This weekend is the Athens Marathon. I'm not running it, it's not a great race in my opinion but I'll never forget some of the people I spoke to on the way.
I was doing this as a training run for the Tring2Town, my first ultra and 45 miles long. This race was 3 weeks after I ran a marathon pb of 3.12. I still felt it in my legs a bit.
The route runs from Marathon to Athens which is now a motorway. It finishes in the Parthanon stadium and is reasonably hilly. That is all there is to say about the course except that the organisers managed to get the route to loop onto itself, nearly taking out the lead runners.
Before the start I spoke to an American who said that this was his 50th and last marathon. I felt sad that he seemed do determined to call it a day but at the same time I was amazed at the thought of running 50 marathons. Athens was my 8th and I knew that some day I'd hit 50. That didn't sound too silly.
I started right at the back of the few thousand runners as I wanted to start this off slowly. I then got chatting to a couple of guys from the 100 marathon club. I had no idea that this club existed but the name descibed quite simply what was involved. 100 marathons? That did seem a bit crazy. He then went on to tell me that he had done 40 that year and was doing them every week. A marathon every week? That was silly.
After a few miles of the race I was still feeling good and I caught up with some guys dressed in togas and carrying the British flag. I chatted to them and they revealed that they were training for the "Spartathon". What's that? I asked and they gladly explained that it was a 153 mile non-stop run from Athens to Sparta. Again I had no idea such things existed and dismissed it as really really silly.
Towards the end of the race I was feeling quite pleased with myself. I was still running strong and this was despite running a marathon only 3 weeks ago. I then caught up with a chap from Sutton Runners who must have been over 60. He was also looking quite strong and then he mentioned that the weekend before he had done "the triple", ie the 3 marathons of Snowdon, Beachy Head and Dublin in 3 days. I suddenly didn't feel so special about my running when I'd done 1 marathon 3 weeks ago when this guy had done 3 marathons 1 week ago. That was just ludacrous.
So despite it not being a very good marathon I had 4 encounters that were both humbling but awe inspiring. My own sense of achievement in marathon running was dwarved by the efforts of these people I met along the way. I am not sure as to whether I immediately wanted to follow them. At the time all I wanted to do was finish the marathon I was running. Marathons were a big deal back then.
Now, 2 years on
- I have reached 50 marathons
- I have pretty much run them weekly this year
- I have run 145 miles non-stop
- I have run "the triple" plus 2 other triples (and a Quintuple)
It is great to think back to times where you thought that what you are doing now is impossible. It makes you feel good about now. I often chat now in races and have the same conversations as I did in Athens, only now I'm the one talking silly. It is really great to hold peoples attention by explaining the running that I now do. I don't mean to be patronising at all when I say "you were much like I was 2 years ago". It can be strange when you are giving the "when I were a lad" speech to someone much older than you.
It seems like so much longer than 2 years. It just goes to show how far you can go in a short space of time. I wonder when I'll next meet a runner who tells me he's done something that I find silly?