We were pleasantly surprised to find ourselves in Athens for the 36th Authentic Athens marathon race and were further pleased to discover that the route would pass just a quarter block from our digs. We were there right after breakfast, and in time to watch the front runners - who finished last year’s race in the 2:12:17 to 2:28:57 time - as they passed the 40 km mark of the 42.195 km race.
Seeing my first marathon in its founding city was special. The atmosphere was quite festive what with drumming, rock bands, support teams, volunteers, balloon & snack vendors and hundreds of fans lining the route. We decided to walk the route to find the finish line. I was speculating that the race would conclude an Olympic stadium.
My interest in the marathon stems both from having worked in a media relations capacity at the Winter Olympics in Calgary 1988 and in Vancouver 2010, and specific to running at the 2001 IAAF World Track & Field Championships in Edmonton. During the IAAF event I was so lucky to spend time chatting with long-distance running sensation Haile Gebrselassie before and after his NBC Sports interviews. So, despite strictly being a. non-competitive “athlete” (that’s a stretch) I am a Olympics fangirl.
Enough about me; back to the race.
Of the 55,000 athletes registered in the 2018 Athens Authentic Marathon, 18,000+ signed up for the full route. The balance were on 5 and 10 km runs. The runners did indeed cross the finished in the Panathenic Stadium, a reconstruction of the 70,000-seat 4th century original. It was rebuilt for the first modern Olympics, held in 1895.
Ironically, when Athens hosted the 2004 games, the Panathenic Stadium was deemed too small for any Olympic event except archery.