• The Authentic Athens Marathon

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“The Athens Marathon. The Authentic” is synonymous with the marathon. This was where the history of the competition over the classic distance began in the first Olympic Games of the modern era in 1896. The Athens Marathon stands for something different these days, however: amidst extreme financial difficulties for the Greek nation and people, “The Athens Marathon. The Authentic” is a Greek success story, much to the delight of participants, spectators and organisers alike. The race over the original marathon course from the coastal town of Marathon to the Panathinaikon Stadium in Athens has attracted a record number of participants this year with 16,000 entered for Sunday’s race. This represents an increase of almost 25% in respect of last year. Taking into account those taking part in shorter distance races held in conjunction with the marathon, more than 43,000 runners have registered. The race organisers, the Greek Athletics Federation (SEGAS) have had to forego the international elite aspect of the race because of the economic situation so for the first time in 15 years there is the strong possibility of a Greek winner in the Athens Marathon on Sunday.

“This is the first time that we have organised the marathon with capital controls in operation,” explained Kostas Panagopoulos, the president of SEGAS, the Greek Athletics Federation. “We faced enormous problems in preparation for the race, especially in June and July. But we overcame them and have achieved our goal which was to ensure the Athens Marathon remained a running event with global significance.”

Kostas Panagopoulos also confirmed that the organisers want to re-instate an international elite field for next year’s race in Athens. “This year we had to make economies and that’s why we dropped the elite field and, instead, organised a marathon which concentrates on mass runners with the motto, “Marathon in Solidarity with Greece.” We want to continue with what we had been doing, however, and bring top athletes to the start line in 2016,” added the SEGAS president who confessed his surprise at the record entry. “We were worried that foreign runners would be scared off by the situation in Greece but the opposite turned out to be the case, the participation of foreign runners has risen by around 30%.”

“The Athens Marathon. The Authentic” seems to be exerting an increasing attraction for foreign runners as a road running experience, thanks to its unique link with history.

The leading Greek runners may well be able to take full advantage of this year’s unusual circumstances on Sunday. For the first time since 2000, prospects of a home winner are high. 15 years ago Nikolaos Polias and Yeoryia Abatzidou were the men’s and women’s winners with 2:20:50 and 2:53:00 respectively. On Sunday Dimitris Theodorakakos and Ourania Rebouli will be among the favourites. “Running a marathon is inspiring and that’s why the running movement will get bigger,” said the 36-year-old Theodorakakos, who has a personal best of 2:19:20. He is a hardened veteran of the event and Sunday’s race will be his 14th marathon. In contrast, Ourania Rebouli is a newcomer, having made her debut at the distance on this tough course last year and finished in 2:51:23. At the end of September the 26-year-old improved by a big margin to run 2:39:52 in Berlin and finish inside the Greek Federation’s Olympic qualifying time. “You not only need great endurance but also mental strength in a marathon. I’m looking forward to the race in Athens. It’s a marathon with such significance,” explained Rebouli. On such a course it will be asking a great deal to run a marathon relatively soon after her race in Berlin.

While the 2015 AIMS Best Marathon Runner of the Year Awards will be presented at the annual gala in Athens on Friday evening, the following day the 9th AIMS Marathon Symposium will take place, bringing together race organisers from around the world. The overall theme will be: “The Threat Doping poses to Distance Running.” Four speakers will make presentations and they are: Kyle Barber, responsible for Anti-Doping procedure at the IAAF, the former world class marathoner from Britain, Hugh Jones, who will speak from the elite athlete’s perspective and Mark Milde, race director of the Berlin Marathon, on that of a major race organiser. Lastly, Yiannis Pitsiladis, professor at the University of Brighton in the UK, will give his views on the subject from the sports medicine and scientific standpoint. He is active in the SUB2 Marathon Project in the cause of elite sport free of performance enhancing drugs.

Further information can be found at: www.athensauthenticmarathon.gr

picture credit: AMA / Koutroumanos

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