I ran it with my best girlfriend, Gabrielle. I kept a journal. Here's what's in it for race day...
(But first, here's a 5K training run we did on Oct 26th in Crete.)
Octover 31st...Halloween...and RACE DAY!
We got up at 5 am. Breakfast at 0530 at the Divani Palace Acropolis. We took four hard boiled eggs with us on the bus from the breakfast buffet...hydrated on the bus...at protein bars about 1.25 hours prior to arrival at the start line on the bus and took our Sport Legs 1 hour prior to start time...
Our bus left at 0630...neither of us slept on the bus (nerves). We rolled out our legs (my calves were sore from all the damn walking we'd been doing and my left ankle hurt) with the lax ball on the way.
By the time we got to the start line, we had to pee (and the lines for the porta potties were hella long!), so G and I both jumped a wall and peed on the opposite side of the wall from where the road was (Aunt Cindy would be so proud! - but I was still leaning on the wall - since I'm bad at peeing outside - and the wall had lovely rusty nails sticking out of it everywhere. Oh, here's a pic, post-pee:
(Luckily, we had only eaten two of the four hard-boiled eggs, and had wrapped the extras in napkins from the breakfast table, so we had some TP for the pre-race pees :o).
On the way to drop off our bags, we saw these gladiator dudes. We're not sure if they wore the costumes the whole 26.2 miles or not...or if they even finished...but they were a hit, for sure!
Bag drop off was pretty quick and easy. I texted Mark, dropped my bag, and we headed to the start line - Corral #7 - the last corral (for some reason they put G in Corral 5 and me in 7, even though we registered together and put the same finish times - the corral assignments seemed random). The narrator (emcee) dude was funny. He was trying to get everyone to drop their bags off prior to going to the corrals and make sure all bags were dropped off before the gear trucks left. He kept saying (first in Greek, then in English), "You go nooooo-ooooow." - He made now a two-syllable word and it was such a pleading entreaty every time it was so cute. He'd say "You go nooo-oooow! You must drop off your gear bags and make your way to the start nooo-oooow!" Too funny.
We met an Army helo mechanic named Angel at the start line, too. He flew in the night prior from his base in Germany and was flying back the day after the race. He took this pic of us (the TP in G's shirt came in handy later in the race! Thanks, G!):
There were also three annoying and loud British (nothing against the Brits - I still love ya, Nycki and Karen!) chicks near us at the start. They were so loud and obnoxious, when the commentator told us to be quiet to take the Oath of the Marathon, and to raise our right hands, we couldn't hear the Oath...and they started waving their hands because they didn't hear the instructions. (I searched for Marathon Oath and I found this:
An Oath to the Marathon
By Lydia Soldevila-Tombros
I beseech the gods to grace me with the strength to endure the challenges I am about to face
I implore the gods to grant me the fortitude to emerge triumphant in the marathon race.
I grant the gods my solemn oath and with each breath I remain true to the competitive ideal
In the name of freedom, good will and fair play, this sacred oath I solemnly seal.
For in the memory of Marathon and the victory thus proclaimed with a champion's last breath
It is of our free will, we challenge our strength, skill and endurance without peril of death.
It is the Olympic ideals that echo my footfalls in this Marathon and the athlete I endeavour to be
For we are all brothers and sisters running, as it is our Divine right, to be living in a world that is peaceful and free.
I also found an Olympic Oath...not sure which oath we took (if either):
In the name of all the competitors I promise that we shall take part in these Olympic Games (maybe insert the word "marathon" here?), respecting and abiding by the rules which govern them, committing ourselves to a sport without doping and without drugs, in the true spirit of sportsmanship, for the glory of sport and the honour of our teams.
OK, so the race started...it was chilly at the start but we threw off our outergear at the start so our numbers would show for our pics). It was warm enough by then anyway, since the race started at nine. We ran the first three miles as planned (we were going to try to run three, walk one, run three, until we couldn't run three anymore). The first 5K ended near the Tomb of Marathon. This is G in front of a statue there:
We tried to walk the next mile, but it was so slow we didn't quite go the whole mile (I walk slower than G. Walking fast with a long stride hurts my knees and hamstrings).
