I spent this past weekend in Athens, which greeted me with fantastic warm weather and gorgeous sunny skies.
Back in the Spring, I had signed up for the Athens original marathon and booked my awesome hotel room (courtesy of my final remaining hotel points thanks to my Consulting life), And somehow over the summer, Ines, my Austrian friend from Norway, decided to sign up for her first marathon and join me to my trip to Athens!
My flight to Athens was on Friday morning, and once I landed I slowly made my way to the hotel. On my way to Athens while texting with my sister, I found out that one of her best friends from childhood, who also happens to be her current roomie in Frankfurt was in Athens as well, so I messaged her to see if she wanted to meet.
She responded right away asking if I would be up for meeting for lunch and turns out that we were both walking down the exact same street at the exact same time. What a coincidence!
Saturday morning, after a gorgeous breakfast, I made my way to the race expo to pick our packets!
Expos have a way to put me in the right race mood, especially when seeing so many people that will go through the exact same experience as you. I gotta hand it to the Greeks though, other than the super long line for picking up your tshirt at the end of the expo, everything else was perfectly organized that day.
Later, I returned to the hotel, sat by the pool reading my book and waiting for Ines who arrived that afternoon.
After freshening up, we walked a little around town, got ourselves an early dinner and some snacks and made our way back to the hotel. Sunday would be a long day anyways!
The alarm was put for 5AM for Sunday morning. This would give us some time to wake up, feel awake, eat some breakfast and then head down to Syntagma square to pick one of the shuttles to the race start in Marathon (which is a 45mins or so bus ride away).
I wasn’t really feeling super great that race morning. I felt like I just wasn’t quite ready. Over the last few months, I attempted to train for this marathon, but sadly with the super warm DC summer, my summer travels, my move to France, and me being lazy, the training was slow. I didn’t miss any of my long runs since September, but otherwise my training was lacking. And last Tuesday, for some reason, I woke up with the worst back pain I’ve ever had, so I had barely moved for the full week leading up to Sunday: it’s what you would optimistically call dedication to tapering week!
However, once we got off the bus in Marathon and saw the number of people that were getting ready for the race as well, I just couldn’t help but get excited. No matter how hard this race was going to be, no matter how slow my pace, I knew I would have fun. This was one of the races that I’ve wanted to do since I first decided that I could run a marathon, and so I was there at the start line ready to enjoy that moment.
The race is basically a one long shot (with one mini detour) from the town of Marathon to the stadium in Athens. Not really any gorgeous views except for some mountains in the distance, and barely any shade throughout. BUT the random crowds here and there would make you fall in love with the Greeks; granted there aren’t any posters like the ones you see in American races, but the “Bravo” that is being yelled by old Greek grandmas and granddads as well as the non stop clapping and the children highfiving you makes you feel on top of the world, even when you feel like you want to crawl up that hill instead of running it.
Another thing I absolutely loved about this race were the constant water stops throughout. I think this is the first race I’ve ever ran where there is a water station every 2.5 kms, which given the super sunny weather and lack of shade is like heaven on earth. I literally took a water bottle at every stop, drank two sips and covered myself with the rest of it. A quick shower every 2 or so miles, why not; I was back to dry in 5 mins anyways.
Ines and I ran together up until the half marathon point, at which I needed to take a quick walk and she continued slowly fighting that hill and killing it! Unfortunately, by the time my legs were up to run again, I had lost her, and so I just kept going alone until the very end with random other runners throughout the way.
It’s awesome how so many little things kept me going, from the cheerleaders around once we got to town, to the girl in the Baltimore shirt that I saw running in front of me, to another girl who saw me start to walk at some point and gave me some words of motivation, to the one guy who was pushing a stroller with a little girl who couldn’t run herself and lastly to the one guy in a tshirt that read: “Follow us, we don’t run super fast; positive encouragement”, and following him I did.
Once I made it to the 40kms marker, the crowd support started to be crazy, and thankfully around km 41, there was this little downhill that just pushed you to fly, and so I did (or I’d like to think I did). I was almost there, I could feel the finish line even though I didn’t see it. Once I turned the corner, I saw the stadium, and once I turned another little corner, I saw the finish line: right there in the middle of this gorgeous stadium with so many people sitting and cheering, I found my legs pushing me to the finish line, after which I had to take a few seconds and just breathe. I had done it. I had completed my 4th marathon!!
A couple mins later, I found Ines, who had finished 5 minutes before me and was waiting for me! Together we slowly made our way to get our checked bags, eat something, and relax a little, before crawling back to our hotel 10 mins away from the finish line.
After showering and taking the ‘awesomest’ nap in the world, we attempted to make our way out to dinner feeling this soreness that runners live for!
It’s been a fantastic time Athens! Thank you for being so great! Cannot wait to be back.
Until next time!