The Athens Marathon

Day 12

Clear, clean and crisp; my favourite
weather and time coming together in a sweet combination to make this morning’s
8 miler the perfect start of the week. With that in mind, today’s blog post is
going to be another running story. This time of my first marathon: Athens 2015. 

(Today’s miles – featuring a silly hat.)


It was early 2015 and the band were touring
the UK. We were in Brighton and had arrived early, deciding to head to the
beach in our pre-show time to take in the sea air. That same day had been the
Brighton Marathon so the beach front was swarming with finisher t-shirts, bright
shiny medals and some funny looking walking (post-marathon legs). Muss and me,
both being into running, started a conversation about completing a marathon
being on both our bucket lists. The atmosphere in Brighton felt electric and
you could see the accomplishment beaming on people’s faces. We both agreed that
we should just enter one, and not just any marathon – one that was in an
adventurous place that neither of us had ever been. 

After a quick search on the
internet, we had decided on the Athens marathon; it was far enough away that
both of us could train for it, it was a place neither of us had ever been and
it’s called the ‘authentic’ marathon as it is the very place in which the
marathon distance originates from. It ticked all the boxes. Prior to entering, I’d never really adhered
to any formal training plan. I would typically run 5/6 times a week but would
rarely track distance or time. The furthest I’d ran at that point was about 10
miles, so I went about getting a proper training plan that included nutrition
in order to clock up the mileage. This is when running really became more than
just a casual hobby for me, the start of what has developed into a huge part of
who I am now. 


About 4/5 months, many training miles and a
couple of hundred bowls of porridge later, a leaner and (sort-of) marathon
trained version of me was boarding the flight to Athens, with both Muss and his
brother. In the lead-up to the race I’d gotten quite nervous, suddenly realizing
the task that was in front of me. My longest training run had been a 22 miler
and I’d made the decision to just run and see what time I came in. 

At the time,
I was unaware of what I was capable of in running as well as not being too
bothered seeing that it was my first marathon. We boarded the flight slightly giddy with
nerves and I distinctly remember us all joking about who would end up on the
bus. The bus being an actual bus that picks up any stragglers who have failed to
complete the course in the cut off time, which is typically something like 7
hours. Muss’ brother seemed concerned, although you would have to walk at a
relatively slow pace for the entire 26.2 miles in order to stand any chance of being
on the bus.

We arrived in Athens and headed straight for the Expo, the atmosphere took me
right back to Brighton, if not even being more charged as this time we were
taking part – plus we were in Greece. Athens is an absolutely stunning city. If
you haven’t been before, then I seriously recommend it. It might even be the
best city I’ve been to in Europe so far. The expo was full of excitement, we
collected our numbers and took a nervous pre-race picture. That evening we
decided to take it easy as the race was the following morning. We went out for
a nice meal and a small walk around our hostel’s area, which was perfectly
situated bang in the centre of Athens – an easy 5 minute walk from the finish
line on normal legs (it took me a good 15 post-marathon). A few more jokes
about the bus were thrown around.

Due to the time difference, our bodies were about 3 hours behind, which meant
the 5am alarm came as a bit more of a shock than anticipated. The Athens
marathon route means that you have to get a coach to the town of Marathon and
then you run the 26.2 miles back to Athens, finishing in the Panathinaiko
Stadium. The coach journey took a while, which was sort of expected, all I
could think in my mind was the fact that if it took that long in a coach, then
imagine what it would feel like on the feet. Upon arriving at the race village
in the sports stadium within Marathon, my nerves turned to pure excitement. The
sun was just popping its head over the mountains as we started our pre-race
warm ups. At the time, I wasn’t that clued up to what a warm up entailed so we
sort of just jogged around the track with all the other runners – if in doubt, copy
everybody else. 


Before we knew it, we were on the start line and the gun had sounded. The song
How Deep Is Your Love by Calvin Harris was playing as we crossed the start;
that song always taking me right back to that moment. The first thing I noticed
was how many people had decided to immediately stop for a quick toilet break,
just metres over the start line. All those nerves, I guess. I felt nothing but strong throughout the whole race. My mind was so focused
on the moment that I didn’t even consider the fact I was running 26 miles,
fully consumed in my stride. 

For my nutrition, I’d opted for using what was
provided at the feed stations – the segment of banana at the half way point was
nothing but pure joy. There’s nothing quite like the taste of food when your
body is in need of it. The course was pure beauty, the temperature was good and
the atmosphere was amazing. Every little Greek town we passed through was full
of spectators shouting “bravo, bravo” as we trod on by. 

(All that hair, and the nose ring…)


As we rounded off into the city, I distinctly remember feeling quite
emotional at mile 24. There’s definitely something about running long distances
that evokes the emotive part of your brain. Running into the stadium was
nothing short of incredible – if you watch the little video I made, I swear a
lot because I was in disbelief that I was finishing and all those months of
training were coming to a close. As I said earlier, at the time I wasn’t much
of a runner in terms of time etc, but it was after this marathon that I really
got into it and started to reach the PB’s I’ve managed to achieve. 

Anybody who
has completed a marathon will know how it feels when you cross the finish line
and you take those first few steps at walking pace. Oh my does it come as a
shock. Your legs don’t work properly for a good few days after and stairs
become your worst nightmare – particularly walking down them. Muss, his brother and myself celebrated well that night, proceeding to
have some of the most memorable few days of my entire life. For whatever
reason, later on that night, we decided to try and run up acropolis – the term ‘recovery’
jog could be used but we were just being silly. 

I think everyone should have a go at the Marathon at some point in their
life. Especially if you are a runner or someone who enjoys running. There is
something about knowing you’ve completed a distance like that, which makes other
areas of life feel a lot easier. There’s also something about knowing you’ve
done something a lot of others haven’t, it makes you feel just a little smug.

I love running. I’m not sure that you’ve been able to tell from reading
these posts? Anyway, 12 days in – that’s almost half way. How time flies!

Peace & love.

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