Everyone ran: how and why people take part in marathons

Every year the Athens Marathon gathers tens of thousands of participants from all over the world

Around the World correspondent ran 10 kilometers of the legendary route and understood src=”/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/vse-pobezhali -kak-i-pochemu-ljudi-prinimajut-uchastie-v-marafonah-c700466.jpg” alt=”Everyone ran: how and why people take part in marathons” />

Before answering the editorial question: “How many kilometers will you run – 42, 10 or 5?”, – I went to the gym and got on the treadmill. The tape was spinning like a film. I saw myself as a strong-willed athlete, overcoming pain and distance against the backdrop of the rising sun. I picked up the pace, and my imagination threw up a plot in which I collapse in exhaustion, but get up and move forward again.

I wiped away sweat, took a wider step, and imagined myself being tossed into the air by enthusiastic fans. It felt like I ran several tens of kilometers along the tape, but the sensors showed the number 4. “Okay, ten for sure,” I decided then. /h3>

Everyone ran: how and why people take part in marathons

36 hours before the start. Marathon Museum

Ever since the days of school textbooks painted with blue ballpoint pen, it has clearly imprinted in my memory that for at least one historical character the marathon ended with a death rattle: “Rejoice, Athenians, we won!” I did not want to take risks, so I decided to limit myself to a harmless test equal to 10 kilometers.

In the museum, it turned out that I was cowardly in vain. Before running the fatal, in the sense of the final 42 kilometers, Pheidippides, whose feat formed the basis of modern marathons, pretty much got drunk. According to legend, he ran for help to Sparta and back, covering about 480 kilometers in two days, then, along with the rest, he fought with the Persians. Although scientists cannot confirm whether Pheidippides really existed, for many in Greece, his race is an indisputable fact.

Everyone ran: how and why people take part in marathons

“The first marathon competition took place in 1896, – my guide to the exposition with cups, medals and worn-out sneakers was a representative of the local travel agency Anastasia in her thirties. – It happened at the First Modern Olympic Games in Athens. And the Greek Spyridon Louis became the winner.

“Will you run yourself?” — I asked. My interlocutor blushed: “I dream about it, but, to my shame, I still can’t get it together …”

11/13/2017, 7:30 am. Athens, Hilton Hotel

Alarm clock rushes into my sleep; I open my eyes – the sun is shining brightly outside the window. Today is predicted to be a warm day with no rain. After eating a portion of cereal with milk and drinking coffee, I decide to “varnish” my breakfast with fresh fruit compote. I take a quick shower, put on shorts, a runner's jersey, tighten my shoelaces and leave the hotel.

Taking a deep breath, I suddenly feel a slight, as lightning, a slight cramp in the abdomen. “Out of excitement,” I say to myself and salute the 12-meter statue of the Runner, built from fragments of sheet glass by the sculptor Kostas Varotsos. Groups of athletes walk past the statue towards the National Gardens through blocked streets.

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< h2> 16 hours before the start. Athens public bus

On the way to the Athens Marathon Expo, where I was supposed to get my starter pack, I got into a conversation with a sporty girl, Susanna. She was on her way to check-in straight from the airport. “And how long will you run, also ten kilometers?” I asked. “What are you talking about!” Susanna burst out. “To go here from London for the sake of a dozen? You offend! How many are you? “Well, you see, since there is no half marathon in the program,” I muttered … “I see,” Susanna laughed and cheered: “It’s not bad for a start either.”

Everyone ran: how and why people take part in marathons

It was the seventh marathon in her life, but the first in Greece. The girl works as a yoga instructor and devotes all her free time to running. “Is it worth driving for the sake of 42 kilometers?” & nbsp; – I did not let up. Susanna thought for a moment and replied: “The Athens Marathon is a legend among runners. Every self-respecting marathon runner should run it at least once in their life to say: yes, I did it!”

8:15. National Garden

All benches, curbs, lawns and sidewalks are occupied by athletes. Someone is warming up, some are rubbing their legs with ointments, but the majority are standing in lines in plastic toilet cubicles. In the air – the persistent smell of energy drinks. With the pins given out with the starter pack, I fasten my number with a timekeeping chip to my chest and head to the start site.

Amalias Avenue is divided into segments by metal fences, where, according to the serial numbers, the participants of the race gather. I find my zone and make my way through the crowd closer to the middle of the road. Another short, anxious spasm. “Maybe it’s fruit…” A traffic light flashes yellow overhead.

