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Sunday, July 21, 2024
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Athens Marathon Course Review

The Athens Marathon Course Review is part of the Trip Report Athens Marathon: The Original Course which includes the following cities:

Click here for the picture preview.

I came, I saw, I limped, I conquered though it did not go as smoothly or as quickly as my first marathon in Alaska which I completed in 3:54:13. This time I was suffering from tendonitis and could barely walk let alone run days before the race.

Before I arrived in Athens, I tried shock stimulation treatment on a daily basis to soothe the tightness of the tendons. I bought compression socks, a compression belt, an Achilles strap, and KT tape. None of it did anything. When you’re hurt, you’re hurt and only time can heal injuries.

The day before leaving to Athens, I decided that I wasn’t going to run the race. As soon as I arrived and saw all the runners in the airport, I knew that I had to give it a shot. When I went to pick up my bib and souvenir shirt, I was further convinced. After all, this was the Original Course, the route that Pheidippedes took to deliver the news of a Greek victory against the Persians from the city of Marathon to Athens.

The Day Before the Race 

athens marathon course review
How could I not run? The finish was at Panathenaic Stadium, the stadium that hosted the first Olympic Games in 1896
Picking up my bib
athens marathon course review
Visualize the finish
The route
The route
athens marathon course review
I doubt the original route had a roundabout
This does not look like fun
The gauntlet that you had to walk through before picking up the souvenir jersey

That night I prepared all the tools that would help with my run including my patented TPOL marathon shirt.

Sometimes you have to sponsor yourself
Sometimes you have to sponsor yourself
The useless goods
The useless goods

The night before, I drank three bottles of water and the morning of I had another four.

Last carb meal
Last carb meal is room service

The Morning of the Race 

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The buses at the Parliament waiting to take runners to Marathon
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The warm coats they provided before the race
The toilets
The toilets
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Last call for smiles

The Start 

The gun went off and my strategy was to take it easy for the first ten miles by aiming for a ten minute mile pace. I hadn’t run in a month so I had no idea how fast or slow I could go. The first few miles went by and it was impossible to run that slow.

The splits for the first five miles were 9:51, 9:43, 9:09, 9:10, then 8:58. My foot was hurting but everything else felt natural at this point. At mile 6 I figured it was time to get rid of the beanie because the sun was coming out.

The Sun 

What started out as a chilly morning turned into a very hot and humid afternoon. My biggest fear in running is the sun. Feeling thirsty means dehydration is around the corner which as I later discovered can really complicate running.

The Elevation 

The first third of the race was flat and I, too excited to care, did not think that maybe I was pushing it too hard early on. In total the course only went to 821 feet which is nothing. Capture

But the manner in which it went up was a big problem. It was endless hill after endless hill. Running up the hill, I was being rocked by the sun. Running down the hill, my tendons were on fire. It was not a fun experience.

The Halfway Point 

Mile 12 was completed in 9:43. Mile 13 was completed in 12:07. The heat, the hills, and the injury caught up to me and I made the critical mistake of stopping to go to the bathroom. I was never in a rhythm after that. The run was no longer fun and I still had a long ways to go.

I turned to my music for relief but that provided no comfort. I tried to find inspiration in other runners but there was nobody really running. From that point on, I was shocked by the number of people walking like we were in a parade and not a race. It felt like a road trip as I would find some energy to pass a few people only to be passed by those people later on. This torture continued onto mile 18 where things really got bad.

Mile 18-20

I finished mile 17 in 14:03 and mile 20 in 14:22. Those were my two worst miles. During those times, I could barely walk as dehydration cramps spread from my left quad to my right hamstring and then to my right quad and my left hamstring. It was so painful that I had no choice but to laugh. All this training, all this mental preparation and I was getting Lebron cramps?

Due to the slow pace after mile 13, I had plenty of energy to run. As soon as I would get going and start to feel good about myself, the cramp would come sending shots of pain into my legs. Annoyed, I had to walk again. At one point, I saw a man rubbing himself with some cream that his friend on a bike had delivered to him. I had no idea what it was but I stopped and applied some on myself. That helped a little.

Mile 21

At this point, I estimated that I could still pull off a sub 5 hour run if I could keep a consistent pace. At the same time, the God send Victors song came on, and, to quote Jim Harbaugh, “I put steel in my spine,” and took off running. Mile 21 was my fastest mile after the halfway point (12:21) but even the Michigan Fight Song could not ward off the dehydration cramps.

It is worth mentioning that throughout the race I stopped at most of the water stands, Powerade stations, and consumed more bananas, Clif Roks, and Gu than I thought would be necessary. None of it helped.

Mile 22-24

The energy was there but I was toast. Run for ten seconds then walk for an eternity. The sub 5 hour time was slipping away.

Mile 24-26

I picked up the pace and grimaced through the pain in a last-ditch effort to try to finish under 5 hours. I really wanted to run and enjoy my time but that wasn’t going to happen.

The Sad .2 

5 hours had ticked away and I had failed to reach my goal. The stadium was within my sights and instead of a glorious entrance, I was literally walking towards the finish line. A fellow runner grabbed me by the shoulder and said, “Come on let’s finish!” I tried to run with him the last few feet and even that was a no go.

I crossed the finish line in a runner’s pose hoping the camera would show my moment of glory.

The Result 

I finished in 5:05:06. Wow, that was a horrible experience I thought to myself.

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The second half took 40 minutes more than the first.
Hardly felt like I conquered anything

The After Party Pics 

The race was done so it was time to take some photos and pretend that I felt a sense of accomplishment.

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I felt like the dude next to me. (never mind the blood)
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I wish I felt as good as I look in this pic.
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The Authentic
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The Finish Line
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The medal

Lessons Learned

  • Powerade over water when it’s sunny.
  • Don’t interrupt marathon training for Hyatt Diamond Challenge.
  • You have good days and bad. Be thankful for the good. Endure the bad.


11:35 min/mi…turrible

It’s been about a month since the race ended and I’m still annoyed at how it went down. It is cool to say I ran the original marathon but I wish I would’ve done a better job. Still, I pride myself on finishing. It is far harder to struggle and run five hours than it is to have a quick 3:54 peaceful jog in Alaska.

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  1. I did my first marathon last year, finished in 4:11:00, and swore I’d never do another. However, this is the one race I’d come out retirement for!

    • Duck that! Do it in Alaska where it was 50 and cloudy with a light rain. There were plenty of hills but not that oppressive heat. The worst part in Athens was near the end there was a young guy having a heart attack. Paramedics, people yelling, no bueno.

      • Whoa! Mine was in Maine under similar conditions to yours in Alaska–it was magical, albeit hilly, and no deaths that I know of.

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