Sunday, 7 November 2010

My own tribute to the past.....

....& the Athens Marathon.

A bit of a preface - I first saw this Athens Marathon around early March time, and to be honest it wasn`t the fact that it was advertised as the `2,500 year anniversary of Philippides running` (that did help to highlight the event) but what attracted me to this was that it was being held on the weekend anniversary of my Dad`s passing. So I thought it would be perfect to run this for my Day & Brother. What also helped is that I really do enjoy the Greek thing - culture, weather, people, the way of life plus I`d been to Athens a number of times.

So to the actual trip.

Friday - On the plane I played the `guessing` game - Guess the runners. I think I spotted a few, looking at their non 'street' trainers, running club cloths wear. The lady sitting next to me helped out with showing off her duty free in a Sweatshop bag. Turns out she was running with 2.09 events. I told her that whilst I hadn't been away with Mike and his team I had, being local to 2.09 done a few of his races (plus I know someone who works for them). On the flight over I managed to catch up on two podcasts of Marathon talk – inc. the one about international racing - LOL - well better late than never!!!

Collected my free travel card. Got to the hotel (Hotel Attalos in the Monastiraki area) without issue and a quick night walk with something to eat and an early (ish) night was the plan.

Saturday - A bit of a rare lie in as no parkrun. Leisurely breakfast and made my way to the expo. Bit of a scrum but saw & collected everything I needed. After catching a few rays in a nearby park it was back to the hotel - no point on wasting energy before the race esp when I can walk around Athens on Monday & early Tuesday to free up the legs.

Race day - With the early start and clocks changing I didn`t have the best night`s sleep. I was up around 4.15am (I think), had breakfast in the room, showered and out the hotel door at 5.15am, nearing bumping into this couple back from a Halloween fancy dress party - I don`t know who jumped more. Anyway got to Syntagma - the nearest bus collection point and away we went - unlike the `JW Ultra` bus this bus was very, very quiet. So enough we were out of Athens and started to see some of the race distance signs - also made note of the hills & slopes along the way !!!

Got to the Marathon, again all a bit quiet. We made our way into the starting area AND what an starting area it was - Incredible - and that was at 6.45am. All what was at the starting area was basically a running track with a gym, the starting areas with zones, loads of loos & an Olympic torch and a plaque marking where you were BUT what an atmosphere - Traditional Greek music was being played out. Got changed & dropped the bag off and did 2 or 3 laps as a warm up on the track, along with the elites - how fast do they warm up???

About 8.50am I got into the zone - I was in zone 6 (of 7) & TBH I didn`t mind that as it meant a steady start esp in sun. I had a planed to run to a 4 hour pace (9.08/m), again not really knowing how I would react to the heat plus how the legs would like running again after pinching that 3:40 at Abingdon two weeks ago - my biggest worry was cramp. It was fascinating to see how runners from different countries dressed - and stereotyping here - the Greeks (3/4 legs), Germans (loud bright colours), & Chinese (wore red & carrying their flags).

At about 9.15am our wave had started. Kept it steady for the few miles. Soon enough we were going around the Marathon statue (5 Km - around 27:30), seeing the runners in front & behind was a boost. but was a bit busy & tight in this section plus it was the 1st water station. I was going to take a few photos but didn`t in the end. Carried on back, and it did thin out. Heard these two American runners behind - saying how bang on schedule they were, how awesome they were doing.....I looked at garmin - we had just past the 4M mark lol.

A few steady miles later & it was the 10Km point - 55:XX something which was about right, maybe a bit of time in the bank. At this point we moved in land so the views of the sea disappeared. Just before the 10M mark the course took a nasty direction - uphill. Didn`t really need that but then it did go down for a couple of miles, then back uphill again. Through half way (again an uphill section) in around 1:58:xx - two minutes in the bank = NOT ENOUGH.

Kept the pace steady as the miles passed - seeing the small road side shrines & a couple of Greek Churches reminded me of why I was here.

The support from the locals was just amazing - the memories of the shouts out of "Bravo, Bravo, Bravo" & handing out Olive branches I will treasure for a long time. I did try to shout back out efkharisto. The next mile stone point was the 26Km mark - was funny as I cleared there in 02:26. By this stage I changed my water station tactics - first half of the bottle I emptied over me (& my burning left arm) & into my cap to cool me down, the rest I sipped.