After the first 5K, it became hilly. Here's the marathon route, with elevations, as we ran it. It was really fun to run along the streets - while they weren't packed with spectators, some of the locals (and probably some who had flown in to see their loved ones run) cheered us on with "Bravo!" and gave us olive branches (sans olives). G and I put some in our hair and G carried one for a few miles, as well. We had written our names on our left arms in Sharpie marker in English...In Greek on our right arms. Except, Heather is not a Greek name, so the hotel desk lady wrote my name phonetically. For that reason, only a few brave spectators attempted to read it - and it was cool when they did. They'd say, "Go, ... Hcch...eee...ah...ther!" Everyone read "Gabriella" easily and most shouted her name. It was cool. They also loved when we'd run by with two thumbs up and smiles on our faces...The kids would put their hands out for high fives and we made sure we hit every waiting hand. Lots of times, G would say "Kali Mera!" to a group, and they'd practically sing it back to us. Wicked cool. (Kali mera means "Good day!"). The weather was perfect. Sunny, breezy, cool enough. Awesome.
Shortly after the first 5K, I had to pee. Rather than wait in line for a porta potty, I peed in the woods, leaning on a tree. Again, Aunt Cindy would be so proud! (And, thanks, G, for saving the TP - and not giving it to that other dude who needed some of his own!)
As we were running, the distances on the side of the road were marked in Kilometers, instead of miles, like we're used to, so having our Garmin watches was nice (it was also cool to see the route superimposed on the map of Greece post-race!) And, another huge bennie of this race was there were medics about every mile...and these medics had the most wonderful spray stuff that froze your legs so you couldn't feel them anymore. And when they didn't have the spray, they had a gel. Whenever we stopped to get sprayed, I had to run afterward...it was great to run without feeling the pain in my knees!
Eventually, we were in our last 15K. "Only a Boilermaker left," we kept saying (on really tired feet and knees). Somewhere along the race, G shot this photo of me in front of the Pheidippedes statue:
Then we were down to just 10K left - 6.2 miles. Easy peasy (on a day when you don't already have 20 miles behind you!). I think somewhere between 10K and 5K, we ran past this statue (it's made of really thin sheets of glass. It is awesome):
Finally, we were in our last 5K. It was near the Greek Ministry of Defense. At this point, each time we stopped to walk, it was REALLY hard to get started again (and I'm still walking much slower than G). And each time we started running again (never on an uphill!), we both would groan and whimper for about the first minute, until our legs just kind of became numb to the pain. In this last 5K, we played mind games with ourselves...We'll run one mile, then walk some, then run again...in the end, we wound up running the last 3/4 of a mile into the original Olympic Stadium (the one Panathenaic Stadium, built in 1896, not the one in Olympia, Greece, from 2500 years ago - Here's a cool video on the ancient city of Olympia and the origin of the Olympics). Some info on the origins of the Olympic Stadium:
On June 23, 1894, French educator Baron Pierre de Coubertin, speaking at the Sorbonne in Paris to a gathering of international sports leaders from nine nations - including the United States and Russia - proposedthat the ancient Games be revived on an international scale. The idea was enthusiastically received and the Modern Olympics, as we know them, were born.
The first Olympiad was celebrated two years later in Athens, where an estimated 245 athletes (all men) from 14 nations competed in the ancient Panathenaic stadium before large and enthusiastic crowds.
Americans won nine of the 12 track and field events, but Greece won the most medals with 47. The highlight was the victory by native peasant Spiridon Louis in the first marathon race, which was run over the same course covered by the Greek hero Pheidippides after the battle of Marathon in 490 BC.
There's a track inside the Olympic Stadium...once G and I hit that, we started SPRINTING and it felt GREAT! We passed about 50 runners to cross the finish in a full-out sprint together...cried some upon finishing...then hobble-walked on over to a side rail to stretch some and take our race chips off. Here we are post-race:
And here are our times (we were with each other at all of these splits, so I have no idea why my times are different from hers. Looks like they took off the difference from start gun to chip on mine, but left the 10 mins or so on G's...weird...
So we picked up our goodie bags (three drinks inside! - Water, Powerade, and Orange Juice), picked up our checked bags, dropped off our chips, and walked to the Hotel Grand Bretagne, where we'd scheduled a 4:15 sports massage. We got there in time to shower and sit in the steam room...then had our fantastic massages. It felt great.
We caught a cab back to our hotel and walked with the Marathon Tours folks to the post-race celebration and dinner. It started at 7 pm. The restaurant owner for some reason didn't want G and me to sit upstairs with the other folks, so we sat together downstairs and he (G thought he looked like Bilbo Baggins) was our server. We probably got better service that way and we still got to hear the traditional Greek music being played by the three-person band:
Dinner (filet mignon, Greek cabernet sauvignon wine, and Greek appetizers - tzatziki, fried cheese and our favorite Greek salad) was fantastic. But we were le tired, so after we ate, we cabbed it back to the hotel and hit the hay...the next day, we started a four day tour of Corinth, Nafplion, Olympia, and Delphi...but that's for another blog :o)