Dateline: Athens, Greece
November 13, 2000
Back to the Future
Jeff Galloway invited me to run the 2000 Athens marathon, it took
me about one nano-second to say yes. After all, how could I turn
down the chance to run the original route taken by Phiddipidies
and finish in the stadium built in 1896 for the first modern Olympiad?
My imagination was no match for the extraordinary emotions of the
I'll admit freely that I knew little
about Greek history in general and Olympic history in particular.
As an American, I tend to think that 200 years is a LONG time. Standing
on the grounds of buildings that date back nearly 3,000 years changed
my perspective. This was history… in HISTORIC proportions.
A small group of us started the
race about an hour before the "official" start. We had
tacit approval to start early, with the understanding that we wouldn't
be eligible for any age group awards. I explained that not being
eligible for an award was the LEAST of my concerns. I just wanted
to run the course.
And run it we did. We stayed together
like a military troop for the first half, running two-by-two. We
rotated the lead so that everyone had the chance to be out front.
The time seemed to FLY by. Before we knew it, the leader was running
At the halfway point, the large
group began to separate into smaller groups. Those who felt strongest
went on ahead. Others lingered behind. All felt the inescapable
presence of the history of the course.
It is a VERY difficult course, by
the way. It begins to climb at about mile 9 and doesn't STOP going
up until mile 20. With about 10K to go it heads downhill some, but
at that point I was so trashed that I barely noticed.
It is the finish, though, that truly
distinguishes this race from any other. We took a simple left turn
and found ourselves staring into THE stadium. THE very stadium in
which the first modern Olympics were held. THE stadium where those
first marathoners crossed the first finish line.
It was almost more than I could
comprehend. Looking up into the stands, which were still nearly
full at that point, hearing the cheers, seeing the flags, feeling
the power of the strength of thousands of runners over hundreds
of years was overwhelming. As we circled the track before crossing
the finish line I felt transported to a different time.
All marathons cover the same distance.
26.2 miles. But this one was very different. I finished this one
with more pride, with more of a sense of my own history than any
other. It was an historic race.
Takin' it to the streets...
can read Karen's account of the race here.