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Monday
Jan272014

Athens Road Marathon 2013 – Race Report

 

> An iconic Race - one to tick the box.  

> Some really great sights to see in Athens - 2 days (for us) were sufficient to see Athens (more time to go further afield).

> Don’t expect majestic scenery for 26.2 miles it’s the last few which are iconic (but that’s ok as the finish is majestic).

I've broken down my report into a few sections to help future runners work out what is best for you.

 Getting to Athens / Accommodation:

We travelled from Heathrow via the Greek airline.  This takes about 4 hours (remember it is 2 hours’ time difference!)  and the transport from the airport to downtown is easy via subway - but allow a day to travel.  We stayed at the Hilton hotel, (I had converted air miles to Hilton points to use).   The hotel was nice and room was clean and tidy.  The hotel wanted to charge for every little extra, e.g.  if you open the fridge we charge you, water 8 euro not complementary, whereas on the corner shop the same bottle was 1 euro - that’s poor guys, something you just don't do.  Equally, there was an extra charge for the hotel pool, (really, 20 euros to swim!) Oh, location was great and easy to get to/from the start.  If was paying directly I would, if I stayed there, perhaps not...   

 The Race Registration:

The registration was located near the beach, fairly easy to get to by tram and following the other runners.  It did lack the signs at the station stating ‘This is the marathon registration area’, but despite that it was easy to find.  It was a busy registration, with no issues in getting number.  A shame was that the Adidas store only had XL T-shirts left for men, and medium for women.  Claire’s T-shirt was supposed to be X-Small but turned out to be small.  The free bag was more like a bag for life than what if was hoping for as a gift bag.  A reasonable amount of stalls present at the expo, a rather annoying one way system so you had to pass every stall to go though.  I want to go back and between stalls to see fit... but you could just go through the small fence between rows as an easy short cut.  People were friendly and if you needed help that was no problem.   

 Race Start:

There was a bus to the start.  It was an early start about 5:30am if recall.  Getting to the bus location was no problem.  They did put the instructions on repeat the whole travel time.  10min instructions repeated 6 times over an hour gets a bit old after a while.  And, I did hear this is the Greek authentic marathon about 20 times - I got the point.  Whilst travelling any illusions I had about 'mildly undulating' were dispelled.   It’s a hilly course - make no mistake.   

 The start area:

The start area was well organised plenty of toilets and loos.  If it did rain there would be limited under cover.  But this is Greece not Wales so that’s a low risk.  It did not rain for us.  I briefly met Alan and Loretta as I walked to my pen.  There were a lot of tourist runners from around the world not many "really fast club runners".

 The Race:

I was in pen 2, probably because I put down my last marathon at 2:57 time.  To my surprise I really only counted a handful of club vests mostly non-club runners.  I'd guess this pen would be from 240 capability runners to 310 runners.   Pen 1 was elite and Greek championship.  The first mile was fairly busy, I started out with a 7 min mile, and it did take about 1/2 mile to really get into a routine.  And, even then it was busy.  Not so much support early on in the marathon but after about 5 miles more support.  The first section was relatively in the countryside.  It was on a highway type road with little sun cover.  As we progressed through the miles, mile 9 and 12/13 or something like that had fairly stiff hills.  Those about blew up my sub 3 illusions.  I knew I needed a 130/129 split is to make it but those hills took their toll.  The heat through the race I found quite hard, it reached 24 by the end of the race.  As we progressed towards Athens we entered the city about 17 miles or so.  At about 20 miles it is generally mildly downhill but my legs were just shot and I cruised at 7:20 pace no chance of picking up the pace.  If I had more practice at gradual hill training perhaps I would have been less impacted.  Nevertheless when I reached 24 miles I passed my hotel, realising all downhill from here.  At 25'ish miles it’s a sharp downhill (like pen-y-lan perhaps a little less) to the stadium.  And you can hear the chants and support from then.  As you reach 26 the crowds are amazing as you run in the stadium you can see and hear from miles away.  The finish is amazing and such an experience as you look around and hear the crowd.  Worth the pain of the 26.2 miles.   

After the race I met Claire and she told me her 10k was undulating, with same finish in the stadium.  She also captured another scalp of a world record holder - this time Ingrid Kristiansen beating her on the line.  A sign of a nice person Claire shook her hand and the end and Ingrid had her husband take a photo and emailed it to Claire. 

I went to the massage tent for a short massage - a strong recommendation - do this it really helps your recovery - I was able to run 7 miles the next day! 

 A jog with the Nike Running club:

We visited the Nike store looking for a 'We ran Athens' t-shirt.  Unfortunately you can only get these if you join the Nike running club in Athens and run 10 times.  Nevertheless we joined them on the Monday for 4-6 miles in loops around the park nearby.

 

Top Sights in Athens:

The main sights in Athens are the temples and the museums.  You either get free entry or a discount with your running number a good deal.  For us, 2 days of sightseeing.  Monday/ Tuesday am for us was more than sufficient.  We did not visit every museum but we hit the key spots.   

 Visit to 2004 Olympic stadium:

On the Tuesday we elected to visit the Olympic park for the 2004 games.  Fairly easy to get to on metro.  The park was quiet, (almost ghost town like), but that I guess would be the case for most stadiums on a Tuesday morning.  We walked around the stadium to the offices to what would appear to be the Greek athletics association.  We asked could we go in.  I'm not totally sure if the lady fully understood me but she allowed us to go into the stands and walk down onto the track - an amazing experience to stand on the track of those games - worth a visit.  We also passed the outdoor pools and the velodrome, nevertheless we were allowed (or no one stopped us walking into it), to see a group of cyclists following a motor bike...  and what appeared to be their coach having a cigarette, watching...  The Greeks don’t quite have so strict rules on non-smoking or they are not adhered to...

 Other things in Athens:

> There were protests when we were in Athens and a fairly heavy police presence.   We did not see any trouble.    

> Food is no problem, easy to get pasta or other suitable foods as you like.   Plenty of cafes etc. and food is reasonably priced as are the bars.   

> People were generally friendly and helpful in the city.

> No problems with being understood.

James Bruce

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