The start point of the 42,195 km race-course is the town of Marathónas, with its finishing point being the horseshoe-shaped Panathenaic Stadium, the beautiful marble stadium in which the first modern Olympics were held in 1896.
The Marathon idea was inspired by the legend of Pheidippides, a professional runner-soldier; the legend states that he delivered the message of the Greek victory over the Persians in 490 BC. The French Sorbonne Professor Michel Bréal, invoking the legend of Pheidippides, suggested the inclusion of a long-distance race of 42,195km (equivalent to the distance “Athens -Marathon”) in the first Olympic Games; as an intervention of fate, the first Marathon winner was the Greek water-carrier Spyros Louis.
Since then, the Marathon has been the event of the athletes with enviable stamina and determination, as well as a thrilling race that always captures the attention and admiration of the spectators.
In the Pantheon of Marathon legends, let us remind you Emil Zatopek, the “Czech Locomotive” (golden Olympic medallist at the 1952 Helsinki games in the Marathon, 5km and 10km races) and Abebe Bikila of Ethiopia, the man with the unique achievement of winning two Olympic marathon races (Rome 1960 and Tokyo 1964).
Etched on our memory will always remain the first women’s Olympic marathon, in Los Angeles 1984, thanks to the great athlete Gabriela Andersen-Schiess, who entered the stadium with her body twisted with exhaustion and dehydration but determined enough to push away medics (them touching her would result in her disqualification) and stagger to the finish line to glorify herself, the strength of human will, and the athletic spirit.
The Marathon in Athens
John Stuart Mill famously suggested that "the Battle of Marathon", even as an event in British history, is more important than the Battle of Hastings".
Marathons are held in many cities the world over, which aspire to enjoy a little of the splendour of this great achievement. Athens naturally holds the authentic marathon, which basks in the glory of its two and a half thousand year history.
Athens Classic Marathon is a unique running-event of great historical importance. Carrying on the tradition since the first Olympics in 1896, the runners follow the classic marathon route retracing the steps of Pheidippides himself!
As of 2010, which happened to be the 2.500 years anniversary of the Marathon Battle, the Athens Classic Marathon is included in the “Golden Marathons”, the most important marathon events organised annually all over the world.
This year’s event
On its 30th edition, the Athens Classic Marathon is expected to be superb, with top-notch competitors from over 90 countries and many side events, among which stand out:
The celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Association of Interational Marathon & Distance Races, which recently moved its seat to Athens.
The 30th anniversary of the internationalisation of the race on the classic route (Marathon – Panathenaic Stadium).
The centennial of the birth of the great pacifist, scientist and Balkan champion Grigoris Lambrakis, who this year’s race commemorates.