Past and present performers at the forefront of distance running showed their support for the Athens Classic Marathon and its unique status among marathons this past weekend.
Receiving his award as the AIMS Best Male Marathon Runner of the Year on Friday evening in Athens, the current world record holder, Wilson Kipsang of Kenya, hinted that he might one day like to test himself on the classic course.
Norway’s Ingrid Kristiansen, the women’s former world record holder, received a lifetime achievement award at the same inaugural AIMS gala and urged runners of every ability to experience the special running atmosphere of the Athens Classic Marathon.
Wilson Kipsang, relaxing after his world record triumph in Berlin at the end of September, is eager to return to Athens. The idea of running the race has begun to percolate in his mind along with a desire to learn more marathon history: “I want to see more of the marathon and learn about the historic background. If possible I would like to run the Athens Classic Marathon some time in the future.”
Ingrid Kristiansen was a truly all-round talent in distance running, winning World and European titles at 10,000m as well Cross Country but she came into her own in the marathon, setting a world record with 2:21:06 in London in 1985, a mark which stood for 13 years.
The Norwegian has vivid memories of running the original marathon course between the town of Marathon and the Panathinaikon Stadium in Athens.
“It is a tough race, but a real nice race because of the history. It was here where I ran my first major marathon in the 1982 European Championships,” said Ingrid Kristiansen, who won a bronze medal that day. “I well remember running around the marathon tomb after 5 kilometres in 1982. That was a great experience. It’s a very special race.”
"You see how hard the race is when you know that the course record stands at 2:10:55 while the fastest runners today achieve times of 2:03," reflected Kristiansen, who ran the 10k race held in conjunction with the marathon on Sunday.
"Regarding this year’s record entry of more than 11,000 for the marathon, she said: “I don’t understand why the Athens Marathon is not much bigger. I tell everyone, go to Athens. It should be one of the biggest marathons in the world. Athens has so much history. They should all come to Athens. Everyone should want to run the original marathon.”
One who has certainly heeded Kristiansen’s encouragement is Raymond Bett, the men’s champion in 2010 and 2012. Last Sunday’s race wasn’t such a happy occasion for the Kenyan, forced to drop out after suffering stomach problems.
“This is a legendary marathon – the race started here as did the Olympics. That is why I like to run here,” said Raymond Bett. The women’s champion on Sunday, Joan Rotich of Kenya, looked back on a hard earned victory but savoured the occasion: “The course is really tough because of all the hills. But the race is special because of its history. Next year I intend to prepare better and try to break the event record.”
(Photo: The finish of the Athens Classic Marathon inside the Panathinaikon Stadium / Credit: Athens Classic Marathon)