40th anniversary of the 20km race of the Athens health club (40ς αγωνας δρομου υγειας Αθηνων)

Athens Health Club 20km race info

This year was the 40th anniversary of this race that took place for the first time on 14th May 1978, at a time when running for the public was pretty uncommon in Greece. It is therefore a pioneering race that has helped establish and develop the running movement in this country. Glad to see it has been going strong for all this time.

Apart from the 20km race there is a 2x10km relay and a 2km race for kids. Bib numbers can be picked up the Saturday before the race from two different running stores, one in the north and one in the south of Athens. The race can be approached either by car or by tram.

The 20km Athens Health Club Run starts from the sports facilities area of Agios Kosmas right opposite the old Athens airport with direction towards Vouliagmeni/Kavouri where runners reach the 10km point, then turn and run back to Agios Kosmas. The race is mostly flat until 8km where a one mile incline starts till you reach 10km, but it is totally manageable and does not wreck your legs. As you turn you have to descend what you came up anyway so that also gives you a bit of a break. The biggest proportion of this race is ran on the inside lane of Poseidonos avenue (traffic is not stopped on the other lanes) but this seems to function quite well. Temperatures at this time of the year are around 18oC, which always seems a lot hotter when it’s sunny. I run in my lightest outfits and throw lots of water over my body during it. There are several water stations every 2.5km or so and isotonic drinks when you reach 10km. I have to say that I would have happily taken a gel at half point as I always seem to run out of steam at about 15km or so. It is a race I keep coming back to.

The Garmin link for this workout can be found at:


My go at the 40th Athens Health Club 20km Run

Spring has arrived and with it has the time of the year when I take part in 2 half marathon races. Well, the first one is the 20km Athens health club run (αγὠνας δρὀμου υγεἰας Αθηνὠν), just 1.1km short of a half marathon. In the last month I seem to be racing every other week, having already done a 10km road race and a 15km mountain trail one, a good variety of distances I would say. I have had some good training sessions finally (it has taken me forever to get back to running well after the marathon in November) and running with a couple of running buddies has helped me push that bit harder. I don’t normally use a special training schedule unless I am training for the marathon, I just gave a miss to my last short interval session that would have happened on Friday and would have been too close to the race. All was going well but after lunch on Saturday (we had some lovely sushi from an amazing place) my stomach felt really heavy and I also felt noxious. That didn’t stop me from carb loading in the evening though! So I went to bed with really heavy stomach and during the night I had some nightmares that really stressed me out. When I woke up I found out that both my father (who was also running the race) and husband (not running) had felt a bit unwell. Oh well, no breakfast for me then, I just grabbed a banana in my bag and off we went. My friend Y was going to run with me and help me keep pace as he wasn’t going to race and my dad was going to run with our other friend who was using this as a long run for his marathon preparation. In the car we joked and the atmosphere was pleasant, if only it wasn’t for that feeling of having a stone sitting in my stomach. I was worried that this was going to be the one, the dreaded DNF, the race I didn’t finish……. But once we got started, I realised I was feeling fine, no nausea. In the first 6km I was going well, or so I thought, staring with 4.38min/km and approaching 5min/km around 6km (close to 5min/mile). All was good so I ploughed on. We reached the 10km mark at a decent time and turned to run the second 10km that would bring us back to where we had started from. At about 13-14km (8-9 miles) I was joined by someone, we ran together for a while, it was great as he was making me speed up a bit but comfortably. When I looked to see who it was I saw an 80 plus year old man who when I started lagging behind he shouted at me: I want you right here!!!!! I tried for a bit but eventually 5min/km (8min/mile) was starting to feel a bit too fast at that point. So I let him go and went back to my own slightly slower pace. After 15km my funs were waiting for me and that poor child of mine was cheering me on, I gave him a big kiss.

Running towards my loyal fans!

By 18km (11miles) I really ran out of steam. I remembered (a bit late) the gel chews that I had instead of gels in my back pocket and I had one. I know they say it takes time for these things to kick in but within seconds I felt better and was able to run properly for the last mile. One good 300m sprint when inside the stadium and I crossed the finish line, alas, a minute later than last year and a minute and a half later than the year before. I was pleased I had ran reasonably well but really unhappy it was not a PB or even close to it. What happened, why??? I felt distraught. And then I saw the people crossing the line in over 2 hours, possibly people running the distance for the first time, raising their hands and looking really happy, giving it all their best. And then I almost cried, I almost cried because I have lost that innocence and the ability to enjoy this for what it is.

Later looking at my past years’ results I realised that the problem had been in my first 10km already and that by 15km the time difference had been established (so this was not a problem of getting tired towards the end). The worry and panic that the longer I am away from my London running club the slower I get crept back into my mind again… To rub insult to injury my PB had been set at a year where I had been injured 2 months before the race and my times during training were terrible up to a couple of weeks before it. I have to accept this and move on, realising I need to try harder and that it may be time for some changes in my training regime. For now those legs need to recover!


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