Athens Authentic Marathon 2018
Now that you understand a bit more of the motivators of my decision to run my first marathon, I wanted to share my experience, as many people may never run a marathon during their lifetime.
The day before the marathon, my parents and I went to the exposition to pick up my running bib, t-shirt and walked through the hundreds of booths for various running brands and their products. After the expo, we went to dinner at an Italian restaurant to #carbup for the big run in the morning. I’d trained hard for this marathon and had many people reach out to tell me good luck on the run. I was amped and ready for the big day of being an amateur Olympian for the day.
5:30 am: Woke up. Ate breakfast – 1 fried egg, toast, a bit of spaghetti and a banana. Got ready.
6:30 am: Bus loading in Athens city centre. Took about a 45-minute ride to Marathon - the start of the race.
7:30 am: I got off the bus to head to the warm-up area – thousands of people were there.
8:30 am: I went to the bathroom about 3 times in the next hour; due to all of the water I had consumed, added on to my nerves/excitement. I continued to look at my surroundings, the Olympic torch, the crazy gear everyone had on, and just how motivating it was that everyone there had put in so much hard work to be running a marathon.
9:00 am: I joined 2,000 runners in my block to start the race. It was shoulder to shoulder, so I just kept to myself while taking in the surroundings as I was in awe of it all.
9:15 am: The race began for block 7 with a “ready, set, go” and we were off!
Some basic facts to help better understand the run and the historical piece of this route:
The marathon legend began from the ancient Greek soldier, Pheidippides, as he ran from Marathon to Athens to announce the defeat of the Persians to the Athenians.
We had refuel stations every 2.5 kilometers, medics were spread throughout the course, yet porta-potties seemed to be limited.
It was quite crowded at the beginning, but I had enough space to run. The first 10 kilometers felt good. The course was flat, my adrenaline was pumping and I was loving the Greek spectators cheering, “bravo” and handing out olive branches. From kilometer 10-25, the course began to get more difficult as the incline was increasing. The first town I ran through, Nea Maikri, gave me a nice pep in my step; they had a DJ bumping “Danzo Kuduro” and tons of people lining the street. At kilometer 15, I hit the runner’s high and was really enjoying myself in such an uplifting event. People were pushing handicapped people in wheelchairs, the views spread all the way to the ocean, and I had thousands of my new best friends running next to me.
At kilometer 25, I saw my parents, gave them a high-five and put another pep in my step. However, right after this, kilometer 25-31 was the steepest part of the race. I’d studied the course beforehand and knew this would be tough, but wow the hill felt like it was never going to end. This was when I really hit a wall. I began to see people walking up the hill, as the end didn’t seem to be nearing. I kept telling myself over and over, “dig deep” and just kept putting one foot in front of the other. For about 5 kilometers, while I was running up the hill, I went through a tunnel vision state where I was just telling myself to keep the pace; I have no idea what I ran past for this bit. Once I hit the top of the hill at kilometer 31, I had reached a huge milestone of the race, as the rest was mostly all down-hill or flat until the finish line. I picked up my pace for the next few kilometers and took advantage of the down-hill slope. This quickly came to an end.
At kilometer 37, I ran past a man holding a sign saying, “So you thought it was a good idea to run Athens… Suck it.” That gave me a good chuckle, as I was definitely hurting at that point.
The final 5 kilometers felt like forever. I kept looking for the stadium and it seemed like it was never going to come. I really didn’t even take in my surroundings at this point because I was just focused on being finished. Finally, I ran into the Panathenaic Stadium and envisioned that I was an athlete in the 2004 Olympics. It was a spectacular feeling with the large roars from the crowd. I crossed the finish line and have never felt such a relief. I finished in 3:50:30, completing 42.195 kilometers (26.2 miles) of non-stop running, something I never thought I’d be able to do.
I met up with my parents right after the race. We took some photos, walked around the stadium to take in the venue and then went for a celebratory beer. I could barely move, but it was a joyful moment that I will never forget.