Visitors to Athens can experience the thrill of running a marathon at the place where it all started // © 2012 thinkstock
Greece is known for its beaches, classic art, epic battles and democratic ideals. It is also the birthplace of the modern Olympics and the marathon. Today, travel companies offer special itineraries to help runners experience athletic feats such as the Athens Classic Marathon, scheduled for Nov. 11 this year.
The first marathon occurred more than 2,500 years ago, in 490 B.C. After winning a battle in the town of Marathon, Greece, the Greek army sent a soldier named Pheidippides on a 24.85-mile run from Marathon Bridge to Olympic stadium in Athens to inform others of the victory over the Persians. According to legend, Pheidippides ran to the stadium and had just enough time to shout “niki” (victory) before falling dead. Thousands of years later, on April 10, 1896, the Greeks held the first-ever modern Olympics, incorporating a 24.85-mile run to commemorate this history.
Today, the marathon has been expanded to 26 miles, but visitors can still retrace Pheidippides’ steps during the Athens Classic Marathon, as well as experience some of Greece’s most historic cities. Apostolos Greek Tours Inc. is the official tour operator for the Athens Classic Marathon, and it is offering two trips for runners hoping to test their skills at this year’s race.
On the company’s 12-day tour, visitors arrive two days before race day and spend mornings doing a 30-minute run on the beach, followed by afternoon tours of Athens and the Acropolis. Down time in the evenings allows guests to experience the city at their own pace.
On race day, participants are transported to the starting line in complimentary motorcoaches. During the race, Apostolos Greek Tours provides support vehicles, an aid station and extra snacks for its runners at the halfway point and at the finish line.
After taking a full day in Athens to recover after the race, from day six to 12, clients tour some of the great cities in Greece. The itinerary takes them to Delphi, Olympia, Mycenae and back to Athens, with all travel arrangements provided by the company.
Prices for the 12-day tour start at $2,698 per person, based on double occupancy, with a single supplement of $435.
A six-day tour follows almost exactly the same format, but ends the day after the race. Prices for this trip start at $1,695 per person, based on double occupancy, with a single supplement of $255. Airfare is not included in the cost of either tour.