Running for the black dog at my old work that got sick this year and died before anyone could help him. Running for the two girls still left there that my husband and I feed during the weekends that wait for our car to show up and run towards us with all the excitement of a puppy. Running for the lovely dogs at Varkiza beach and the one that was resting at Everest a few days ago. Running for all the homeless, hot, cold, thirsty, ill, mistreated, poisoned and lonely creatures out there that long for a kind word and a touch. This is Penny Marathon for me. Yesterday was my second time taking part in Penny Marathon in Athens and it was the 6th time this event took place.
Penny marathon is a non-profit animal welfare organisation that acts in Greece as well as Australia. It raises funds to help in the rescue/rehoming of abandoned animals in Greece, as well as to help charities that save animals from euthanisation in Australia find them temporary homes till they find their forever one. Apart from the above though, Penny Marathon gives us the opportunity to meet once a year, run and cycle in several locations in Greece and in Australia, in order to raise awareness for this huge problem around us, this of stray cats and dogs. It gives voice to the ones that don’t have it and gives the opportunity to our loved dogs to get out there and run in support of their less fortunate friends. The race was named in honour of the Greek stray Penny that ended up, like many other dogs in Greece, on the side of the road hit by a car. Her death inspired the founders of the organisation to do something to try and make people aware of the situation in Greece.
Penny Marathon 2017 took place on the same day in Athens, Salamina (an island near Athens) and Sydney (Australia), while it will also take place in Kalamata in September. This year in Athens, cyclists met at the centre of town very early in the morning to cycle 42km. They met up with runners at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre (SNFCC) to run/cycle the last 10km together.
The best part of the race was of course the last 2km where the four-legged beauties joined the race and ran with their parents around the river. At the end humans were given nice wooden medals and dogs bandanas for around their neck with the Penny marathon logo that they all proudly wore. Humans were given healthy snacks and water and dogs were given biscuits (and water too). It was a great opportunity hang out with other animal lovers and to see so many good-looking fellas out there. It was great to see some of the dogs that had actually survived the worst doing so well and to remind ourselves that we can make a difference. I can’t wait for the 7th Penny Marathon next year.
Our Penny Marathon
This year my husband was going to take part in the cycling part of the race and I was going to join him with our two dogs and four year old son for the last 2km. I had to prepare all of them to leave the house by 8am to drive to the SNFCC for our part of the race. Surprisingly, everyone complied in the morning and we left on time. I am not a lover of driving, so I was quite stressed about getting there and finding a parking space at an area I don’t know at all. As we arrived at SNFCC I just thought I should ask the guys at the parking lot entrance for some advice on where to go. As soon as I told them we were there for Penny Marathon they waved us in and said we could park on the first floor, take the lift to the ground floor, go through the main building (something like walking with dogs through Royal Festival Hall in London) and come out on the other side of it to find the start of our race. I was in disbelief and also so grateful I was not being sent away to find a parking space and walk back with two dogs (one quite big) and a young child. I loved them. We successfully got out and followed the instructions till we found the rest of the gang, my husband and my two running friends that were taking part in the 10km run.
They got going and the four of us (child and dogs) sat reasonably quietly at a table waiting for them to finish. We had no fights with any other dogs and my son was very patient and kind about the whole thing (despite literally having been dragged out of bed).
Our time came and we lined up at the start. Knowing my big dog Fox may decide to run for freedom at any moment, I used my dog running belt from CaniX (I attached the lead of the dog on a waste belt). All was going reasonably well and my two friends were helping out (one had my son and the other Basil, our 7 year old King Charles Cavalier and ruler of our household). For a few minutes I even ran with both dogs and all was looking good. Fox however at some point saw another athletic-looking dog and both of them decided that they wanted to be naughty together. So he started pulling me to get to him. I controlled him a few times but at some point he started running so fast that I couldn’t hold him back any more and instead I took a big fall on my back side. Luckily I didn’t hurt any of the dogs or my bum too much. I got up and by that time the other dog owners had moved ahead so we could actually run in a more controlled manner. At this point I gave Basil to my friend and from that point on we all ran really well, the big dog, the small dog and the small child. No dragging or crying from anyone!
We all finished very happy having enjoyed ourselves thoroughly. After having the group picture of all participants taken by the official photographer, we all sat down for a nice cold coffee and snacks.
That evening as I took my son to play at the playground, I saw a woman that was walking her two small dogs that were dragging her like crazy while barking towards a poor stray that approached them. The first time she met the stray dog she threw a stone at him, while the second time she wiped him with the piece of wood she was holding. I don’t know if I shouldn’t have done this in front of my son, but I yelled at her to not do it again and that I would call the police if she did. I was really upset and shaking and of course she had a lot to say to me. My son seemed upset that someone spoke to us like that (he is at an age that he perceives this now). Perhaps I should have kept my mouth shut, perhaps it wasn’t such a big deal as the woman claimed she didn’t actually get the dog and no one else around seemed to care. But it was something in the way that she moved, the aggressiveness, the ease with which she raised her hand to hurt and the disrespect towards that lonely creature that wasn’t trying to harm her that made me say something. And I hope that my son will not just remember the unpleasantness from this event but to also speak up for those who can’t. Just like Penny Marathon does.