marathoning in athens
1st Run – National Gardens of athens
After surveying the heavy traffic, crowded streets and uneven sidewalks while we walked to dinner the previous night, I decided to look for a park near our flat. Fortunately, the National Gardens of Athens was less than a mile away. I fired Apple Maps and set off toward the park (after a quick stop at Athens Bakery for a cappuccino).
The directions guided me downhill (yeah!) from our neighborhood to a congested street with morning commuters impatiently heading to work.
The sidewalks were wide and in decent shape, and I quickly found my stride on the way to the entrance gate. The National Garden is a 38-acre oasis amid Athens’ controlled chaos and a running paradise, with smooth, well-maintained paths and greenery of all types, including dozens of mandarin trees.
I started later than planned and only ran one loop through the park before returning to our flat. I was grateful for my trail shoes on National Garden dirt paths and the slick sidewalks encountered along the way.
2nd Run – Acropolis
I was excited about my decision to run near the Acropolis and couldn’t wait to return after Jackie and I did a walking tour the day before. In a “you’re not a real runner” moment, I took the metro from our neighborhood to the Acropolis to avoid navigating the hustle and bustle of the Athens streets (it was totally worth it).
After getting my bearings, I set off uphill towards the park at the base of the Acropolis. I felt terrific, and my joints cooperated with my efforting up the first hill.
I planned to run out and back and continue downhill to the Temple of Zeus, but then I realized there was more to discover in and around the immediate area. I turned left and headed up a gentle climb, quickly becoming a steeper hill than I felt like tackling.
I spotted another trail, which took me to the Prison of Socrates, which was a complete surprise (every so often, running on instinct pays off.) From there, I found another path, bringing me to a clearing with a terrific view of the Athens skyline.
Still feeling good, with a downhill ahead, I took off in the direction I was sure would take me toward the Zeus’ Temple (wrong).
I ended up in a mixed-use commercial/residential area on the wrong side of the fence from the park. Ah, but the downhill beckoned, so I continued until a recognized spot appeared. A short time later (for me), I was running on the dedicated pedestrian path adjacent to the temple area and near the stadium that housed the first modern Olympics in 1896.
For those playing along at home, the marathon commemorates the run of a Greek soldier from Marathon to Athens in 490 BC to report Greece’s victory over Persia at the Battle of Marathon. (In case you were wondering if I had actually run a marathon in Athens.)
My next challenge is running the streets of Istanbul!