Through 20M @ 03:02 which from my pace band was right on the 4hr button - no safety margin. I needed to push on, there's no way I wanted to give them a just over 4hr marathon time. I used the end of the small underpass as the point where I was going to speed up - 21M flew at 8:26 - opps my thought was don`t blow it and get cramp, I needed to save some energy for the 5 remaining miles, reduced pace a bit - seeing more and more runners at the side stretching out their legs confirmed this. Relaxing the lower legs the best I could but maintaining a sub 9/m pace. Each mile past was a mile closer and vital seconds being put into the bank. Mile 24 was a brutal little rise (allowed myself a 10 second walk – did swear to myself to get a move on). As I went around the corner I saw my 1st runner down :-( Never good but reminded me to finish was the first goal & then a sub 4 was goal No. 2. Eased back a bit more, kept the legs relaxed as I knew I had a few seconds in the bank. The last mile I sped up almost counting the seconds down.

As I turned the corner I saw the finishing stadium – WHAT A FINISH – the ancient marbled stadium with the Olympic rings in the background - it takes your breath away. Passing the 42Km flag – which was practically the only Km marker I noticed – hearing the roar of the crowd is simply unforgettable. Those last 195 metres did seem to take an age and I don`t mind admitting that I finished with tears in my eyes and arms waving around – I had done it, not the actual running of the marathon but I had run for something far, far bigger than me – my Dads & Brothers memory. Plus I guess for the romantics it was nice to run in footsteps of Philippides and in the 2,500 year anniversary run.

Got through the finish and met with the medley of the finishing area. Went to the bag bus & after 10 / 15 mins of waving my number around I realised I would be there a lot longer. I walked back to the stands & watched runners coming through. As I turned to find a better viewing area I bumped into Crazylegs1979 – A Reading Roadrunner & had a bit of a chat. After that I sat back down & continued to watch the runners – I guess I sat there for a least 90 mins enjoying the moment (well moments I suppose) – I am so glad I went up into the stands for those 2 hours instead of waiting for my bag. Eventually I did go back to bag bus & collected my bag within minutes & walked back to the hotel. Eating a whole packet of Haribo Star mix on the way.

This race is special to me from many reasons - Ok the route might not have the best views, and is mostly along the dual carriageway but I`ll like to know of better start & finish areas of another marathon. I am so glad I ran it.

After a quick shower & changing into my recovery skins I went to the roof top bar for few beers - got chatting to an English couple & their American friend (who's wife won the V60 age category in the Boston Marathon – Blondie Vucich – 03:28:31 - but was asleep in their room after her marathon). What was more amazing is that after chatting about Greece and where I`d been, it turned out that they live on a small island called Paros, just outside of a small village where I have visited on a couple of occasions for Yoga break. They knew my Yoga teacher out there, we chatted about the village life, where I stay and who owns it – unbelievable – it is indeed a small world.

My race data;

5 Km – 00:27:42
10 Km – 00:55:58
21 Km - 01:58:23
30 Km - 02:50:14

1) - 1m - 8:47(8:47/m) - 136cal
2) - 1m - 8:49(8:49/m) - 139cal
3) - 1m - 9:03(9:03/m) - 138cal
4) - 1m - 9:11(9:11/m) - 140cal
5) - 1m - 8:54(8:54/m) - 138cal
6) - 1m - 9:01(9:01/m) - 139cal
7) - 1m - 8:56(8:57/m) - 139cal
8) - 1m - 9:03(9:03/m) - 139cal
9) - 1m - 8:41(8:41/m) - 139cal
10) - 1m - 9:20(9:20/m) - 140cal
11) - 1m - 8:29(8:29/m) - 139cal
12) - 1m - 8:50(8:50/m) - 139cal
13) - 1m - 9:31(9:32/m) - 139cal
14) - 1m - 9:11(9:11/m) - 139cal
15) - 1m - 9:09(9:09/m) - 140cal
16) - 1m - 9:41(9:41/m) - 140cal
17) - 1m - 9:10(9:10/m) - 139cal
18) - 1m - 9:23(9:23/m) - 141cal
19) - 1m - 9:35(9:35/m) - 141cal
20) - 1m - 9:18(9:18/m) - 132cal
21) - 1m - 8:27(8:27/m) - 139cal
22) - 1m - 8:52(8:53/m) - 140cal
23) - 1m - 8:51(8:51/m) - 138cal
24) - 1m - 8:51(8:52/m) - 140cal
25) - 1m - 9:16(9:16/m) - 146cal
26) - 1m - 8:41(8:41/m) - 140cal
27) - 0.31m - 2:32(8:16/m) - 43cal

Finishing time - 03:57:29

Monday - I spent the day at the local beach soaking up the sun - shame I couldn`t find a fish n chip shop – well you can`t have them all I suppose.

Bravo & efkharisto Athens.


Next up is a little rest, then a couple of fun events - Turbo X on the 21st November, then the Benidorm`s marathon on the 28th (our club`s outing) both events I`m looking forward to.

PS Seeing as I`m not running London who knows I might even pop back to Greece for the “Alexander The Great” marathon on the 10th April 2011.....

My You Tube Video of the weekend.

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