It is a cold, dark and windy morning in the town of Marathon, Greece with snow flurries nearby announcing the beginning of winter as 2,621 runners of all ages from 47 countries gather for the start of the 23rd Athens Classic Marathon. For most of the runners, this race is the dream of a lifetime. As they stand there in the dark and cold, they are reminded that they will be running 26 miles and 385 yards in the footsteps of Pheidippides, the famous Greek soldier and messenger.
As the race begins, the runners leave the starting line at Marathon Stadium running relaxed while trying to get warm on a level, slightly downhill course and at the 5K mark, circle the Tomb of the Marathon Warriors.
In 490 BC the Persian army of 25,000 men landed at Marathon and prepared to march to Athens to conquer to the Greeks. The plain of Marathon was an ideal staging area to prepare for this attack on Athens. The Greek General Miltiades with a force of 11,000 attacked the Persians at Marathon and using unconventional military tactics was able to route the Persians, killing 6,400 in the process. 192 Greeks were lost in the battle and are buried beneath this lofty mound. The runners this day circled the mound, paying honor to these fallen warriors.
The race course continues to follow the path of Pheidippides proceeding to the lowest point on the course at the 10K marker. This is where the real race begins as the next 13 miles are all up hill. The men are separated from the boys as they press forward. As I passed a water stop, I notice a portable toilet and a quick stop seemed like a wise decision, but it was marked for women only and the attendant strongly indicated that I was not to use it. No toilets for men were to be seen. My minded reflected back to Phidipidies as I asked myself, “What would he do?” It was time to be creative.
At the 20-mile mark, the runners start to realize that they have conquered the course. From this point on, it is all downhill to Athens.
As you enter the Panathinaiko Stadium with its marble seats and the marble Olympic rings at the far end and sprint to the finish line you realized that you have just lived your dream. You have conquered the original marathon course. With the finisher’s medal around your neck you wave to the crowd enjoying the moment and as you turn around you see the Acropolis in the background. The reality sets in that you have just finished the Athens Classic Marathon.
Chuck Branda is the owner of Pro-Fitness, a Certified Personal Trainer, a Certified Senior Trainer and an Instructor for the No Excuses Fitness Program. Chuck runs with the Santa Clarita Runners and Club Run LA.
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