Race day was a beautiful cool morning and we boarded the buses by 6:00 AM so that we would have plenty of time to get to the porta-potties and to our assigned "blocks" aka "wave" or corral. I've never seen so many port potties at the start of a marathon. There were about 12,000 runners for the marathon and the start area was very adequate for lining up for the start. The waves were abused a bit because runners wanted to run with their friends. They tried to control it, but it was fairly easy to step over the barriers. My two Canadian friends and I took the warning seriously that you could be disqualified, and we were all in different blocks, so we never saw each other after we went to our block.
The race started exactly at 9:00AM and each block started two minutes apart. I was in block 4 out of 7, and got to start @ 9:08 and I was very surprised that I was almost immediately able to get into a running pace. I had decided to do the walk/method which I normally do. Since the marathon markers were in km. I ended up taking a 30 sec. walk break at every K, which ended up being about every 6 min. It worked OK since I wasn't sure how my legs would feel after not doing too much running during the month of Oct., but lots of walking the week before the marathon, including the day before the race.
The aid stations were all extremely well supplied with water and volunteers, gels, bananas, etc at the proper locations. The people in the small villages as we progressed from the town of Marathon, past the mound where 192 soldiers were buried after the battle with the Persians, then past one of the major ports where ferries take folks to the many islands and then on into Athens were amazing. They all shouted Bravo, Bravo and children and adults were handing us small olive branches ( I brought one of mine home with me). As I said the course was quite hilly and the highest point was at the 32K point. Actually from 17K to 32 there was a gradual climb. But at 32K we started on a gradual downhill into the center of Athens. The road was closed to traffic in one direction and we ran past many of the Embassies and museums and then took a turn off the main thoroughfare, ran past the Presidential palace and garden-reminded me just a little bit of running by Central park- then turned into the stadium. At this point the spectators were really cheering us on. Finishing in that historic stadium was an experience like none I have ever had. We ran almost a lap around the stadium and then received our medal.
After we left the stadium it became a slightly different story from the rest of the race. The area was a bit small to handle all the runners and spectators. But I was still able to gradually get rid of my chip, get some food and drink and find my drop bag and get to the buses waiting to take us back to our hotel.
The Apostolos tour group had a very special post run dinner for all of us, with Greek dancers and singers. We were all presented with a replica of an ancient Greek vase painted for us especially by a member of the owner's family. Jeff Galloway and his wife hosted this party and it was a very nice culmination to a very special race.