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48 hours before the start. Marathon

Athletes who have chosen the classic distance of 42 kilometers 195 meters traditionally start from the Marathon. I also overcame it: the organizers brought me and photographer Kostya here as part of an international delegation of journalists for the official opening. Boarding the bus near the statue of the Runner, we passed a series of small roadside villages, crossed the picturesque coast of Nea Makri and stopped at the memorial.

At this place on September 12, 490 BC, according to the historian Herodotus, the Athenians utterly defeated the army of the Persians. Accordingly, the main attraction is the burial mound with the buried 192 heroes of that battle. Traditionally, the official part of the holiday is held near the mound in the open air.


The guests were met here by schoolchildren, placed by the organizers along the path from the entrance to the memorial complex to the mound. Each of the students diligently and loudly said: “Hello! Welcome!” – and, hearing gratitude in response, smiled broadly. After several speeches by officials, high school students acted out a battle scene between the Athenians and Persians.

“Is it possible that the events that took place 2500 years ago still sincerely concern someone?” – I gently asked Nikos Polias, a multiple winner of the Athens Marathon. “I won’t speak for everyone,” replied the eminent runner, “but most of my acquaintances are very sensitive to our history. And they perceive the marathon not only as a sporting event, but also as a cultural heritage.”

8:35. Amalias Avenue. Start

Somewhere ahead, a shot is heard, a few seconds later, movement begins. I take the first steps, choosing the pace. I look at the people running: most of them are ordinary, unremarkable people. I leave behind several older women and a group of managers who started with me, then overtake two slender girls. Three muscular strong guys are rushing past me in turn into the distance; one has a large golden cross bouncing on his chest.

The stomach again reminds of itself. “After all, from fruit …” I start looking for plastic booths – in case of a disaster, but, unfortunately, there is not a single one along the way. To distract myself, I look at the sights. Here is Syntagmatos Square and the Royal Palace, but between the houses the Acropolis flashed. Right on the course – the highest point of the city, Mount Lycabettus. After the first time control point (1.2 km) the slope seems to increase. I look at my watch: almost nine. Now the 42 km race will start in the Marathon.

24 hours before the race. Organizational Headquarters

The Greek Minister of Sports Georgios Vasiliadis is a fat man of about forty-five. “Will you run?” I asked him doubtfully after the press conference. The minister burst into a roaring laugh: “What are you talking about! Look at me! Where should I run?” Stopping laughing, he added in a serious tone that his wife and children would definitely run a distance of five kilometers.

“In Moscow, many races are of a charitable nature,” I said. This year we plan to raise about four million euros, which will be spent entirely on charity.” By the way, the registration fee for participation in the marathon is 100 euros.

9:07. Vasilisis-Sofias Avenue

The route goes uphill all the time. I fix my eyes on the asphalt and move forward, gritting my teeth and suppressing the urge to stop and catch my breath. Here, the first chords of the Can’t Stop composition by the Red Hot Chili Peppers come in handy. And here is the source of music itself – a special area with a DJ and musical equipment. Inspired, I raise my eyes: along the street, leaning on the barriers, there are spectators who came to support the runners.

There is a Feed Zone near the Athens Concert Hall: a table with open bottles of water and isotonic drinks placed on it. Volunteers hand out drinks to runners. On the way, I grab water and, after taking a few sips, following the example of those running ahead, I throw the bottle aside. Out of the corner of my eye I see how the volunteers collect containers in bags.

Five hours after the race. Cafe in the center of Athens

Photographer Konstantin, who finished working on the 42-kilometer race, told me about his impressions of the race: “After the start, a group of leaders quickly separated from the main mass of marathon runners and rushed to the finish line. It was the Africans who eventually took all the places on the podium. Our bus, where there were photographers and television people, overtook the leaders of the race with a margin of time, stopping at certain points along the route.

Usually, when we drove up to such a place, a large number of people had already accumulated there. Residents took out benches, chairs, set tables, and with the appearance of athletes, everyone clapped, waved flags, chanted, drank wine! The children put out their hands and when the athletes clapped on them, running past, burst into happy laughter. This was repeated in every settlement…”

9:20 am. Mesogeion Avenue

Having passed the third point of the preliminary calculation of the time (5.8 km), I take a step. The route here sharply turns back. There is a persistent tingling in the ankles and feet, but the absence of alarm signals from the insides is encouraging. So it was from excitement. Having rested, I accelerate again – and overtake the tired walking guy with a cross, who started briskly at the start. “Come on, come on!” & nbsp; – I shout to him in Russian. He smiles and starts jogging.

