If there is one race that I would recommend for marathoners, it would be the historic Athens Marathon. The race course follows the original route of the first marathoner, the Greek soldier Pheidippides who ran from Marathon to Athens to deliver the news of of the Battle of Marathon won against the Persians.
We were back in Athens again to run the marathon for the second time. I ran this race in 2015 and was so pleased to be able to run it again this year.
We flew out of Brussels International Airport in Zaventem on Saturday, November 10, 2018. on board Aegean Airlines at 11:40 AM. We were so used to the no-frills airline Ryanair that we were surprised to be served lunch during the four-hour flight.
We arrived in Athens airport at 15:40 PM. Athens is an hour ahead of Brussels. Upon arrival, we took Bus X96 right outside the arrivals area. The trip cost 6.50 euros to the marathon expo at Delta Falirou.
Registration included a free transportation card from November 8-13, 2018. A separate free transportation card was provided to and from the airport.
We took the tram T3 to get to the city center. The tram and train station is connected to an events center where a bazaar was in progress. Live music was playing in one of the display windows leading to the bazaar.
NJV Athens Plaza at the historic Syntagma Square was our hotel for the weekend. We had a view of the majestic Parthenon from our hotel balcony.
After checking in, we ventured out into the square. We walked around for a bit before settling on a restaurant for dinner and making it an early night.
The following morning, buses were waiting to pick us up at Syntagma Square to bring us to the Marathon town more than an hour away.
Some volunteers were passing out green neck buffs at the race start area.
We took off at 9:00 AM. They took good care of us. We had bottled water, Powerade, Chiquita bananas, Tuc crackers, Greek chocolates, and Gu gels at the aid stations.
The race course was marked as the official classic marathon course.
The course is not flat. We also had to contend with fickle weather conditions. Temperature at the race start was a manageable 14 degrees; it became very warm midway before it cooled down again.
Challenges aside, I was never alone on the race. With megamarathons like Athens, I can be assured that there are always runners ahead of me, beside me, and behind us.
I paused to take some photos of the scenery.
We passed by an burned down area. Locals in front of the burned area wore black and had a banner held up while supporting runners.
Medical support dotted the race almost every kilometer. A cleric at the last 10K was blessing the runners as we passed by.
I was happy to see the Panathenaic Stadium for the final few meters to the finish line. The race had a generous seven hour time limit. Richard patiently waited for me to get through the finish chute and led the way back to the hotel.
I checked out my goody bag as soon as we arrived at the hotel.
I cleaned up and rested a bit before venturing out again to try and see the Parthenon up close. Alas, it was closed! We had to content ourselves with photos by the entrance.
We had dinner before tucking into bed. We were up very early for our dawn flight back to Brussels on Monday morning.