02 November 2016, 12pm
Athens Marathon The Authentic
Sun 13 November 2016
During the 21st World Congress of the Association of International Marathons and Distance Races (AIMS), also to be held in Athens on the same weekend, Kenya’s Olympic champions Eliud Kipchoge and Jemima Sumgong will receive their AIMS BMR Awards during Friday’s reception. Also to be honoured with the AIMS Lifetime Achievement Award will be Haile Gebrselassie, receiving a further accolade for his outstanding performances.
To win an Olympic title is the summit of any athlete’s ambition. Eliud Kipchoge and Jemima Sumgong also helped Kenya achieve the country’s first ever double marathon gold in Rio in August. Eliud Kipchoge has been a potent force in distance running since he beat Kenenisa Bekele to the World 5,000m title as an 18-year-old in Paris in 2003. Victorious on his marathon debut in Hamburg with 2:05:30 in 2013, he has won all but one of his seven races at the distance, displaying consummate mental as well as physical mastery of the event. Winning in Berlin just over a year ago in 2:04:00, he dominated London’s usual field of outstanding talent, running to within eight seconds of the world record with 2:03:05. Then came victory in the supreme test of the Olympic Marathon in Rio.
Jemima Sumgong had produced consistent results over the years in the marathon including finishing runner-up in Boston in 2012 and Chicago the following year and then fourth in the 2015 World Championships. However it was her victory in London this April that gave a solid pointer to her Olympic prospects. In Rio’s tough conditions she captured the title in 2:24:04.
It is fitting that Haile Gebrselassie should receive his AIMS Lifetime Achievement Award in Athens, the birthplace of the marathon. The great Ethiopian was a colossus on the track, twice winning Olympic gold at 10,000m and eight world titles, plus a half marathon World Championship for good measure. He freely acknowledged that the marathon was a fresh craft to be learned, served his apprenticeship and twice broke the world record in Berlin, becoming the first man to break 2:04, albeit it by one second, in 2008.
Two further awards will be presented during Friday’s reception, organised by AIMS and the Hellenic Athletics Federation (SEGAS): the AIMS Green Award to the Göteborg Varvet Half Marathon and the AIMS Social Award to the Munich Marathon.
The traditional opening ceremony for the “Athens Marathon. The Authentic” will take place on Saturday, November 12. As usual the ceremony will take place inside the archeological site, the Tomb of Marathon, the memorial to the Battle of Marathon in 490 BCE when the Greek troops and their allies defeated the invading Persians. According to legend, the messenger Pheidippides ran from the battlefield to bring news of victory to Athens, providing inspiration to Pierre Coubertain, Michel Breal and Dimetrios Vikelas for the creation of the marathon as an athletic event during the first Modern Olympic Games of 1896 in Athens, Greece. The marathon flame will be lit during the ceremony and carried by relay to the race start in the nearby town of Marathon.
History will also be celebrated shortly before the leading runners enter the Panathenaic Stadium during the marathon on Sunday, November 13. It is 120 years since the first Modern Olympic Games of 1896 and the first ever Olympic marathon finished in the same stadium. Descendants of Spiridon Louis and Charilaos Vasilakos, the Greek gold and silver winners of the first marathon in 1896, as well as other marathon champions who have won local or international titles in the authentic marathon course will be presented to the spectators. Also present will be the Olympic champion Jemima Sumgong, fresh from collecting her AIMS BMR 2016 Award two days before and all six medalists from Greece’s Olympic team in Rio.
Interest in “Athens Marathon. The Authentic” is again high with around 50,000 runners expected to participate in all of the events’ races over a range of distances. But, as ever, the premier event remains the international officially measured marathon (42.195 km) which begins at 9 on Sunday morning as the runners follow the footsteps of the legendary Pheidippides from the town of Marathon to the finish line in the 1896 Olympic Stadium.