Moving towards me on the parallel side of the street are those who have yet to reach the mark of 5.8 km. The sight of the laggards spurs me on to run faster. There are more spectators on the sidelines: they are no longer lonely bystanders, but groups of full-fledged fans.

Everyone ran: how and why people take part in marathons

9:39. Panathinaikos Stadium

The last 500 meters run down a steep slope. Not feeling my legs under me, I fly to the marble stands of the stadium. The anticipation of the holiday, like a thousand bubbles of air, rises from head to toe. Sweat pours in streams, but I do not notice this, anticipating a thunder of applause. I run under a bridge built for pedestrians, and here it is – the long-awaited finish! The state of euphoria overwhelms the mind.

A few seconds later, I find myself still running on the honor lap in the stadium. Huge empty gaps in the stone stands catch your eye: the bulk of the spectators will gather here a little later – to look at the marathon runners who ran 42 km. Closer to the exit, they hang a medal around my neck, give me a banana and a bottle of water.

20 hours after the race. Organization Headquarters

“It is gratifying that the holiday was not overshadowed by any serious incident,” Dimakas Panagiotis, the president of the marathon, shared with me (for some reason I thought about Phidippides again at that moment). the participation of a record number of athletes – 51 thousand from 100 countries! Of these, the Greeks were only 60 percent. Interest in the event is constantly growing. For example, ten years ago (in 2007 — Note by Vokrugsveta.ru) only five thousand athletes ran! And in the near future, I think we will increase the number of participants to one hundred thousand.”

12:00. Center of Athens

After taking a shower, having a bite to eat and even having a little sleep in the room, I go to meet the marathon runners. The city is an ominous sight! Throughout the historic center: on lawns, sidewalks, near monuments, at bus stops and stairs, under trees – deadly tired marathon runners lie. Some literally show no signs of life …

Passing by one of these “Greek ruins”, out of the corner of my eye I notice a hand outstretched to me. I understand that a person needs help. “How are you?” I politely ask, picking up a lean man in his fifties from the curb. “Fantastic!” – his eyes radiate happiness. “Where are you from?” – I continue my questioning in English. “Local,” the man takes a few hesitant steps, leaning on my arm. “And why do you need this?” – I nod at my cramped leg.

He winces in pain, but lets go of my hand. “I am a Greek, and the marathon is the history of my country. And today I became a part of this story, – the man turns to me and winks. – For the fifth time! In fact, this is the best way to not get old. Come on, buddy!..»

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P. S. 36 hours after the race. Hilton Hotel Restaurant

I put on a medal and went to the hotel bar & nbsp; – to celebrate the event for a bit. I found out my result in the electronic journal on the official website of the marathon: 1 hour 4 minutes 1 second. The waiter came up to me, looked at the award and said: “I also ran!” I perked up: “Yes? And how much? Marathon or 10 kilometers?”

Everyone ran: how and why people take part in marathons

The waiter shrugged his shoulders: “The subway near the hotel was closed, the ground transport also did not work, and in order not to be late, I had to run several blocks, five kilometers …” Wiping crumbs from the table with a towel, he casually asked: “What will you drink?” After thinking for a couple of seconds, I replied: “Water!” Yes, because you need to return to the treadmill in the gym and prepare now for a big, 42-kilometer race.

Everyone ran: how and why people take part in marathons

Athens, Greece

Square< /strong> Athens 412 km²
Population 3,041,000 people
Population density 7400 people/km²
Area of ​​Greece 131,957 km² (95th in the world)
Population ~ 10,430,000 (88th place)
Population density 79.1 people/km²

ATTRACTIONSAcropolis, Temple of Zeus, Panathinaikos Stadium (4th century BC), Areopagus, Agora of Athens, Odeon of Herodes Atticus, Mount Lycabettus. spanakopita – spinach and feta pie, souvlaki – kebabs, dolmades – stuffed grape leaves.
TRADITIONAL DRINKS Greek coffee, retsina, metaksa, ouzo. SOUVENIRS
ceramics, olives, spices, olive oil.

DISTANCE from Moscow to Athens – 2230 km (from 3 hours 20 minutes in flight)
< strong>TIME behind Moscow by an hour in winter, same in summer
VISA Schengen


Material published in Vokrug Sveta No. 11, November 2018, partially updated in November 2022

Kirill Sidorov

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