“I see my path, but I don’t know where it leads. Not knowing where I’m going is what inspires me to travel it.” – Rosalia de Castro
Run when you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must;
just never give up. — Dean Karnazes
November 8-10, I was in Athens with my running buddy Zeynep. Why? To run in Athens Authentic Marathon 10K Road Race! My mom also joined us in this short trip acting like our professional tourist guide and translator most of the time! We had a great weekend which was full of running, sightseeing and eating.
4-5 months ago me and Zeynep sponteanously decided to travel somewhere within Europe for a weekend. (thanks to Pegasus Airlines cheap ticket offer for winter season). Germany? Prag? Austria? As we were checking our options, I was also checking the marathons in Europe 😉 Why not combine our enthusiasm for running with travelling???
Then we came across the 32nd Athens Authentic Marathon taking place on 9 November 2014, Sunday. Great! Lets buy the tickets! We are going to Athens! Howevever we were not thinking about running the full marathon. Too much 🙂 unfortunately there was no option for Half-Marathon. So, we registered for 10K, which we thought would also give us some time and energy to travel around the city before and after the run. I would like to share with you not only my running experience but also some highlights from my trip to Athens.
First, brief info about this true historic and heroic event, Marathon Race –> The Battle of Marathon took place in 490 BC, between the citizens of Athens and a Persians. The Greek army defeated the Persians, marking a turning point in the Greco-Persian Wars. The battle is perhaps now famous as the inspiration for the marathon race. The legend of the Greek messenger Pheidippides running to Athens with news of the victory became the inspiration for this athletic event. Legend has it that Pheidippides delivered the momentous message “Niki!” (“victory”), then collapsed and died.
The 42,195m Marathon Race became one of the most competitive events during the revival of the Olympic Games in 1896. The Hellenic Athletics Federation, annually organizes the Athens Classic Marathon on the Original Marathon Course.
My top 5 in Athens:
1) Running in Athens and finishing at Panathinaikon Stadium!
We were among the 30,000 runners joining the marathon!
Marathon Expo: This was my first time attending such a well organized and inclusive expo! Great environment to meet runners and feel inspired before the run. Event sponsors and many exhibitors were there promoting their products; ranging from exclusive sport brands to technology products to free medical tests (like foot analysis which I did).
During the race: 10K runners were divided into 5 columns with different start time (1minute gap between the start of each column). This was useful in avoiding the “chaos” in the start line, which we experience a lot in Turkey. There were 2 water stations during the course (3.5K and 7.5K). The course was pretty flat. Especially compared to previous week’s run in Büyükada (“Big Island” among the Prince Islands), Istanbul.
The race started somewhere very close to Syntagma Square and it ended in the Panathinaikon Stadium. We ran the final 250 meters were in that amazing Stadium! I felt like I was breaking a world record =P Running in Athens must be in every runners bucket list. Highly recommended!
I am definitely coming back to Athens to run 42.195K in the original marathon course (from the city Marathon to Athens). Don’t know when, but yes definitely one day!
2) Watching a marathoner crossing the finish line with a new course record!
After me and Zeynep finished 10K, we stayed in the Stadium to cheer for the full marathon runners. It took only 2 hours 10 minutes and 37 seconds for Felix Kandie from Kenya to complete the Authentic Marathon course! He broke the course record. (former record was 2.10.55 by Stefano Baldini during the Athens 2004 Olympic Games). This was extraordinary! It felt amazing to watch him enter the stadium and run his last 200 meters and break a record!
In women winner was Maiyo Naomi Jepkogei (2.41.06) again from Kenya.
3) Acropolis of Athens
A trip to Athens won’t be complete without a visit to Acropolis! The Acropolis of Athens is an ancient citadel located on a high rocky outcrop above the city (150m above sea level) and contains the remains of several ancient buildings of great architectural and historic significance, the most famous being the Parthenon.
4)Thanasis – souvlaki & moussaka & greek salad
This was our first meal in Athens. If you are in Monastiraki area, then this is a must try! I especially liked the yogurt kebap and moussaka. Their moussaka was delicious. Don’t know what exactly was inside (perhaps cinnamon or another spice similar to it) but it was very different than what I tasted before.
5) Mnisikleous street (Yiasemi Cafe or others)
Very cosy and warm place with a scenic setting. We went there Sunday evening and had a difficult time in finding a seat. But it is worth waiting and then having a frappe&cake. We had apple pie and honey pie. I didn’t like the honey pie that much but if you are really into sugar, I am sure you will enjoy it!
6) Brettos Plaka – try Raspberry Liqueur!
A friend recommended us this place. Brettos is the oldest distillery in Athens. It started operating for the first time back in 1909 at the ground level of an Athenian old mansion in the heart of Plaka. At those premises, his founder, Michael Brettos, started producing ouzo, brandy and few liqueur flavors, from the old time classics like cherry and pepermint to the most distinct ones like citrus and masticha, using old family recipes from Smyrni (Izmir, Turkey). It is the 2nd oldest distillery in Europe!