All smiles - Akemi Ozaki after her comfortable victory at the Athens Classic Marathon (Victah Sailer) © Copyright
But when the Athens Classic Marathon, an IAAF Gold Label Road Race, takes place later this year, it will be celebrating an anniversary that puts all others into the deep shade.
Because 2010 is the 2500th anniversary of the Battle of Marathon, an event which arguably ‘saved’ democracy in what would become Western Europe; and ultimately provided the impetus for the creation of the marathon race for the inaugural modern Olympic Games in Athens 1896.
The organisers of this year’s event, from the town of Marathon to the old marble Panathenaiko stadium in Athens, are putting on an unprecedented show for the race on Sunday, October 31. Last year’s record field of 7000 has been increased to 20,000+, a quota that was filled within weeks of entry being opened at the start of the year.
Elite entries already include Kenyans Isaac Macharia and Jonathan Kipkorir, both of whom have run just over 2:07, while famous guests so far include double Olympic Marathon gold medallist Waldemar Cierpinski, Ron Hill, who won the Euro Marathon in Athens 1969, and Kathrine Switzer, whose gate-crashing of the hitherto all-male Boston Marathon in 1967 helped kick-start the explosion in women’s marathoning.
A local celebrity Maria Polyzou has already retraced the footsteps of the legendary Phillipides, and run from Athens to Sparta and back to Marathon (over 500 kilometres) within six days last week. Although retired from competitive running, Polyzou was eminently suited to the task, since she is still Greek women’s marathon record holder, and is currently Director of the Museum of the Marathon, in the town of Marathon itself.
The Association of International Marathons (AIMS) is holding its 18th Congress in the Greek capital in the days preceding this year’s Athens Classic Marathon, and delegates will attend the traditional lighting of the Marathon Flame at the tumulus, the burial ground for those few score Hellenic soldiers who fell in the victorious Battle of Marathon against the invading Persians in 490BCE.
Pat Butcher (organisers) for the IAAF