Monday, October 29, 1990

TR Greece

Trip Report
10/18 – 10/27/90


The Original Marathon,
Athens, Greece
Sun, Oct 21, 1990
Marathon # 52 – Country # 5

 I had injured the plantar fascia on my left foot shortly after finishing the London Marathon in April and was forced to rest and cross train for the past six months. I wasn’t in good ‘running’ shape and the foot had not yet healed but I had purchased a marathon trip/package from Marathon Tours so we were going to Greece even if I couldn’t run the race! The package included tours of Athens and five days on the Greek Island of Mykonos after the race.

 The Original Marathon commemorates the run of the soldier Pheidippides from a battlefield at the site of the town of Marathon, Greece, to Athens in 490 B.C., bringing news of a Greek victory over the Persians. Legend has it that Pheidippides delivered the momentous message "Niki!" ("victory"), then collapsed and died, thereby setting a precedent for dramatic conclusions to the marathon.

We arrived a few days before the race so we could explore Athens to take in all the history (spanning 3400 years) and tourist sites. Our tour started at the temple of Olympian Zeus (6th c. B.C.), one of the largest in antiquity and close by Hadrian’s Arch (131 A.D.), which forms the symbolic entrance to the city.  From there, walking along Dionysou Areopaghitou Street (on the south side of the Acropolis) we passed the ancient Theatre of Dionysos (5th c. B.C.) where most of the works by Sophocles, Euripides, Aeschylos and Aristophanes were performed.  Continuing, we reached the ruins of the Asklepieion (5th c. B.C.) and the Stoa of Eumenes (2th c. B.C.) and from there the Odeion of Herodes Atticus, which was built in 161 A.D. and is nowadays the venue of the performances of the Athens Festival.

From there we climbed up to the sacred rock of the Acropolis, the site of some of the most important masterpieces of worldwide architecture and art, the most renowned of which is the Parthenon temple.  Apart from this, also impressive are the Propylaea, the temple of the Athene Nike, and the Erechtheion located close to the Parthenon.  Moreover, from the rock there is an impressive view of the city. Only 300m away from the sacred rock of Acropolis stands the impressive Acropolis Museum, one of the most important contemporary works of architecture in Athens. It is made of steel, glass and concrete and it houses 4,000 priceless finds from the Acropolis monuments that represent its history and function as the most important religious centre of ancient Athens.

 Coming down from the Acropolis we arrived at the Areios Pagos, the most ancient law court of the world.  Opposite it is Philopappou Hill, with its beautiful cobbled little roads and the Roman monument by the same name on its top, while close by is the Pnyx, where the citizens of ancient Athens used to assemble and exert their democratic rights. Walking farther along the pedestrian road we arrived at the Ancient Agora, which was the commercial, political and religious centre of ancient Athens.  A visit to the archaeological site provided the opportunity to become acquainted with the workings of Classical Athenian democracy.

From there, via Ermou Street, we arrived at the Kerameikos, the largest cemetery of the ancient city, with impressive tomb sculptures and stelae.  The Iridanos River, sacred in antiquity, runs through the archaeological site. However, our tour of enchanting Athens did not restrict itself only to these unique archaeological sites.

 The “core” of the historic centre is the Plaka neighborhood (at the eastern side of the Acropolis), which has been inhabited without interruption since antiquity.  When we walked through the narrow labyrinthine streets lined with houses and mansions from the time of the Turkish occupation and the Neoclassical period (19th c.), we had the impression of travelling with a “time machine”.  We encountered ancient monuments, such as the Lysikrates Monument, erected by a wealthy donor of theatrical performances, the Roman Agora with the famed Tower of the Winds (1st c. B.C.) and Hadrian’s Library (132 A.D.), scores of bigger and smaller churches, true masterpieces of Byzantine art and architecture, as well as remnants of the Ottoman period (Fetihie Mosque, Tzistaraki Mosque, the Turkish Bath near the Tower of the Winds, the Muslim Seminary, et al.).  There are also some interesting museums (Folk Art, Greek Children’s Art, Popular Musical Instruments, Frysira Art Gallery, etc.), lots of picturesque tavernas, cafés, bars, as well as shops selling souvenirs and traditional Greek products.

