Sunday was race day. In the United States, marathons start at the crack of dawn, but in Greece it started at a friendly 9 a.m. I actually got to sleep until about 7 a.m., take my time to get breakfast, and make sure I had all my gear together before getting on the bus and riding to the start in the town of Marathon, Greece. Apostolos Greek Tours took care of everything – the hotel accommodations, race details, and sightseeing.
The temperature at race start was 61 degrees with the wind at our back and lots of cloud coverage - practically perfect marathon weather. Jeff Galloway, a world-class athlete and founder of the Galloway Marathon Training Program, was with the tour and was leading a 1 minute run/1 minute walk group with a goal of 5 hours. The night before he told us that the course was difficult and we should expect to run 20 minutes slower than usual, but my secret goal was to set a personal record.
After the first couple miles, we looped around the tomb of the Athenian soldiers who fell during the Persian-Athenian War. We continued through the countryside, with cheers of "Bravo!" and "Calimera!" (good morning) coming from people who had come out to cheer us on. Around mile 16 we started to get into the suburbs of Athens and see more buildings. The 1 minute run/1 minute walk method was really working and the race was flying by! The group had pulled away from me, but around mile 24, Eric (who had run the 10K earlier) started running with me. I had almost made it! Eric was surprised to find me in a good mood, and I was surprised to be in a good mood. Maybe it was the spirit of Phidippides, or the olive branches in my visor.
Only a couple more miles to go.
As I was "sprinting" to the finish, EVERYTHING cramped, but I managed to push through it to the finish line and get my medal. The race ended in the Olympic stadium, complete with Olympic rings at the top. Eric somehow convinced me to hike all the way up there after running a marathon, and I was rewarded with a breathtaking view of the Parthenon on the Acropolis in the distance. And my personal record? I beat it by five minutes!
I field tested a pair of our run shorts (from last season and most closely related to the Speed Short), and even after 26.2 miles of running I didn’t even notice they were there. No chafing, dried quickly, everything they are supposed to be. The zippered pocket on the back came in handy when I needed somewhere to store my gel and my hotel key.
My overall review for this marathon experience? Do it now, do it now, do it now!