Thursday, 13 November 2008
A trully unique experience
On Sunday November 9th, the 26th Athens Marathon was help and with it the parallel races of 5K and 10K. Although I would have loved to have already build the stamina to run the original 42,195m distance, I have not so I decided to run the 10K. The timing was just over one hour, which was good considering the little time I have been training (a couple of months)
The day was fantastic. The experience actually started the previous day when Alex (my friend and running partner) and I went to collect our number and other memorabilia from Zapeion.
Beautiful. I am ashamed to admit that crossing the national gardens from the Parliament to Zapeion was the first time I entered these lovely gardens!! Better late than never.
Sat night was pasta and vitamines day, early night and in the morning huge breakfast with lots of vitamins and off we went.
The day was lovely, warm for November, but not too hot. The Panathinaikon Stadium (Kallimarmaro) stood there all decorated with baloons and sponsors logo, with thousands of people flooding it. Everybody was in a good mood and everyone was just expressing their joy for being there. Thousands of people smiling, of all ages and walks of life came together to run. What a lovely idea! At nine thirty the gun goes off. So do we. The route of the 10K race was from Kallimarmaro all the way to Katehaki bridge (5klm uphill) and then return (5klm downhill).
The uphill part was difficult. But once we turned, then the knowledge that there is only downhill now, gave a huge boost and wings. Unfortunately just before we turned we saw the ambulance carrying the unfortunate runner who died from heart failure. He must have placed enormous strain in his heart as he finished the uphill 5klm in less than 30 min and then collapsed. A bit like Phidipides...
The 5km downhill was now a piece of cake. However, the body did not seem to agree. Twice I had to stop for a few seconds due to acute pains in some areas in the middle body. After the sixth kilometre, feet and lower legs are now almost not felt. New and old blisters start making their presense felt from inside the shoe. Bummer. But not too big of a deal. Blister pain is not that strong. Soon it is completely forgotten.
At a fraction of the time it took to get to Katehaki, it took us to get back to Kallimarmaro.
Alex could run much faster than me (I am jealous of course), but he was sweet enough to wait for me and we finished together.
We had our picture taken at the finishing line and with our commemorative medals.
The organization of the event was superb. I was given a free siatsu massage from a very skilled lady after at the special beds that were provided by the organizing committee.
Soon after my massaged ended, we saw the first runners - all Kenyans - enter. I had not seen the first runner to enter the stadium, I heard the crowd cheer. Just as I was getting out (after my siatsu massage), I saw the second Kenyan, a very slim guy with unrealistic thin lower legs to enter the stadium. It was Paul Lekuraa, a Kenyan from the Masai Mara, who fought fatigue and sprint the last 500 meters as if he was just starting the race. He won.
He made a game record at 2hours12min. He is 36 years old, this is his second marathon ever, he only arrived in Athens the day before due to visa problems, and he made a new record in one of the world's toughest marathon routes!! Chapeau!
Then there was the Japanese lady, Mai Tagami, then the Greek guy and so on. All of them in my eyes looked as if they were sprinting. After 42klm, they could sprint!!!! The feeling of finishing the 10k at the fastest possible time the feet can run and the lungs can pump oxygen and only half an hour later, the first marathon runners to finish show up at stamina, strength and speed that I have never had is honnestly the best motivator to keep pushing yourself.
Marathon runners - and ultra runners (for them I shall devote a separate posting) - prove one thing: there is no such thing as a human limit.
PS1: Race details at http://www.athensclassicmarathon.gr
PS2: Of course there are those who are just there for the fun of it:
PS3: We reached a record number of regisrration for 10000 runners for all races. This is quite an achievement considering that Greeks don't run. In respective events in northern countries, say Holland for instance, the average number of registrations is 20-30K