It seemed that no matter where we walked in Athens there would be ruins laying around in the yards of residences, etc. The history was overwhelming and two days was not enough to take it all in!

Sun was M-day. Our tour company bussed us out to the start line. The course starts in Marathon and is flat (elevation 100 ft) for the first 16 Km, then climbs steadily to 822 ft at 32 Km before dropping more than 500 ft over the final 10Km to finish in Olympic Stadium.
Once again I was overwhelmed. There were thousands of runners from over 80 countries speaking many languages and dialects. I was shocked by the European and Japanese runners smoking a ‘last cigarette’ at the start line before the race started?

Not knowing what my body – and injury- were capable of after six months of ‘no racing’ I wisely started out slow. I reached 5Km in 21:21 and 15 Km in 1:05:36 and a split (5K) of 20:56. I was feeling OK but then the weather got hotter as I climbed the next 16 Km to crest the hills at 32Km (822 ft) in 2:48:31 and a split (5K) of 29:04!  By the time I started the descent over the final 10Km the temps were in the 80s F and my foot was hurting! There was little or no traffic control over the final 10Km as we entered Athens and raced towards Olympic Stadium. Many times I had to bang on car hoods to force drivers to stop at intersections. By the time I entered Olympic Stadium I was in serious trouble. Besides my plantar fascia killing me in pain I felt nauseous, dizzy and my left arm was tingling? It was the second time I suffered these symptoms and I knew what the problem was. As soon as I struggled across the finish line in Olympic Stadium in 3:38:40 (a split of 32:31 over the final 5K) I tried to go directly to the medical tent – but I collapsed in the middle of the infield!

 I was so sick that I was puking and I couldn’t stand up. Luckily a guardian angel in the form of a German runner came to my aid and asked if I needed help? I replied “Yes” – I needed a cup of Coke to restore my low blood sugar level. He rushed off and quickly came back with a cup of Coke that I gulped down. Almost immediately I started to respond and feel better. I asked if he could get me a second cup which he did. By the time I finished gulping that cup of Coke down I felt better. I thanked my guardian angel and limped out of the stadium on my injured foot to find the Sports Manager. We proceeded directly to an outdoor café where I ordered two more Cokes.
My body felt better but now my foot was really in pain. I knew I had reinjured the plantar fascia. It did not recover or heal during the rest of the trip and I was forced to limp around for the next week!

On Mon we left for Mykonos Island. According to mythology, Mykonos was formed from the petrified bodies of giants killed by Hercules. And did you know that the island took its name from the grandson of Apollo, “Mykonos”? We stayed in the capital Hora, with lots of pedestrian shopping streets lined with brand name stores, charming cafés and stylish restaurants. Although I was hurting and limping badly we still managed to visit the church of Panayia Paraportiani, the Town hall and the castle situated above the harbor. We also visited Alefkántra or “Little Venice”, an 18th century district, dominated by grand captains’ mansions with colorful balconies and stylish windows and relaxed at an outdoor café to admire the view of the quaint windmills standing imposingly on the hillside above.

It was ‘off-season’ and cool on Mykonos and sadly the nude beaches were empty. It was so cool at night that we visited a shop in Hora to negotiate ‘an end of season’ deal on a leather jacket for me and a hand-knitted wool jacket for Nicole. We still have those jackets!

When we returned home my orthoped put me on pain killers and anti-inflammatories to control the foot injury. I foolishly tried to run a 5Km race a few weeks later and really aggravated the injury. An MRI revealed an 80% longitudinal tear in the plantar fascia and also that it had been ripped from the bottom of my foot. The orthped advised that the injury would require surgery and/or one year of rest – ‘NO running’ for one year! I cross trained (pool & bike) for the entire year and would test the foot at least once each month to see if I could run – but alas – it did take a whole year to heal! In the fall of 1991 I was becoming concerned that I would break my streak of consecutive years of running a marathon so I started training for my hometown marathon in Dec. I did run the White Rock Marathon in early Dec. and finished in 3:24:19 with only three months of training!













No comments: