For the last six years, every new marathon medal just went on top of the others, burying the older ones under a pile of newer ribbons and metal. It was time to dig them all out for a little bit of marathon medal indulgence. Here is the documenting picture:They are 48 in total and arranged in strict order: Top left is the oldest and bottom right the latest. Hopefully, I will get to 50 by end of this year. Next one is the Dorset Marathon, along the Jurrasic Coast Path, which has UNESCO World Heritage status. I did the marathon distance back in 2013 and this time I will give the 33.3 miles distance a go. It is the hardest and most beautiful marathon I have done yet, check out the organiser’s video and you get the idea. For the 50th I am treating myself with a winter weekend break and go to Malaga. I booked it a little bit last minute, but it was too tempting trying to complete the 50th before the end of 2017.
So, here we are again: Five years after doing Athens as my 4th overall marathon, it was time to give it another go (as my 48th). It was a weird mix of going down memory lane, finding some things are not how I remembered them and re-discovering this spectacular event and place all over again. Despite common runner’s knowledge that because of the hilly route Athens makes it a rather tough one, I did not remember it as being so hard. I did remember a steep incline around kilometre 30 to 32 and a constant rise pretty much from the beginning but thought it was ok. My memories were wrong (I should have read my old blog post before). It is pretty hilly and I early had to hold back to avoid risking cramps. The temperature of over 20C was not helping, but at least that was consistent with the first time. The positive surprise was the steep incline was not that steep and ends at kilometre 31 rather than 32. From there it goes all downhill into Athens. The finish in the old authentic stadium, the Panathenaic, was even more glorious than I remembered. This time I took more in. Not sure if they did any restoration in the meantime, but the marble stone everywhere looked just awesome and the scale of this place, the big steps and impressive shape made you feel like running into an ancient monument. Which pretty much is exactly what you do. The Panathenaic Stadium dates back to 330BC, was excavated 1869 and refurbished as a venue for the first modern Olympics in 1896. As part of this, the marathon was revived as a competing distance, following the course that legend tells and finishing in the Panathenaic Stadium, same as marathon runners now do every year. Hence the title: “Authentic Marathon”. When I did it in 2012 there were 9,000 marathon runners (from memory), this year there were 18,000. And you could feel it had the vibes of a much bigger event: Longer waiting times, more runners to dodge, but also more spectators and support. It was great. Another big and consistent plus was the immaculate organisation. The not so easy logistics of getting all these runners out with buses to the start line at Maratonas, lining them up in eleven (!) different start blocks, ensuring there is enough water, loos, wind protection, etc available, getting all the clothing bags efficiently from the start to the finish, all that was done without flaw. So, having done Athens again, five years and 43 marathons later, I am still as excited as the first time. And I have not even mentioned the medal which resembles the Panathenaic and this year comes with a golden ribbon. It’s is the nicest medal in my collection yet. I was a bit surprised though that I did not manage to shave off more time from my first result (I now did a 3:50 time compared to 4:17 before), but I still cannot more highly recommend this one to avid marathoners. It is simply a must-do event and I am sure I will come back – maybe in another five years.