Crisis-riven Greece was forced to withdraw from hosting the Mediterranean Games of 2013 and has reduced its participation in other sporting events, but organizing the Marathon in its original course will continue better and stronger, as this year’s event is illustrating.
Over 20,000 athletes from 96 countries will take part in the 29th version of the Athens Classic Marathon on Sunday, November 13, as the event gathers ever more global exposure and significance.
Besides the 42,195-meter race in the original course, from the Marathon Tomb to the Panathenaic Stadium in central Athens, the event includes the 5,000- and 10,000-meter races as well as other minor competitions.
The 2011 Marathon is promising to be another huge success despite the financial crisis and the hundreds of cancellations by foreign runners who may have felt Athens was not as secure as it used to be, according a radio statement by the head of the organizing committee, Costas Panagopoulos.
One of the figures encapsulating the spirit of the Marathon race is Maria Polyzou. The veteran runner who holds the national record in the Marathon is an Ambassador for the event, but this is the first time she is participating as a coach of Marathon Team Greece.
MTG is the training group she has created for people of all ages who wish to «experience their own feat» as she tells Kathimerini English Edition.
“I want everyone to succeed in their personal cause, which I adopt as my own,» says the former Greek champion, who will have 365 members of her team entering one of the three main races on Sunday, most of them through the Athens College. «They tell me that I lift them up, that I inspire them, but it’s actually the other way around… It is these people, who decide to overcome themselves who give me inspiration.”
So why is the MTG set up now, in the midst of a financial crisis when most people are trying to cut down on expenses? Maria gives the answer, that also explains why the Athens Marathon is destined to be a success.
“Running is the perfect antidote to the crisis. It is a very economic solution for exercising, and that’s at any time of the day. You do not need any particular gear or equipment; it is a cost-free exercise! But above all, I think of the Marathon and it makes me relax! Thankfully we’ve got that, to make us feel better, it brings out the best in us,» says Maria, with the passion for running lighting up her eyes.
On Sunday morning she will drive some of her athletes to Marathon for the start of the main race, then rush to central Athens to take part in the 5,000-meter race and after finishing she will change clothes and rush back to the halfway point of the Marathon to encourage her athletes testing themselves against the world-renown 42k race.
It’s a Marathon challenge in itself, for the woman who mirrors the country’s devotion to the sport that carries so much historical significance for Greece and the Western civilization, given its connection with the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC.
The event starts at 9 a.m. and will be screened live on Skai television and on www.skai.gr.