I’m Running the Athens Marathon: Here’s Why

“aerial photography of buildings under blue sky” by Sander Crombach on Unsplash

Back in the summer, I wrote about how I had lost 30lbs before beginning to train for a marathon. At the time, my friend Mike had asked if I wanted to run the Athens Marathon, also known as the “Authentic” our Original Marathon.

The Marathon as a race and a concept began in Greece over 2,000 years ago. When the Persian Empire invaded Greece in 490BCE, the Athenian Army marched to meet it at Marathon. After it won, one of the fighters, Pheidippides, ran the 26.1 miles (42km) back to Athens to declare:

Joy to you! We won!

He promptly dropped dead.

Humans being incredibly stupid creatures, we turned Pheidippides death march into an athletic activity. Myself being one such incredibly stupid creature decided to train for it.

An added fact that (I’m sure) you couldn’t figure out from my last name or how I write: I am Greek by heritage, American by birth. The marathon feels like a race for me to do as a red-blooded American and THIS marathon, tracking the original route of one of the most famed athletic figures of Greek culture, seemed perfectly matched for those bits of white and blue in me.

My training started almost six months ago. It started VERY slow. So slow I didn’t feel any real progress in my speed or distance. Then, I started consistently running 30 miles (48km) per week.

Around the same time, large portions of the forests along the Athens Marathon route burned to the ground in some of the most deadly wildfires Greece has ever experienced.

These fires are becoming more and more frequent. And the disasters Greece has suffered over the last decade have started to pile up.

Climate change.

Government debt prison.

The Syrian refugee crisis.

Mass youth unemployment.

Overtourism.

One of the largest brain drains in modern European history.

Their democracy turned into a sham by their “closest allies”.

Needless to say, it’s been a bad decade for Greece.

In spite of these, Greeks still have the capacity to be shocked. The fire was heartbreaking — not only were beautiful forests around Athens burned to the ground, the loss of life and the stories of the dead were heartbreaking. Even in a country that has gone through so much over the past decade.

And so, as I continued my training, it was harder to quit. Easier to keep running through pain.

It was also easier to push myself harder.

I wasn’t housing, feeding, and clothing migrants fleeing war when I barely had enough to feed myself.

I wasn’t eating out of garbage cans.

I wasn’t shackled by such debt that killing myself was a better financial option than living.

I wasn’t running from burning buildings, one of which was my home.

I was lucky.

I am lucky.

Others are not so. The least I can do is run and tell anyone who is reading, “You can help”.

Here are the official Athens Marathon charities. My personal favorite is SOS Children’s Villages, but please consider giving to any one that moves you personally.

If you want to follow me on race day, Sunday November 11, download the Athens Authentic Marathon App and plug in my bib number: 14272.

Professor. Lawyer. Researcher. Writer. I help people learn to run better, more sustainable businesses and be better humans. Opinions my own.

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