Athens is also the birthplace of democracy. Looking west from the Propylaea, Marissa pointed out the hill of democracy, where men would gather to vote on civic issues. Participation began at 16 years of age, but boys would begin attending the gatherings at age 6, which gave them a decade of study before participation.
We continued our tour of the Acropolis, stopping at the Parthenon and the temple to Athena.
We then stopped by the Panathinaiko Stadium, where our marathon was to finish the next day. The stadium was the site of the Olympic games of 1870, 1875 and 1896, the latter marking the start of the modern Olympics. Made of white marble, the stadium is incredibly bright and beautiful. The Olympic rings soar above the back of the stadium; it is truly an inspiring place.
Marathon day started with a 4:30 a.m. wakeup call. As walkers, we were to begin two hours ahead of the runners. Cynthia, the one team member who had initially planned to run, changed her mind and decided to walk with us, as her legs were still recovering from having walked Friday up and down the hills of Athens carrying a laptop in her bag. Our team got onto the bus at 5:15 a.m. and traveled to Marathon to begin the marathon at 6 a.m..
The start of the marathon went well. The weather was perfect, high 60’s, overcast with an occasional drizzle. About six miles into the marathon, we decided that coffee was in order, so Cynthia and I ran ahead to find a coffee shop. We received a few odd looks as we asked for coffee and wedding cookies, but the coffee was the best we drank the entire trip and the cookies kept up our blood sugar.
After our short coffee run, Cynthia decided that running the rest of the way would be less painful after all, and she charged ahead.
About 11 miles into the marathon, we were overtaken by the lead runners who had started two hours after we did. They were running at just over a 5 minute per mile pace, a pace I could not sustain for even a mile. The winner, Kiprotich Korir Benjamin, finished the course in 2:14:40. When he finished, we were four hours into our walk, just beyond the halfway mark.
At one point, we were passed by a runner dressed in Trojan dress, complete with skirt, breastplate, helmet and shield. We found out that this year was his 11th running in Trojan garb, an outfit that weighed 30 kilos.
We walked on.
Our trainer, Jeff Galloway, passed us while we were entering Athens, more than 75 percent of the way to the finish line. He stopped for a few minutes, encouraged us to continue and ran on.
We walked on.
Cynthia, who had finished hours before us, greeted us as we entered the Panathinaiko Stadium. Finally, seven hours and 48 minutes after we had started, Kathy, Jeanne, Phyllis and I crossed the finish line.
On the way into the stadium, I turned to Kathy, smiled, and said “Nike!” The smile on her face was proof that she too felt victorious.
Post script: none of us died.