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Athens Marathon organizers seek higher profile for classic race October 31, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Athletics.
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Distance running began along the fabled route from Marathon to Athens, where a messenger ran to bring news of one of the greatest military victories in ancient history.

Organizers of the modern Athens Marathon, however, conceded Wednesday that the annual Greek race remains eclipsed by world’s major marathons and announced a series promotional measures to make the classic course better known.

Ahead of Sunday’s event, marathon organizers from international races will meet at a conference, a sporting trade fair will be held this weekend, and schools along the classic route will join spectator events during the race itself.

“These events will take place every year,” Greek National Athletics Federation President Vassilis Sevastis said. “We have a long way to go, but runners are becoming convinced that the race is being now organized in a serious way. This race is special not just because of the history but also because, in Greece, it is a route along which peace rallies are held and has a broader importance.”

The Greek race traces the run of the messenger Pheidippides in 490 B.C. from the plain of Marathon to Athens, where legend says he collapsed and died after announcing the victory of the Greeks over Persian invaders. The marathon was first run as a race when the Olympics were revived as modern games in 1896 in Athens. The annual race in Athens still ends at the marble Panathenian stadium where those games were held.

The Greek course, with its steep inclines, is held on the same day each year as the New York Marathon and attracts much fewer runners. Last year, a record 38,368 runners started in New York, compared to 3,090 in Athens. About 4,100 marathon runners are registered for Sunday’s race.

Starting next year, Athens organizers are planning to change the date. Efforts to upgrade the Athens event began in 2001, when officials from the Boston Marathon visited Greece and came up with a long list of recommendations, including basic improvements like installing more water stops along the course and providing better medical services. The 2004 Olympics in Athens helped, too.

“The route was resurfaced and improved. People also watched the race on television and became aware of the history,” Sevastis said. “I don’t think we will ever be as popular as other marathons but improvements are being made steadily. This was the first year our Web site was working fully year-round and accepting applications for the race.”

African runners have dominated in Athens in recent years, and lead Sunday’s rankings. Henry Tarus of Kenya returns to defend his 2006 title, facing competition from Patrick Chumba and Steven Loruo, the winner of this year’s Hong Kong Marathon. Svetlana Ponomarenko of Russia, the winner of the 2006 Dallas Marathon, leads the women’s field, followed by Russian runner Victoria Zueva.

Related Links >
Marathon Symposium > http://aimsworldrunning.org/AIMS_Marathon_Symposium.html

Athens Marathon > http://www.athensclassicmarathon.gr

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