cloud cover returned.
The first 5km of the race was slightly downhill, but knowing the climbing to come I kept my pace conservative to prevent burnout later.
We made a circle around the marathon tomb around the 5k mark, then there was about another 5k of relatively flat.
Between 15km and 18km, there were beautiful views of the Aegean Sea near Rafina. The course was just gently uphill at this point, so running the hills wasn’t too bad.
Near the 20km mark, the 12km of climbing out of Spata began. At this point, my legs started feeling the distance. Funny enough, the climbing and fatigue set in around the same time! I knew going into the race that this would be a likely scenario and already planned on a run-walk interval once I reached this section. I stuck to the plan and did 5 mins running and 1 min walking. My pace slowed some from the previous sections but overall I was super happy with how this part went!
I tried to really enjoy my walk breaks and take in all that was around me. The course ran through Pikermi, Pallini, and Gerakas during this section.
Around 32km, the downhill section started! After a quick stretch, my legs didn’t feel too fatigued anymore. I was able to run the rest of the way to the finish (walking through every aid station to refuel of course!)
Running the last 250m into the Panathenaic Stadium can’t be completely described in words. The size of it is incredible, but combining that with the history behind it makes for an unforgettable experience (luckily I got it on GoPro!)
After crossing that finish line, I really got to take in just how amazing it was to be standing in the middle of the Panathenaic Stadium. From the start of hosting the athletic championship track events in BC times, to its transformation over history into its current shape, to its use in hosting the first modern Olympic Games in 1896, this place is pretty cool.
I saw so many cool things along the path, many of which were inspirational people. One was a man dressed in authentic Greek attire running barefoot.
Another was a team pushing individuals unable to run in special chairs. We have several of those teams at home in Northeast Tennessee, so it was super cool to see they’re all over the world!
One thing that stood out to me was how much the locals come out to cheer and support this race! It is so encouraging to see massive crowds standing in the pouring rain yelling. “Bravo!” to all the runners!
Another funny surprise was how many men sprinted off to the trees along the sidewalks to take a pee less than 200m into the race! I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it 🤣
So many runners demonstrated pride for their countries, bringing flags to display as they crossed the finish line.
This medal just might be the coolest medal I’ve ever earned. I definitely had no shame in wearing it around the rest of our trip!