Athens half marathon information
The Athens half marathon consists of two loops at the centre of Athens. It starts at the heart of the city at Syntagma square, right outside the Greek parliament. The first kilometer is downhill so try to get away from the crowd and take advantage of it. As you take a sharp turn left into Stadiou avenue, this section is uphill until you get back to the lower side of Syntagma square. Undulations follow till about 3.2km (2 miles) where a steady incline of about 2.8km starts (1.8m). This is hard and you will wish it to end, try to keep a decent pace. You will eventually be rewarded by the fantastic downhill section, which starts soon after you take a left turn at Alexandra’s avenue and pass the football stadium on your left. You really have to take advantage of this almost 2km bit. At the bottom of this you take a right turn into Patision Street and this is pretty much the only flat part of the race (about 1.6k or 1m). Don’t forget to take the gels and water that are being offered at this point. After the U turn and the 10km point you run towards Stadiou Avenue to start the second loop of the race. In the second loop the only difference is that about 500m of incline are added to the main uphill bit, while after the downhill section at Alexandra’s you turn left and head for the finish. The last kilometer of the race is uphill but at least you can see the end and you can give it all you have left. I enjoy this race as its undulations and running through so many different and loved parts of the city make it rather exciting.
Total elevation gain: 241 meters
Total elevation loss: 231meters
The Garmin link to my Athens half marathon race can be found on: https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/1628552227
Registration and race organisation
Registration is straight forward and the Athens half marathon website is in both Greek and English. The race is really well organised. It is easy to drop off your things at the start and there are lots of toilets there (I have actually never seen so many in any race). During the race hydration stations are almost every 3km, handing out water at the start but also gels at 10km and isotonic drinks during the second loop of the race. Medical assistance was present throughout the race. The race is totally traffic free and there is a real party atmosphere in the area.
Apart from the half marathon race, there are 5km, 3km and 1km (for kids) races.
Usually it’s quite warm in Athens in March (in the range of 15-20oC) so light clothes and good hydration are a must.
The race takes in a lot of the sights of Athens. It starts at Syntagma square just outside the Greek parliament. For the first 3km you run up and down some of the main city avenues with some of the very few remaining old era and historic buildings. You will pass the University of Athens, the Academy of Athens and National Library, the bank of Greece, while around Syntagma square you will find the most classy hotels in the city. Further down you pass the National Gardens, the Columns of Olympian Zeus, the beautiful Panathenaiko stadium, the Athens concert hall, the football stadium of the historic Athenian team Panathenaikos, while at certain points you run having in view the Acropolis.
My personal experience of the Athens half marathon 2017
The Athens half marathon is one of the main running events of the year in Athens and one that I like to take part in since we moved here. Last year the race took place the morning after the Greek/Irish society ball that, as my husband is Irish and I am Greek, we attended. Not ideal as I had to make sure I left early and didn’t have a glass of wine too many at dinner. Miraculously though the race turned out to be a PB by almost 2 minutes. When I registered for the race this year, I was not expecting that it would again be taking place the Sunday after St Patrick’s Day and the morning after the Greek/Irish society annual ball. But alas, I was mistaken, seriously! Never mind I thought, I can do this, I did it last year, I will do it again. So I went to the ball, had a lovely dinner, had a sip or two of Guinness and some red wine, stayed for the raffle and was seen leaving the hotel the ball was being hosted at around 12.30am. I went home, took the dogs out for a wee and managed to be in bed by 2am. Not great, but I have tried to persuade myself during the years that even if I don’t sleep well the night before a race, it’s ok. In any case, usually pre-race jitters mean I’ll go to the loo 5 times during the night or that I’ll be having some weird dreams or I’ll just be worrying that it’s time to get up 3 hours before I really need to. I usually do manage to get some sleep though. This night however was different as I had my almost 4-year-old son in my bed who was ill and the poor guy was tossing and turning all night, coughing and being uncomfortable. Cough syrups were given and Vix was applied, while at some point I thought to myself that I hadn’t stayed up all night since I was at school. I stayed calm (more likely I was unable to stress any more due to tiredness) and by 7.45 my friends, dad and I were in the car on our way to Athens! We arrived on time and did actually manage to take some nice pictures with us all together!
The race started and I felt fine, perhaps rest and sleep are overestimated. All was going fine but I realised that when I reached the uphill section of the race I was slower than last year. So at the downhill parts I gave it my all and was flying down. I passed 10k pretty much at the same time as last year and still felt ok, not brilliant but ok. However, the second time I had to go up the same hill as before (the race is 2 loops) I slowed down, my legs felt tired and lots of people overtook me, which is usually not a good indication. At some point just before the end of this section a young woman went past me and I tried to keep up with her, which really helped me up my pace a bit. When the downhill section came once again I really went for it, it was a bit like a free fall and I felt nice and happy for a little while. The last kilometer of the race is a bit uphill and by this point man I was tired. I also realised I was going to miss my PB and I couldn’t see my son and husband anywhere not in the crowd… So I finished in 1.44.35, 40 seconds more than last year, but still respectable for me and really not as bad as it could have been! My funs did come soon after I had finished (their train had been delayed) and we went for a nice brunch to reward my effort with banana pancakes and a nice ice latte.
This race confirmed I am 1 minute over my half marathon time since last year (2 races in the space of 2 weeks, both almost a minute up) and despite all the excuses I could use, I’m not going to. I’m just going to go back and try harder and perhaps smarter! The important thing is that it was a positive experience, that I loved being there and I still think I did well enough! Looking forward to the Greek/Irish ball and Athens half marathon 2018!