Olympus Mountain Marathon: An Olympian race fit for the gods

Από 11 Σεπ 2002

Mount Olympus, Greece - Zeus fired lightning from it and his messenger Hermes scaled its heights with winged sandals. But runners tackling Greece's myth-shrouded Mount Olympus on Sunday relied on mortal attributes: sweat, grit and courage on mud-slick paths.

"It is the marriage of adventure and athletics," said Lazaros Rigos, a runner who participated in the first "mountain marathon" in 1986 but was unable to join this year's 138 runners because of an injury.

The event on Greece's tallest peak, 382 kilometres north of Athens, is where mythology placed the throne of Zeus, king of the ancient gods.

It has also attracted greater interest as the country prepares to host the 2004 Olympics in their birthplace.

Across Greece, sites and spectacles connected with the mythology or the ancient games are expected to draw worldwide attention during the Athens Olympiad. The race to near the summit of 2 917 metre tall Olympus may get additional notice for its sheer agony in the first stages.

Runners start with a 15 kilometre climb up paths to the Plateau of the Muses at 2 650 metres. Then relief: downhill to the finish.

The 35 kilometre course is seven kilometres short of the classic marathon, but the rough terrain makes times much slower.

The sky cleared halfway through the race, but the paths were slick and treacherous from earlier downpours. Many runners tumbled and one of the eight women in the field broke her wrist.

The winner, defending champion Dimitris Hatzis, 35, finished in 3 hours, 51 minutes, 15 seconds - a few minutes off the record. He couldn't finish his first attempt at the event four years ago.

Vassiliki Karpouza, 38, was the first woman finisher. Her time of 4:37:45 broke the women's record set last year by almost half an hour.

Only Greeks competed this year, but organizers hope for a more international field in the 2003 race - the last before the Olympics.

The idea for the event was born when a group of friends, who had been scaling Olympus for more than a decade, was looking for a different type of summer fun.

"We came up with it somewhere between tsipouro (a potent Greek drink) and beer," said Panagiotis Theodorou, one of the founders. "That summer we didn't have money to go on vacation to the beaches or mountains, and we thought, why not have fun on Olympus?

"And Olympus sells," he added. "It is a mythological mountain with deep gorges and pointy tips. We thought it would be interesting."

The Olympus race is one of several Greek sporting events linked to antiquity.

The Athens marathon - held each November - was inspired by the legend of Pheidippides, the ancient messenger who collapsed and died in 490 BC after running from the town of Marathon to Athens to announce the Greek victory over Persian invaders.

The race ends in Athens' horseshoe-shaped marble stadium - where the first modern Olympiad was held in 1896. An almost identical route will be followed at the 2004 Summer Games.

In 1996, a group led by American archaeologist Stephen Miller revived the ancient Nemean Games in southern Greece. The athletes participated barefoot and wore togas. Winners received a modest honour: a wreath of wild celery.

The ancient Nemean Games were held in rotation with the other sites: Delphi, Isthmia and Olympia, from which the modern games take their name. Mount Olympus was not a site for the ancient games, but veneration of the gods played a central role.

Λάζαρος Ρήγος

Γεννήθηκε στην Τήνο το 1961 και ζει στο Λιτόχωρο του Ολύμπου από το 2008. Ίδρυσε το Adventure Zone το 2001, μετά από σκέψεις για δημιουργία ενός ελληνικού portal για τα σπορ περιπέτειας. Δημιούργησε αγώνες ορεινού τρεξίματος, όπως Olympus Marathon (2004), Virgin Forest Trail (2007), Χειμωνιάτικος Ενιπέας (2006), Rodopi Ultra Trail (2009), Olympus Mythical Trail (2012). Στο ενεργητικό του αρκετές συμμετοχές σε αγώνες, όπως και μικρές αποστολές ultra διασχίσεων στην Ελλάδα και το εξωτερικό



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