Greece: Athens Marathon to return this weekend after pandemic break

Greece is set to host the 38th Athens classic marathon race and parallel courses this weekend after last year’s break due to the COVID-19 pandemic, organizers told a press conference here on Wednesday.

A total of 30,000 runners will participate in the 42km course and the 10km and 5km races under strict application of the safety protocol for sports events, Sofia Sakorafa, President of the Hellenic Athletics Federation (SEGAS), said.

Only the fully vaccinated runners and the runners with proof of recovery from COVID-19 until 15 days before their kit collection from the registration center can participate in the 2021 Athens Marathon event, according to the organizers who also include Attica Region, the Municipalities of Athens and Marathon and the Hellenic Olympic Committee.

The shorter distance races will be held on Saturday and the 42km race on Sunday.

Despite challenges and limitations due to the pandemic, “it (the Athens marathon) remains an emblematic race for every long-distance race lover,” she stressed.

That is why in recent years, organizers have added the word “authentic” in the annual event’s title to highlight that it is distinguished from all other races because this is where everything started 25 centuries ago.

As far as the organizers are concerned, the Athens marathon allows runners to have the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of the legendary ancient soldier Pheidippides who first ran the 42 km route from the battlefield of Marathon beach to Athens in 490 BC to inform Athenians of the victory against Persian forces. According to the legend, he collapsed and died of exhaustion after making the announcement.

Since the revival of the Olympic Games and the Marathon race in the first modern Olympics in Athens in 1896, thousands of runners have run the authentic course. A new record of 60,000 participants from 105 countries and regions was set in 2019.

Last year the event was canceled due to the pandemic. Athletes and amateur runners are eager for a comeback.

“It cost us a lot because we love to run this race. I would like to believe that we will never have such misfortunes, difficulties again,” Konstantinos Gkelaouzos, a Greek long-distance runner who had won the Athens marathon, said at the press conference.

“We have finally overcome the problem of COVID-19 and we will all be together at the starting point to celebrate. I wish good luck to all participants,” Greek long-distance runner Gloria Priviletzio added.

All runners crossing the finish line inside the Panathenaic stadium will receive a collective medal designed this year by prominent Greek sculptor Costas Varotsos.

It is the second in a series of special medals, which will be awaiting runners every year until 2026 for the 130th anniversary of the first Marathon race of modern times.

This year’s medal will show “The Runner,” an emblematic sculpture created by Varotsos three decades ago which has been placed near the Panathenaic stadium.

“The struggle to get from one point to another through obstacles is a daily affair that we all struggle with. The medal I made is based on that (thought),” Varotsos explained on Wednesday after the presentation of the medal.

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